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CARLTON FLETCHER: Tragic encounter leaves permanent scars

OPINION: Albany leaders face tough choice on pit bull ordinance

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Granny does your dog bite? No, child, no.

Charlie Daniels Band

As a disclaimer, Betty Long tells me she “doesn’t like to get into other folks’ business.” After hearing her story, though, it seemed a disservice not to share it.

Long, who asked that her real name not be used for this article for reasons that should become obvious, told me she had some photographs she wanted me to see. She warned me that the pictures “are pretty bad to look at.” Intrigued, I agreed to meet with her.

Betty Long’s photographs did indeed turn out to be pretty bad. In fact, they were as gruesome as anything I’d seen outside a Guillermo del Toro movie. Big difference, though. These pictures were real.

As she showed me photograph after photograph of her 6-year-old daughter, each more gruesome than the last, she shared the story behind them.

“There was a man who lived two doors down from us who had a huge pit bulldog,” Long said. She brushed away tears as she told her story. “That dog attacked an 8-year-old boy when the boy went over into the man’s yard. There was a big uproar about it in our neighborhood, but police said there was nothing they could do about the incident because the boy was trespassing on the man’s property.

“Thank goodness, the little boy was not hurt very badly, although he was bit on the arm and had to have surgery to repair the damage.”

Long said she rarely let her daughter play outside her direct supervision, citing “the way things are these days even in small towns like ours.” But one day she let her guard down, she swears “just for an instant,” and her precocious youngster wandered away. She realized the 6-year-old wasn’t playing in her own backyard when she heard a piercing scream that she says still haunts her.

“I ran toward the scream — I knew it was my baby — and when I got close enough to see what was going on, I froze in place,” Long said. “That pit bull had come out onto the sidewalk and attacked my little girl.”

Long finally shook off her paralysis and ran to her daughter. She said she tried to pull the dog off the child and was bitten on both hands. Finally a neighbor who saw what was going on got a stick and was able to beat the dog off the child.

“I was devastated,” Long said. “I could only stand there and scream, looking at what that monster had done to my baby.”

Long says her daughter, who nearly died from shock and blood loss, is coming along fine now physically. She’s been through a handful of surgeries and most likely will have to endure many more before her ordeal is finished. And while the photographs that police took of the child’s injuries are horrifying, it’s the photos of her post-surgery scars that are heart-breaking. Most of the area around her nose and mouth and the entire left side of her face are a mass of ugly red and purple scars.

The photographs are almost too much to look at.

“That dog took my baby from me,” Long says. “I had a beautiful, playful, happy little girl before he attacked her. Now she cries when she looks in the mirror, and she won’t even go into the bathroom unless I go with her. The doctor said the scars on her face will get better with time, but I don’t know about the scars on her soul.”

Long said she shared her story with me after reading about the city of Albany’s plans to enact a pit bull ordinance. She said that while she doesn’t live in the city, she wants parents here to know what could happen in a neighborhood where the dogs are unrestricted.

“One of the policemen who worked the case told me that the owner of the dog said it was ‘always one of the sweetest dogs ever, wouldn’t hurt a fly,’” Long said. “That policeman said that he thinks when the 8-year-old boy came into the man’s yard and the dog attacked the boy to protect its territory, ‘it woke up some kind of bloodlust’ in the animal.

“I don’t know about that, but I know my little girl’s and my life will never be the same. And I’d hate for any other mother to go through what I’ve been through.”

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.