THERE were emotional scenes in Ballynacally on Tuesday as the three-year-old girl who was viciously attacked by a dog at the weekend returned home to her family.
Little Abi O’Donoghue suffered horrific injuries in the unprovoked attack by the Siberian Husky on Saturday with the toddler spending nearly two hours in the operating theatre and receiving 60 stitches.
But the little girl, whose dad described her as “tough as nails” has recovered well from the attack with doctors at University Hospital Galway releasing her on Tuesday morning.
Following the incident, Abi’s family feared for her life, with her father making a desperate dash to hospital, while the still bleeding toddler lay in her distraught mother’s arms.
On Tuesday Abi’s father Cathal explained, “She’s home now and she’s doing alright. We’re just all delighted and relieved that she is back home. We’ve had people calling all day to wish her well and we’re just so happy with the support that everyone has given us.”
The family’s ordeal began on Saturday afternoon on what should have been a day of celebration as Cathal, his wife, Caroline, and their five children visited his sister’s home to give his niece a 21st birthday present.
“My niece said she’d take the kids out to get some Taytos and drinks and they were just out the door when all of a sudden, the husky pounced on Abi. We were in the kitchen talking with my sister and brother-in-law and the next thing, we heard was screaming outside, Abi saying ‘stop it, don’t bite me, don’t bite me’. We tore out the door and my brother-in-law got down on top of the dog and I kicked the dog in the mouth. When I came out, I could see my Abi on the ground in the dog’s mouth like a rag doll. My brother-in-law got the dog off and I kept it away. I could hear my wife screaiming, ‘my baby, my baby’ and there was blood just spraying out of Abi’s head,” he recalled.
“I remember seeing the look of horror on my mother-in-law’s face and my wife’s face, they were all screaming and roaring to call the ambulance.”
However, Cathal decided not to wait for an ambulance, taking the injured girl to Ennis hospital. “We tore off in the road with the double flashers on, sometimes on the wrong side of the road, flying. I was blowing the other cars out of my way, we went through red lights. I didn’t care what was coming, I just had to keep going. I’d like to thank anybody who pulled out of our way.
“Halfway in the road, she got a fit of screaming, worse than she was. She got a panic attack but we thought it was something worse, my wife got hysterical because she thought she was dying in her arms.”
She was treated at Ennis hospital before being transferred to University Hospital Galway. “After they looked after her, they sent her straight to the plastics team in Galway by ambulance. She went through an hour and a half to two hours of an operation and she has 60 stitches on the back of her head, underneath her arm and the back of her ear. Luckily she has no tendon damage, there will be scarring but thank’s be to God, she’s ok.
“She’s as tough as nails. When she was in recovery, I went out to ring people to tell them how everything was and when I came back, she was sitting up in the bed and singing songs for the nurses, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and they were all gathered around.”
Cathal said he wanted to go public with what has happened to his daughter to help prevent it happening again to another child.
“We just want to get it across to anyone who has a big dog that is in anyway unplayful, or if they have an inkling, that they are to muzzle them or get rid of them. People need to watch out for big dogs, you just never know.”
The dog has since been put down, with Frankie Coote county dog warden and Clare SPCA revealing the animal also showed aggression towards him.
“I’ve spoken to the owners of the dog and they are absolutely devastated by what happened, they never thought for a second in their wildest dreams that the dog could do something like that. When I took the dog, I kept him for a few days to assess if he showed any signs of aggression towards me and he did, which surprised me but we’re used to it,” he said.
He has urged dog owners to be responsible and he warned that small children should not be left alone with dogs. “I don’t want people out there to panic and get rid of the dogs that they love but if you see your dog showing any signs of aggression then you have to take action. There will be people killed with dogs if people don’t become responsible. People need to be sensible.”