‘She only went out to play…’

A sister and mum tell the first-hand story of a vicious attack.

I heard a scream

Maddie Douglas, 17, Carrum Downs, Vic

Looking over at my little sister, I saw that she’d made a new friend.

Alexis, then five, was throwing a toy for a big, brown dog who was happily playing fetch with her.

I was playing basketball with my mate Ben, 19, and Alexis had come along. We were in a communal  yard outside Ben’s house, with his neighbours and their dog.

Alexis loved dogs, as did our mum, Monique, 40, dad, Andrew, 49, sisters, Carley, 15, and Ashley, 28, and brothers, Noah, 13, and Ryan 26.

Sadly, our beloved blue heeler Maverick had recently passed away at age 15. Since then, a new pup, Bruce, had stolen our hearts. Alexis had grown up with them around, so I didn’t feel concerned about her being around the big dog.

It’s something I’ll regret for the rest of my life.

The big dog seemed friendly enough.

As Alexis played with the pup, I went over to give him a pat. He seemed friendly enough, looking up  at me with big brown eyes.

Going back to shooting hoops with Ben, I tried to keep an eye on Alexis. But suddenly, I heard a high-pitched scream. Alexis!

My stomach lurched as I saw my little sister on the ground, blood dripping down her face.

The big brown dog was nowhere to be seen. It must have attacked her, I realised in horror.

Running to her side, I saw there were deep gashes going down the side of her face.

There were deep gashes down Alexis’ face.

I screamed, trying to stem the bleeding with the towel from the neighbours, who had called Triple-0.

There was so much blood, Alexis and I were covered in it. It was like something out of a horror film.

As I tearfully cradled Alexis in my arms, the blood poured down her face, her skin was pale and she grew floppy in my arms.

I couldn’t believe such an innocent-looking dog had done this.

‘Hold on little Lexi,’ I cried.

I couldn’t look

Monique Douglas, 40, Carrum Downs, Vic

‘You need to come now. Alexis has been attacked by a dog!’ said Maddie over the phone.

What? I’d only seen her an hour earlier. Shaking with panic, my hubby Andrew and I drove to Ben’s house.

As we pulled up, I saw Maddie cradling Alexis. Andrew jumped out of the car while I stayed inside.

I need to be strong for my girl, I thought, and stepped out onto the footpath.

Andrew picked up Alexis and brought her to me. A towel was covering the left side of her face, and her clothes were soaked in blood.

‘Whatever you do, don’t look at her face,’ said Andrew as we cradled her.

She was as white as sheet and I could see she was losing consciousness.

‘Mummy’s here. Stay with me, baby girl,’ I cried, nudging her to stay awake.

When the ambulance arrived, Andrew and I jumped in the back with Alexis while Maddie went home with Ben.

At the hospital, Alexis was given antibiotics and the doctors cleaned her wounds.

Alexis had deep facial gashes.

I still couldn’t look at her face, so I went outside to report the dog to police, worried it might harm someone else.

Back in the room, I learnt Alexis would need an operation the next day.

I knew I had to face her injuries for the first time. I was sickened by what I saw.

There was a deep injury on her forehead and angry gashes above her eyebrow and on her cheeks. Tears prickled my eyes. Would my girl ever be the same again?

Alexis came home the day after her operation. When we arrived, she recoiled in fear as Bruce bounded over.

‘It’s okay, you know Bruce,’ I soothed, but I understood her fear. She was clingy and scared, while Maddie was racked with guilt, even though it wasn’t her fault.

Five days later, Alexis had her stitches out, but missed her first day of school.

The gash in her forehead needed to be re-stitched as the wound was so deep, but I was relieved to see the others were closing up.

Alexis was left with both physical and emotional scars.

She had to wear special silicone patches all day for 12 months, and at night we zipped her into a full-face compression mask.

The doctors said it would help, but Alexis would be scarred for life.

Alexis in her compression mask.

Two weeks after the attack, the police told us the owner had the dog put down. I felt relieved it couldn’t harm anyone else.

On April 23, 2015, Edward Powell, 41, the dog’s owner, was given a $1500 fine without conviction at Frankston Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to owning an unregistered dog.

I’m telling our story as a warning. Alexis will have to live with a reminder of that day etched across her face for the rest of her life.

Monique and Alexis – trying to stay positive.

Totally unexpected

Magistrate Paul Smith fined Edward Powell $1500 without recording a conviction because of his previous clear record and his decision to destroy the dog, which had been adopted from a factory

The magistrate said: ‘He wasn’t aware the dog had an aggressive nature. I am of the view that a fine is appropriate. The injuries were serious enough for a fine to be imposed. I am of the view that this matter was totally unexpected.’

Originally published in that’s life! magazine – Issue 21, May 26, 2015.

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