BROOKSVILLE — Betty Rhymer took off running when she and her husband heard the piercing screams coming from next door.
When they arrived at the home seconds later, the couple found a severely wounded elderly woman, an aggressive dog and a scene every bit as grisly as the shrieks foreshadowed.
"It was God awful," Rhymer said.
Marguerite Seeger, 85, was mauled by her daughter's dog in their home north of Brooksville on Saturday morning, sending the woman to Oak Hill Hospital with severe injuries to her face and head, a broken hip and puncture wounds.
Seeger remained at the hospital Monday and was set to undergo plastic surgery for her face and treatment for the hip and a fractured skull, said Rhymer. A message left with a spokesman at Oak Hill wasn't returned Monday afternoon.
According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Seeger's daughter, Melissa Harvey, who cares for Seeger, left the home to go to a store that morning.
Seeger appeared to have been on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor when the dog inexplicably attacked her about 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Her screams drew the attention of Rhymer and her husband, Anthony Harvey, who rushed over. Harvey was able to drive the dog, a cocker spaniel believed to be named Chopy, into another room of the house, then he called 911 and began tending to Seeger.
The woman received a number of severe cuts to her right cheek and upper lip, and some puncture wounds to her right arm.
Seeger, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, was so disoriented and injured that she told deputies that all she could remember was being attacked.
"It was just devastating," Rhymer said. "She was in so much pain."
Neighbors Rhymer and Anthony Harvey are Melissa's in-laws.
Melissa Harvey could not be reached for comment Monday.
Deputies found the dog to be so aggressive that it wouldn't allow them into the bedroom to take a photograph.
Animal Control eventually took custody of the dog, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Seeger had been bitten by her daughter's dog at least once before, according to Rhymer and the incident report.
"I was afraid that he would bite her again," Rhymer said. "But I never dreamed it would go to this extent with it. I don't know what happened. (The dog) had a look in its face like it was a totally different dog."
Rhymer said other family members have indicated Seeger will need many months of rehabilitation from her injuries and then will likely go into a nursing home.
"She's a very sweet lady and we love her a lot," Rhymer said. "We're very upset about this."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-6120.