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In a flash, dog lunges, bites toddler

Shannon Boyd stood with her hand over her mouth and cried. A whoosh of air whipped her blood-spotted shirt Wednesday morning as a rescue helicopter lifted away her toddler.

Minutes earlier, Boyd had stopped by a friend's house to pick up some toys for the boy, 19-month-old Hunter. Hunter stopped to pet a red-haired dog that had been lounging by the front step.

Come on, Hunter, don't pet the dog, she told him. As the boy obeyed, Boyd thought she noticed an odd look flash across the Chow mix's face.

"The dog just lunged at him, jumped on him and started biting his face," Boyd said. She dived to put herself between dog and boy, and the dog backed off.

Hunter was flown from a field near the home on English Walnut Street to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg at about 11:30 a.m. The wounds around his nose produced plenty of blood, but did not appear critical. Boyd said she thought he might need surgery.

The dog, Max, belongs to Lon and Renee Madewell, who live next door to where the attack occurred. Max had wandered freely between the two homes since he was a puppy.

"It's a shock," said Renee Madewell. "He's normally a gentle dog."

A friend gave them Max as a puppy about three years ago. They didn't know what breeds were in him, but their veterinarian later guessed chow, German shepherd and wolf.

"I don't know if the boy accidentally stepped on his paw and he snapped," said Lon Madewell. "I just don't know."

Soon after the attack, Animal Control came to pick Max up.

"I asked them to put him down," Renee Madewell said. "I won't own a dog that bites a kid."

At 70 pounds, Max had never bitten anyone and was great with the Madewell's teenagers as well as the family's kittens, they said. He would paw at you to get you to pet him.

"I just hate that it happened," Lon Madewell said. "For the baby's sake and for the dog's sake."

Steve Thompson covers crime in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is sthompsonsptimes.com.

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