Dog bite victims often face long roads to recovery - and many don't realize the pain of their injuries, the permanent damage done, and the emotional scarring that can last a lifetime.

Seattle’s King County Sees over 1,000 Dog Bites This Year – Victims Suffer Long After Animal Attacks

Posted on Oct 29, 2008

In a special report in the Seattle Times, journalist Christine Clarridge explored the hidden pain suffered by the thousands of dog bite victims living in the Seattle, Washington, area. According to animal control reports, King County has seen over 1,000 dog bite reports just this year.

Surprisingly, the article explains that many of the bites appear minor, and than many attacks are not from unneutered strays, but rather by the pets of family and friends.

"You lean over, you want to give the dog a kiss, and snap, they nip you and take away a part of your lips or your nose," said Henri Gaboriau, a Sammamish plastic surgeon who has reconstructed a number of faces and body parts in the wake of a dog attack. Gaboriau also said that facial wounds especially could be devastating - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Victims of dog bites can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and loss of self-esteem - all piled on top of nerve damage, pain, and permanent disabilities.

One example of the repercussions of dog attacks is Ona Deane-Gordly, a 63-year-old woman from Spanaway, Pierce County. She was attacked by a dog that peeled her scalp from her skull and ripped her teeth and gums from her jaw. The woman fought hard against the pit bull mix, which had jumped from a second story balcony. The owner could not call the dog off.

"Blood, pieces of hair and flesh were everywhere within an approximate 50-square-foot area," a Mountlake Terrace police officer wrote in a report dated March 17, 2006.

While the story in the news quickly disappeared within days, Deane-Gordly was left with thousands of stitches and staples, permanent nerve damage, a broken foot, and unbelievable pain. The pain and trauma lasted long after she was released from Harborview Medical Center.

Gaboriau said that dog attack victims usually need two to five expensive and painful reconstructive surgeries. "We have to reassure them that this is going to be an ongoing project and that we will try to make them look as normal as possible."

In another case, 25-year-old Jessica Kutzuk of Richmond, WA, had part of her lips and mouth bit off by a family friend's golden retriever. She now struggles with nerve pain, self-esteem issues, and a terror of all dogs.

"It was very hard for her," Gaboriau said. "She is a very pretty girl who had beautiful, full, red lips, the kind people pay to get, and suddenly they were gone."

In the case of Deane-Gordly, she first struggled against her insurance company to have her face reconstructed, and now she must live with her scars and pain every day.

"It's hard to explain," she said. "But the truth is that after something like this, you have an entirely different body. "It's like having the same nightmare over and over. I can still remember the feel of his teeth. That kind of thing you never forget."

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