Letter to the Editor: Student’s Dog Attacked

The following is a letter submitted to Eye on St. Kitts by a student at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine:

We were walking in the field behind the construction site kind of behind/next to Mattingly, where we had been walking for weeks.  There is a trail that winds around the field and then goes up a big hill behind the construction site and dead-ends at the top.  There is a huge crevice-type thing up there that separates the trail from a goat farm on the other side; I met the farmer that owns that farm and all of the animals at one point and he was very nice, so I felt safe walking there.

Well, on July 1, we went for our usual walk all the way up the trail and back down, which takes about an hour.  When we got there, there was nobody around, and we did not see anybody else for the whole walk.  At the beginning part of the trail, close to were we park, the trail runs straight for about 100 yards and then makes a 90 degree turn to the left to continue across and then turns again to go up the hill.  We were coming back down, so we were walking on the trail traversing the field, still with nobody in sight, and made the 90 degree turn for the final stretch of trail before the car. The trail is running through pastures of almost waist-high grass, and there are areas where there are groupings of trees and bushes.  So after we turned, Riley wandered off into the field towards the group of trees, which was about 20 yards off the trail at the most.  At that point, a whole heard of goats (maybe sheep, I don’t remember which) came running out from behind the trees with Riley chasing them.  I had no idea they were there until they came running out because they were all behind the trees and bushes in the shade because it was so freaking hot that day.  Riley chased them for a stretch, but after I yelled at her to come back, she did, and I put her on a leash and kept walking towards the car.

At that point, a guy, who had been just sitting on a rock in the middle of the field nowhere near where the goats were, came walking in our direction.  I ignored him and kept heading towards the car, but then he started yelling something so I hesitated a bit to apologize that she chased the goats.  I could not understand a word that was coming out of his mouth, until I heard clearly, “I want your dog.”  Maybe I am a bit naive, but this whole time, I did not even notice that he was carrying a machete in his hand, because that is just not something I expected.  Anyway, he repeated “I want your dog” a few times, and at this point was standing between us and my car, which was about 30 yards away.  I apologized again that she chased the goats and told him she was on a leash now and we were leaving so it won’t be a problem anymore, and he just said, “No, I want your dog.”  At that point, Riley was standing next to me on my left, and I was shielding her from him a bit as I was trying to scoot by him to get to the car.  He kind of stepped out of the way to my right and then came around the back of us and raised the machete as high as he could and came down as hard as he could right on her back.  Riley let out a little yelp, but it happened so fast, I didn’t really know what had happened until I looked at her and saw the gaping wound on her back.

Everybody says they would have killed him if he had done that to their dog, and I feel the same way, but at that moment, I just wanted to get her out of there and to the hospital.  I literally said, “oh my God you fucking bastard are you fucking serious?  You are fucking crazy,” as I was still trying to get safely away from him and protect Riley from him.  He was saying, “Bring her to me and I’ll do it again.”  I dropped all of my stuff, including my Ross ID and was able to get Riley out of his range, and then we both ran to the car – Luckily he did not chase after us.

When we got to the hospital, Dr. Walker (who is amazing!) assessed the wound and did a neurological exam because we were worried of possible damage to her spinal cord.  They started to push fluids to maintain her blood pressure because she was in shock.  Less than an hour after we walked through the door, she was in surgery, which itself took over 2 hours.  The machete went all the way down to her spine and fractured the spinous process of a vertebra (just about where the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae meet), but did not penetrate the spinal column to the spinal cord, thank God.  Although the machete itself did not cause any damage to her spinal cord, it forced a good amount of hair down around her spinal cord, which was tricky to deal with.  Dr. Walker did not want to go fishing around the spinal cord to try and retrieve all of the hair, so he flushed as much as he could to get most of it out, but could not get it all out.  The issue with that is that it is a possible source of infection within the wound, which is especially bad because it was around the spinal cord.

The wound itself was a good 8 inches across her back (the picture doesn’t even do it justice), and a couple inches deep.  She had a closed drain system for 4 days after the surgery, where I had to drain it with a syringe every 4 hours or so to minimize fluid build up and to screen for any signs of infection.  She did have some issues with a pretty massive seroma after the drain was removed, and we almost had to put another drain back in a week later, but it ended up going away with an extra course of antibiotics.

When I got home from the hospital that night, I was a bit hysterical, and my roommate and neighbor (both 1st semesters too) were there and both appalled at what happened.  My roommate immediately called Ross security to report the incident and spoke to a woman in the security office.  She was very nonchalant about the whole thing and wanted to know “why I hadn’t gotten his name, because there is not much they could do without a name.”  Seriously?  I don’t know, maybe I didn’t have time to get his name because this psychotic lunatic was attacking my dog with a machete, and I wouldn’t have put it past him to come after me next.  She said somebody from the security office would contact me to follow up, which they never did.  The incident happened on Thursday, July 1, and the only thing that happened after that was a mass email sent out to all of campus on the following Monday saying students need to keep their dogs on leash, which I found to be very insulting and almost accusatory, suggesting that the whole thing was my fault alone.

Coincidentally, the admissions advisor who worked with me on my application to get in here had emailed my Mom a few days later to see if she could put the mother of a prospective student in contact with her so she could tell her how wonderful the school is and how great I was doing here.  My Mom explained to her what had happened and told her that she may not want her to talk to the parent of a prospective student after this had happened, especially since the school had in no way taken any measures to follow up on the incident.  Well, the admissions advisor was also appalled at what had happened and started emailing her supervisors and the higher ups in the school.  A few days after that, I got an email from Dr. Fox’s assistant saying that he wanted to meet with me ASAP, which we scheduled for later that week.

In the meantime, I had written an email to Mr. Nolan, the head of security, to explain what had happened and said I know there is not much in terms of action against the crazy man the school could take, but I felt that the situation at least warranted an email to the student body and faculty to warn people that this happened, and this insane and violent man is out there close to Mattingly, where a lot of Ross students live.  I told him I felt that the man was a threat to my and other students’ safety and everybody should be warned.  He wrote back, with a bit of an “edge” to his email, saying that he was not going to do anything because the issue is “very political.”  He said it was discussed at one of the SAAVMA meetings, and it was then up to the student representatives how they wanted to handle it.

The meeting with Dr. Fox, which turned out to be a meeting with Dr. Fox and Dr. St. Jean, was basically them just saying, “yeah, that’s too bad,” and wanting to make sure I had been able to handle my exams after that.  Luckily I was, but only because my Mom spent almost $1000 to fly down here the day after it happened to help me take care of Riley so I might actually be able to study for the 2 exams I had the following week.  Dr. Fox and Dr. St. Jean were both very nice and seemed sincere in their concern, but nothing came of the meeting other than really just “checkin in on me”.

At this point, I am just happy that Riley is healing well and does not appear to have any long term effects from the wound other than a scar.  I am, however, very disappointed in the way the school handled the situation.  Also, after seeing how the situation with the poor girl in West Farms was handled so horribly as well, I feel like Ross security is rather worthless and unreliable, which does not help us feel safe here.  Well, I’ve got to get some sleep so I can get some studying done tomorrow, but let me know if there is anything else you need to know or if you have any questions.

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2 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Student’s Dog Attacked

  1. Courtney Sands says:

    I was very disturbed when I heard about this and could not believe the way it was handled. I tried contacting security to see if we can get more officers to patrol the neighborhoods on a more daily basis and the response I got from Mr. Nolan was:

    “We presently have two Ross Safety & Security Vehicle, but only one is on full time patrol, as we do not allow a vehicle to go on patrol with only one officer. Our department only have two off campus patrolling officers on each Watch.

    We have two vehicle on order that we are expecting sometime in August. These are to replace the two older ones that are over 5 years old. However, our plans are to have the two vehicles patrolling, rather than the one. In that manner, we will be having a higher degree of visibility off campus through more patrols. However, it should be realized that even though we will be increasing our patrols off campus, it does not mean that we will be everywhere at the same time, and incidents can still occur.

    We are still continuing our monthly organized meeting with the Criminal Investigations, to bring our concerns to them and request more police patrols from their end.”

    Lynell Nolan
    Director of Safety & Security

    Basically…everyone…just watch out for each other, take care of each other, because honestly the majority of the time…it’s just us watching each others backs.

  2. Susan says:

    I am surprised that Ross did not emphasize to the first semester students that violence against animals is a very real threat on St. Kitts. In addition to the various stories I have heard from taxi drivers and professors, I am sad to report that my neighbors, who live behind me in Mattingley, recently had their 2 dogs poisoned because a shephard nearby (not sure who exactly, may or may not have been the same shephard) believed the dogs were terrorizing the sheep herd. I agree with the author of the article that this act of violence is no way acceptable, and that Ross security should have taken this event more seriously, but the reality is that we need to be our own best security, and be more cautious about where we run our dogs. As a note of caution, students who enjoy hiking should be careful about letting their dogs off-leash during hikes.

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