No bite in response to vicious pit-bull attack

Dave Hamby knows people will think he and his wife, Jane, are "idiots" when they learn how much money the couple spent to save their silky chocolate spaniel after she was ripped apart by a pit bull.

At first, they were told that Jada, an 8-year-old cocker spaniel, could be sewn back together for $2,000 to $3,000 after the Dec. 8 incident near Leesburg.

The attack happened fast, just when the Hambys' two dogs were snoozing lazily on the patio of their home on Lake Griffin. The Hambys are responsible pet owners. They were both outside in their own yard with their dogs, who stay on the property because of an invisible fence.

Even without a fence, Jada and Trapper, who also is a chocolate spaniel, aren't the sort to go wandering. They're busy hanging with their humans, chasing squirrels in the yard and pouncing on the occasional lizard.

That's not the case with a neighbor's brindle pit bull that Hamby estimated weighs 100 pounds. And the dog was moving that day as if she had a mission.

A second neighbor, whose house is between the fish camp where the pit bull lives and the Hamby home, saw the dog running loose and picked up the phone to warn the Hambys.

Too late.

Jada had already started screaming. The neighbor picked up a gun and ran to the Hambys but never fired. He couldn't get a clear shot.

The pit bull had run into the Hambys' yard, startling the spaniels, who jumped up to bark and carry on at this invasion of their territory. This was the wrong move, but how is a dog to know?

Jane Hamby got Trapper away from the pit bull, and Dave Hamby, a 57-year-old retired project manager for an electric company, got between Jada and her attacker.

As he reached down to scoop up Jada, who weighs about 25 pounds, he lost his balance and went down. The pit bull jumped round him, sinking her teeth into the spaniel's stomach and shaking her.

Hamby said he got the pit bull dog "in a full nelson" wrestling hold and tried to force her to drop his spaniel.

"I wrassled with that dog for about 15 minutes," he said.

He tried unsuccessfully to pry her jaws open and ended up punching her again and again in the face.

"Finally, the dog relaxed a little bit and decided to let go of her," Hamby said.

That's when one of the owners of the pit bull, who had been standing at a distance watching the attack, stepped in and took the dog away. Later, the owner would complain about Hamby beating his dog. Can you believe it?

The Hambys rushed Jada to an emergency veterinary clinic, where she was stabilized and stitched back together. But at 6 a.m. the next day, the clinic informed them that Jada's chest cavity had been punctured and she should be transferred to the animal clinic at the University of Florida if they wanted to save her.

Vets told the Hambys that Jada needed just one more surgery, so they agreed. Then she developed problems and needed a third operation. Then, more trouble. Each time, the Hambys figured it was the last surgery.

Total cost: $13,200.

Would they have spent that much money if they had known at the outset what the price would be? Probably not.

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