A Courtenay woman who was seriously injured by a dog spent 11 days in hospital after the dog attacked her during an afternoon walk March 2.
Wendy Sutton, who turns 75 on Thursday, was intending to walk the 6th Street East hill as part of her training regimen for the Comox Valley RV Half Marathon. She left her Cowichan Avenue home at about 4:30 p.m., and was attacked about a block away where a man was walking the dog. She did not know the man.
She said the dog lunged and pulled the leash out of the man’s hand. It grabbed her right forearm in its jaws and clamped down.
“I could see the dog’s teeth had bitten through my jacket and I was bleeding,” Sutton said. “I was yelling at the guy to get the dog off me and he was yelling at the dog. Finally, he got the dog to let go somehow. I collapsed onto the pavement.”
The man immediately phoned an ambulance and animal control. A couple of motorists stopped to offer assistance before help arrived.
Sutton was transported by ambulance to the Courtenay hospital. Doctors discovered the dog had broken the bones in her right forearm. She was sent to an orthopedic surgeon at the Campbell River hospital, and underwent surgery that night to have rods inserted to stabilize her arm.
She underwent a second surgery March 9 in Campbell River to remove the rods and have plates inserted.
“According to my surgeon, my arm bones are fine near the wrist and the elbow but are crushed in the middle of my forearm. The dog also bit my left thumb, so I only have the use of four fingers on my left hand.”
To her understanding, the owner had the dog put down. She also heard the man had adopted the dog two days before the incident, and had been told it wasn’t aggressive.
Although the breed of the dog has not been confirmed, Sutton said it was a pit bull.
“I have an issue with those dogs,” Sutton said. “This was a rescue pit bull. Why would you buy a rescue pit bull? They’re unpredictable.”
While the City of Courtenay cannot confirm anything specific about this case, it says dog attacks against people are rare in the community.
“Any dog attack would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis under the guidance of the city’s Animal Control Bylaw and the Province of B.C.’s Community Charter to ensure there is no ongoing imminent danger to the public,” said Kate O’Connell, director of corporate support services.
The bylaw requires all owners who bring dogs to a public place to be ‘competent to control the dog,’ for the safety of the animal, the owner and those around them. Training for the owner and dog can be an effective tool to ensure public safety.
Following her second surgery, Sutton received permission to walk the virtual half marathon over four days, after which she hung up the running shoes. Her exercise of choice is now walking or cycling.
“I decided at 75, it was time to retire from running,” Sutton said.