ST. PETERSBURG — Brandi Dunn has known Champ since he was a puppy. The dog is 3 now, a fully grown bullmastiff. She doesn't own him but, almost every day, she has taken care of him for a friend. The two are buddies. She keeps pictures of him on her cellphone.
But standing before a row of reporters and TV cameras outside All Children's Hospital, she couldn't plead for his life.
"I love the dog more than anything," the Pasco County woman said. "But I can't look at him the same way."
On Friday afternoon, Champ was at home in Holiday with his owner, Meghan Pittman, when Stephanie Murphy and her son, Joshua, who is 10 months old, visited. The boy, who can't walk on his own, and the dog, whose head is the size of a soccer ball, had been around each other many times. Joshua liked to give him hugs and pull on his lips.
About 2 p.m., the baby was sitting on the floor with his back to a couch when, for just a moment, Murphy turned her back to speak with Pittman, according to Murphy's family. She heard growling behind her.
Champ had sunk his teeth into Joshua.
Murphy, 24, of Tarpon Springs, sped her son to a local hospital. His condition was so serious that emergency workers flew him to All Children's where he underwent a lengthy surgery.
Doctors expect him to fully recover, but he has a gash from his forehead to his upper lip, puncture wounds in his chest and deep cuts on his shoulder, neck and head.
Dunn, 19, and Murphy's sister, Jessica Dyrmishi, 25, briefly met with reporters Saturday afternoon to explain what had happened.
Dunn described Champ as a kind, loving dog that had never shown aggression toward anyone. She struggled to explain why he attacked.
"I think it was honestly too much testosterone," she said. "We didn't get him fixed like we should have."
She said Pittman had gotten Champ just two months ago from a friend. He had previously been abused.
It's still unclear whether the dog, which was taken by Pasco County Animal Services, will be euthanized, but neither Dunn nor Pittman intend to fight for his life. They understand.
"We can't have him back," Dunn said.
The family's version of the story differs slightly from a report released by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Murphy, detectives said, was talking to her friend outside, not inside, when the dog attacked.
"As far as I'm concerned, that's a minor point. We don't think the mother was negligent whatsoever," said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. "Something just happened in an instant."