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Big sister lifts tot above vicious dogs

Published Sep. 3, 2005

(ran PC edition of Pasco Times)

An older sister's brave and quick action may have saved a 4-year-old during an attack by two dogs.

Their family's trip to Tennessee for a wedding turned into a terrifying experience for the two sisters.

Amber Peters, 15, and her sister Jamie, 4, suffered bites on their legs and arms when the dogs, a pit bull terrier and a mixed breed, attacked.

The Peters family, James, 45, Debra, 43, and the two girls, had left their Floral City home to attend the wedding in Waynesboro. On June 28, while they were in Tennessee, the girls went for a morning walk.

Amber said they had passed the dogs when "they just came out running from behind a tree."

At first, the dogs seemed to single out Jamie.

"They were going after the baby," Debra Peters said. "I think it's because she was the smallest."

Amber told what she did next: "They went after Jamie first, and I picked her up and huddled her in my chest. Then they started biting me on the legs, trying to pull me down."

Amber said she continued to hold her baby sister up high, trying to prevent the dogs from reaching her. Amber said as the attack continued, the dogs stopped barking and just kept biting. She had 21 bites, and her sister was bitten on her right leg, hip and back. Amber said the pit bull terrier initially went for her sister's throat but wound up biting her on the chest instead.

"I was scared, but I was going to save my sister," Amber said.

The attack was stopped by a neighbor who drove into the fray with his pickup truck. He got out and started rapping the side of the truck with a claw hammer, and the noise distracted the dogs long enough for the girls to get in the back of the truck, said Debra Peters.

The girls were treated at the Wayne Medical Center emergency room and released later that day. They were able to attend the wedding the following day. Jamie was a bridesmaid and got to wear a shiny white formal gown and long gloves.

Three weeks later, Amber's legs still bear deep puncture wounds from the attack. Doctors chose not to stitch the wounds, she said, to be able to treat the infections that set in.

The dogs were quarantined for 10 days and then euthanized, Debra Peters said. Though the family's medical bills are about $3,000, she said the dogs' owner, Gary Paul Mathews of Waynesboro promised to pay for them.

Debra Peters said she feels her daughter Amber saved her younger sister's life.

"Had she not done what she did, even though she knew she'd be bitten, Jamie wouldn't be alive today. I'm convinced of that. The pit bull weighed over 100 pounds.

"I just want to see that Amber gets the recognition she deserves for saving her sister's life."

The girls say the attack has made them fear strange dogs.

"Not the dogs around the neighborhood because we know all of them, but strange dogs really do scare me now," Amber said.

For her part, Jamie managed to put a bright perspective on the future.

"Bad dogs bit us, but now we're getting a go-cart," she said.