Daily Herald
Elgin woman hospitalized after pit bull attack
By Harry Hitzeman and Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 1/28/2008 2:22 PM | Updated: 1/29/2008 12:16 AM

A 53-year-old Elgin woman injured while defending her son's dog from a pit bull was expected to be released from the hospital late Monday night, her son said.

"She's fine. She's a little tired from the anesthesia," said Sherman Mellinger, 22.

The woman, Kyle Mellinger, was wounded Monday morning near the steps leading up to her second-floor apartment at 203 Gertrude St., on the city's near west side. Skin was torn from her forehead, and she underwent surgery to repair it.

Sherman Mellinger said his mother went outside to walk his 7-pound Scottish terrier- Chihuahua named Teddy when a neighbor's pit bull apparently escaped from a garage and went after the smaller dog.

"It was only one dog. The next thing I knew is I heard screaming outside," he said while with his mom at Provena St. Joseph's Hospital in Elgin, disputing earlier reports that two pit bulls attacked. "It was just a bad circumstance. The (pit bull) didn't like other dogs and it tried to get mine. It jumped toward my dog and it got my mom."

Sherman Mellinger and a man in the first-floor apartment ran to help. After Kyle Mellinger fell down and released Teddy, the pit bull left her alone.

The downstairs neighbor, who owned two pit bulls, pulled Teddy from the jaws of one of the dogs and Sherman Mellinger called 911.

Teddy lost an eye and had scratches on his body, Sherman Mellinger said.

Elgin police and fire department officials declined to identify the victim Monday.

But Elgin Fire Department Lt. Matt Kenneally said a large piece of skin was ripped from the victim's forehead and she had puncture wounds on her right elbow from defending the smaller dog.

"She was out walking her dog. One of the pit bulls attacked and she tried to save her dog," Kinneally said, adding the woman didn't seem angry or vengeful after what happened. "Amazingly, she was very calm through the whole (ambulance ride to the hospital). She was very composed. She was a real trouper."

Authorities received an emergency call about 10 a.m.

The woman's adult son and a neighbor, who was said to be the pit bulls' owner, helped pull the dogs off her and cordoned them off into a nearby garage, Kinneally said.

Elgin police spokeswoman Ann Dinges said police were still trying to find the owner of the two pit bulls.

But Sherman Mellinger said he saw police Monday afternoon questioning the man who helped him stop the attack.

Several hours after the attack, drops of blood could still be seen at the apartment's front wood stoop, concrete sidewalk and door frame.

Dinges said police were investigating, and she did not know whether the dogs were registered with the city, had rabies shots or would be put down because they attacked a human.

Monica Bradley, who lives next door, said the pit bulls were always kept in an outside garage just south of the apartment building. She rarely saw them fed or walked, but noted they were always leashed up.

"I always hear the dogs whimpering and it's kind of cold (out)," Bradley said. "The owners were kind of skittish, (saying) 'Leave those dogs alone.' "

Monday's incident rattled some residents along Gertrude Street.

Ida Garcia wasn't home at the time, but the attack will give her pause the next time she goes out to walk her dog.

"I have a little dog. My husband just died a few months ago. (The dog is) my companion," said Garcia, who lives across the street. "I'm scared walking my dog outside knowing there are pit bulls in the neighborhood. My grandchildren come over during the summers, too."

Aubrey Clay, who also lives across the street, said her friend used to live in the second-floor apartment but moved out after her child was born.

"(She) has a baby; it must be about 1 now. When she lived there, they had problems with the pit bulls," Clay said.

According to Elgin city code, all dogs must be secured with a lease when not on its owner's property or it will be considered a "public nuisance" and impounded.

A first-time offense results in a $50 fine and rises to $100 for a third offense. It was unclear Monday what type of criminal charges, if any, could be pressed against the dogs' owners.