Eight-year-old Austin Good had played with Harley and Hemi since they were puppies and knew them well.
The dogs, which the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office said were licensed as boxers, were owned by Mike Shambarger, best friend of Austin's dad, Todd Good. Austin's family even "dog sat" on several occasions in their Maumee home.
During a visit to Mr. Shambarger's home in Richfield Township, the Evergreen Elementary second grader left the house to go out to his father's car. When he didn't return after a few minutes, his father went to the door and witnessed every parent's worst nightmare. His child was being mauled by the dogs that had been playing peacefully in the back yard just moments earlier.
The most severe bite case in Lucas County in 2011, according to Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle, it was all too common a scenario: a child bitten by a dog he knew very well.
This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and unfortunately, incidents like what happened to Austin happen often throughout the year, Ms. Lyle said.
"Most dog bites are by dogs that you know," Ms. Lyle said. "It's not usually strange dogs running up to you on the street and attacking you."
The Nov. 20 incident resulted in 50 percent of the boy's scalp being torn off. One of his ears was severed and the other ear was half torn off. The injuries have required extensive and ongoing medical treatment. After the incident, Austin was transported by air ambulance to Toledo Hospital and hours later to Detroit Children's Hospital for emergency surgery to reattach his scalp.
After more than a month in the hospital, Austin was released Dec. 22 to be home for Christmas. He came home with an IV in his arm so his parents could administer his antibiotics. On Jan. 3, Austin went back to Detroit for a skin graft on the back of his head. Surgeons removed a large piece of skin from his lower back to attach to his scalp, Todd Good said.
Austin returned to school in March after managing to stay caught up with the help of a tutor. He'll have to have more surgery on his ear this summer, but the doctors are letting his small body rest and heal for the moment.
"It's really a miracle he's come through this as well as he has," Mr. Good said.
Several fund-raising dinners have been held to help pay for his ongoing medical care. An account, "Benefit for Austin Good LLC," has been set up, and donations can be made at any Fifth Third Bank branch.
The dogs, which were surrendered by Mr. Shambarger to the dog warden after the incident, were destroyed Dec. 1 because they had a bite history, Ms. Lyle said.
The 2011 Lucas County dog bite statistics compiled by Jean Keating for the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee confirm that most bite victims are familiar with the dog that bites them.
The total reported bites went up from 2009 to 2011, to 265 from 199. Bites from dogs at home rose to 169 from 136. Bites by strange dogs running at large rose to 72 from 55. Dogs biting strangers rose to 81 from 58, and dogs biting children rose to 129 from 85. However, chained dogs bit more in 2009 versus 2011 -- 15 compared with 9.
The most serious bites, those requiring sutures, rose in a two-year period from 40 in 2009 to 45 in 2011. They were inflicted by a variety of breeds, and children were the most frequent victims.
Ms. Keating said bite statistics are limited because of the underreporting of incidents and a lack of information.
According to the State Farm Insurance Annual Dog Bite Claims report, Ohio ranked fourth in dog-bite claims in 2011, down from third in 2010.
Many bites could have been prevented if people were better educated on how to avoid dog bites, Ms. Keating said.
Some of the repeated scenarios where bites occurred included trying to break up fighting dogs, taking food/toys away from a dog, and a dog getting out the door and biting an incoming guest, she says.
"The ignorance surrounding interacting with dogs is a sad statement on our country," said Ms. Keating, who volunteers her time to make presentations at schools, the Boys & Girls Club, and to other groups on dog safety.
Ms. Lyle and Ms. Keating agree that children of all ages need to be closely supervised around dogs, even family pets or familiar dogs who have no previous history of biting or aggression.
"Even teenagers aren't necessarily safe around dogs," Ms. Lyle said. "Children aren't predictable and dogs want predictable behavior to feel safe. It makes them uncomfortable or fearful when things aren't predictable."
Children need to be taught not to approach a dog when it is sleeping or eating, Ms. Lyle said.
Small children and babies who move erratically and make high-pitched noises never should be left unattended near any dog, Ms. Keating said.
A 3-day-old baby left in an indoor child swing was killed recently by the family dog in Allen County.
Ms. Lyle said adults should not get between two dogs when they are fighting.
"A lot of bites come from breaking up dog fights," she said. "You never want to put yourself in the middle of two fighting dogs."
She offered alternatives to breaking up a fight such as shouting and clapping or throwing water on the dogs.
For the Goods, the lesson learned was that children and dogs should be supervised at all times, or as much as humanly possible.
Austin, who has always loved dogs, has been begging his parents for a puppy despite the incident. They recently acquired "Duke," a 10-week-old boxer puppy.
Contact Tanya Irwin at: email@example.com or 419-724-6066.