Dog-attack victim hospitalized

When people talk about safe neighborhoods these days, it is generally given that they’re talking about getting rid of drugs and drug dealers.

Yet in the very same neighborhood Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste calls home, a vicious dog attack last week sent one of his neighbors to the hospital with serious injuries that kept her hospitalized for most of last week.

Brenda Zafirides, 47, of Wailua Houselots, is no longer at Wilcox Memorial Hospital today, but is still traumatized after being assaulted by a pit bull while she was out for a regular morning walk.

The wounds to her legs were so severe, and became infected, that stitching them closed was not possible, and surgery couldn’t even be accomplished until six days after the attack, she said.

As bad as the actual attack and the week’s worth of work missed so close to Christmas were, the long-term trauma of reliving the attack repeatedly is much worse, she said.

“The flashbacks, and the post-traumatic stress, is real. You don’t know what it’s like until you’ve been through it,” said Zafirides, who is on medication not only to fight the infections, but is taking antianxiety drugs to allow her to get needed rest at home.

“The worst part is when I lay down at night,” because when she closes her eyes to try to sleep, she relives the attack over and over, she said.

A hairdresser for seven years at Alexander Day Spa & Salon at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club in Lihu’e, Zafirides said the incident has had a detrimental impact on her children as well, who were left to ask questions like “Where’s mommy?” and “How come you can’t come home?” from the hospital when she was still confined.

“They’re traumatized.”

Zafirides has been walking in Wailua Houselots for the entire 16 years she has lived there, and “I’ve lived in fear of this the whole time I lived here,” she said.

She had had some close calls before last week’s attack, and had seen pit bulls and other “power dogs,” as she calls them, roaming the neighborhood, chains jangling behind them.

On the morning of the attack, she recalled seeing three or four loose dogs besides the one that attacked her.

She had just passed a young girl who runs regularly in the subdivision, and the two said hello to each other as they always do, the young girl just passing the Wongs’ yard where the pit bull was, inside a fenced yard.

Zafirides saw the dog, figured she’d walk to the opposite side of the street to avoid the dog, and in the middle of Haleilio Road the attack took place, she said.

The dog bit her right thigh first, and then when she went down her first thought was to cover her head and face with her arms and hands. The second bite was to her left hip, she said.

The wild shrieks of someone being attacked quickly drew the owner of the dog, identified by county sources as Johnathan Wong of Hale Place in Wailua Houselots.

Wong called his dog off of Zafirides, and he called 911. Kaua’i Police Department and American Medical Response ambulance professionals were on the scene within around five minutes of the call, Zafirides recalled.

Wong was cited for a leash-law violation.

There is no telephone-book listing for Johnathan Wong, so he could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Zafirides was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, treated and released, with instructions to return to have her wounds checked the next day.

When she returned, her wounds were infected, and doctors admitted her into the hospital. Back at home, she continues to question why people feel compelled to own “power dogs.”

Owners, including Wong, who Zafirides said told her he has destroyed the dog that attacked her, said they own such dogs to protect their family. She says, “protect them from what?”

During and after her hospital confinement, she said people told her some people don’t survive pitbull attacks. “I feel like one of the lucky ones.”

Members of the Wong family visited her in the emergency room and her hospital room, and were very kind to her, she said.

She thinks that, if Johnathan Wong did destroy the dog as he said he did, he did himself a favor. He thinks the dog may have attacked the Wongs’ young son eventually. “I took the hit for that boy,” she said.

“They (owners) are responsible for their animals,” she said.

State law indicates that the owner of a dog that has bitten a human has the “duty to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to prevent the recurrence of such incident,” and that the owner of a dog that has bitten a human on more than one occasion may be ordered by a judge to have the animal destroyed, or have it removed from the premises.

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