Giggles echoed down the hall as I happily stuck the last decoration in place.
My twins, Kellen and Jake, couldn’t wait to celebrate their fifth birthday.
As they’re both completely obsessed with superheroes, my husband Scott, 43, and I had planned a party and got to work sticking up posters of Superman, Spider-Man and The Hulk.
Kellen’s favourite character was The Flash.
‘I’m going to wear this for the party,’ he told me proudly, pointing to the bright Flash logo on his T-shirt.
Jake had picked a Batman outfit to wear.
The boys and I headed out to pick up the superhero ice-cream cake, but as we got to the door, Kellen stopped me.
‘I want to go and thank the neighbours,’ he said.
One of them had been kind enough to mow our lawns in preparation for the party.
‘You can thank them later,’ I reassured him, but as Jake and I reached the letterbox, I realised Kellen wasn’t next to me.
Whirling around, I saw him dart towards our neighbours’ front door.
‘Stop!’ I yelled out to him.
But it was too late. I had no time to react as Kellen pulled on their screen door.
Suddenly their blue staffy dog came leaping out towards him, knocking him to the ground. I watched on helplessly, as with a menacing growl, the dog latched onto Kellen’s ear.
Then there was a bloodcurdling scream. No!
‘Stay there!’ I yelled to Jake before racing to Kellen, terrified what might happen if the attack didn’t stop soon.
But Kellen’s cries just seemed to anger the dog even more.
I felt utterly helpless.
Suddenly, our neighbour came running out and managed to pull the dog away, but the animal kept snapping at Kellen’s shoulders and torso.
As I stared down in terror, I noticed half of Kellen’s ear on the ground and blood pouring from his head and chest.
We needed to get him to hospital – fast.
Scooping up Kellen, I rushed him straight to the car as I instructed our neighbour to pick up his ear.
‘Don’t put it on ice,’ I said, remembering that it could freeze the nerve endings. ‘Just hold it steady.’
Bundling Jake into the car, we all raced to the Gold Coast Hospital as my neighbour rang Scott to break the news.
I was in complete shock as I tried to stem the blood pouring down Kellen’s face.
‘Are you bleeding too, Mummy?’ Kellen asked between sobs, spotting it on my arms. ‘I’m fine,’ I soothed. ‘Everything will be all right.’
But the truth was Kellen was really only concerned about one thing.
‘My Flash T-shirt is ruined,’ he cried. I couldn’t believe he was still thinking about his favourite superhero.
Doctors administered painkillers before prepping my little boy for surgery.
‘We can’t give any guarantees, but we’ll do our best to reattach his ear,’ the specialist told me.
As Scott raced to meet me, the reality of the situation sank in.
I knew our neighbours felt terrible for what had happened and they’d been incredibly helpful after the attack, but the dog could have killed our boy.
With a beautiful pup of our own, Monza, at home, the boys were very comfortable around animals.
We had also taught them how to behave around pets they didn’t know.
So how had this happened?
Three hours later, Kellen was wheeled into recovery.
With heavy bandages wrapped around his head, he was dazed and confused.
My heart broke as he looked up at me. ‘Why did the dog hurt me?’ he asked.
I wished I had an answer.
Doctors were confident the surgery had gone well, but only time would tell if the ear reattachment was a success.
The next morning, Scott bought Jake back to see his brother. Crawling up on the big hospital bed with him, Jake handed Kellen a present.
‘It’s a new Flash shirt,’ he beamed as Kellen admired it.
Kellen gave a weak smile and I knew it meant so much to him.
‘I’ll take care of you,’ Jake told his brother sweetly. I was so touched by their bond.
While we had to cancel the party, Kellen’s friends came to visit him in hospital and spoiled him with gifts.
The next day, we took Kellen home.
Worried he’d be wary of our own dog, I was relieved when he took great comfort in Monza’s company.
‘I know you would never hurt me,’ he told his fourlegged friend.
In the following days, we were very sad to hear that our neighbours had surrendered their dog to be put down.
As an animal lover, I was heartbroken for them, but I knew it needed to be done to prevent this happening to another person.
Two months on, Kellen is doing well. His bandages are now off but he’ll need further skin grafts in the future.
I have no doubt that my neighbour saved Kellen’s life by intervening that day.
We just hope sharing his story can be a warning to dog owners about the damage pets can inflict if proper precautions aren’t taken.
Kellen will soon undergo counselling through our local council to rehabilitate him with animals, but we’re so proud of how far he’s come.
Through everything, he has been incredibly brave.
He’s a little superhero himself..
Originally published in that's life! issue 20 - May 21, 2015