Monday, December 18, 2017
Public safety

Girl attacked, badly injured by dog in Port Richey 'doing her best to smile'

TAMPA — The 7-year-old girl in the hospital bed doesn't understand why her mom is nervous about her cuddling with their bulldog, Axle.

Shaina Foreman has undergone extensive surgery since she was bitten in the face Friday in a Port Richey home by a family friend's chocolate Labrador retriever, Tank. She didn't have time to cry out before her mother, Siobahn Foreman, ran into the room, scooped her up and screamed for someone to call 911.

Now the thought of having Shaina around any dogs, even their own, has Foreman nervous.

"We did ask her if she thought we should get rid of her dog and she said, 'Why?' " her father, Samuel Woolfson, said at a news conference Monday at Tampa General Hospital where the girl is recovering from her injuries.

"That just shows Shaina's heart," Foreman said. "She's so innocent and loving. She really doesn't understand what happened to her."

Dr. Charles Slonim, an ophthalmologist at USF Health and Tampa General, oversaw the team that performed Shaina's surgeries. The dog's teeth started at the right eye, pulling downward and taking part of her nose with it.

After a six-hour surgery, Slonim said, the team repaired the eyelids and tear ducts, sewed the lacerations and reattached the nose. Surprisingly, he said, her eyeball is fine.

"We were able to get things put back together again," Slonim said. "We seem to still have a very cute girl under all of that."

Shaina is remarkably upbeat and handling everything as best she can, her parents said.

"She's such a strong little girl and just sweet as can be, even still," Woolfson said. "She's had some extensive work done and she's just taking it all in and doing her best to smile and be happy."

Shaina was playing on her dad's computer tablet Sunday night when she saw her face for the first time since the surgery. Her mom, who had dreaded the moment her daughter would see the scars, was nervous.

"That's okay, baby," Foreman told her. "You're still just as beautiful as ever."

"I know," Shaina replied and returned to playing her game.

Foreman said the couple who owns the lab includes her best friend, whom she did not identify.

"They're completely heartbroken," Foreman said. "They tell me every day, 'I wish I could take her place.' "

Though Pasco County animal officers said the lab's owner told them the dog had bitten another child on the hand previously, Foreman maintained the dog had no history of aggression.

"She's played ball with this dog," Foreman said. "The dog had never been aggressive toward Shaina or anybody else in the home before."

Foreman, who has worked at a dental office, and Shaina were staying with the couple for a few weeks. About six people were gathered in the living room Friday afternoon when Shaina asked to play a game on her Nabi, a type of tablet for kids. The game was in the back room where the dog was being kept. When Shaina entered the room, the dog attacked and bit her face once.

"The damage that he did to my daughter is extensive, and I think that he should be euthanized," Foreman said.

Pasco County animal control officers said the dog was quarantined and being tested for rabies. A Pasco County spokesman said Monday he did not have the owner's name available to release.

Foreman encouraged other parents to be extremely cautious with their children around dogs.

The family set up a Facebook page, Strength for Shaina, to update her progress. Though future cosmetic surgeries might be needed to help with scarring, her parents continue to be inspired by their daughter's upbeat nature.

"She's in a lot of pain right now, but she's so strong," Foreman said. "She's actually pretty happy for the most part."

Staff writer Alex Orlando contributed to this report. Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

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