By Rebecca Drew
THIS mum-of-eight has revealed her pain after two of her children were mauled by an out-of-control husky as they played in the street, leaving their young daughter with a broken jaw, crushed thumb and horrific lacerations to her face, neck and head but is now fighting for a change in the law while learning to love canines again after buying a family dog to work through the trauma.
On April 2, 2016, Shanna Hinrichs (44) and her husband Jarret (44) from Rowlett, Texas, USA, were getting ready to take their children out for breakfast when their lives were changed forever as their three middle children, Addison (then 10), Asher (then 8) and Emmaleigh (then 5) went out to play with their friends.
Moments later, Jarret heard the children screaming outside and just thinking they were playing didn’t think anything of it until Asher came running through the door shouting for help as Emmaleigh had been attacked by a husky. Phoning 911, the family waited for the ambulance to arrive. Emmaleigh and Addison were taken to hospital by ambulance, accompanied by Jarret as Shanna stayed behind to arrange care for her newborn, where they were treated for their injuries.
Addison had three stitches in her hand after bravely pulling the dog off her sister but after x-rays and CT scans, Emmaleigh had to undergo surgery to suture her head, face, hands and neck whilst her right arm was put into a cast and had her broken jaw treated, not being able to eat solid foods for 30 days while it healed.
Emmaleigh had a three-inch-wide by seven-inch-long laceration to her face and understandably struggles with PTSD today.
Shanna and Jarret have shared their horrific ordeal on Go Fund Me, where they are fundraising to pay for Emmaleigh’s medical bills and to hopefully bring about a change in the law where irresponsible dog owners are held responsible for their pet’s behaviour.
“Emergency medical technicians arrived within seven minutes of my 911 call. They wouldn’t touch Emmaleigh until paramedics arrived due to the extent of her injury,” recalled Shanna.
“She and Addison were taken by ambulance to the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas. Emmaleigh was taken to a trauma room, while Addison was triaged in a regular ER room.
“Jarret rode in the ambulance with them. I showed up a bit later because I had a one-month newborn that I was breastfeeding that I had to figure out how to care for her and the other girls at the same time.
“Emmaleigh initially had surgery on her face, head, and hands to close the wounds. The wounds on her chest were left open to heal. She was on a soft foods diet for thirty days due to a broken jaw.
“Her arm was in a cast for two months. The bone in her thumb healed crooked, but it has healed. The only thing we have to watch for is for the growth plate to close early due to being broken. If that happens before late teen years she will require surgery.
“She had a scar revision surgery earlier this on about half her scars. She is scheduled for another revision in December.
“It has been hard but she has also done better than her brother and sister that witnessed it. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it actually happened to her and her scars are visible, while their scars are emotional and mental.
“She regressed for about the first year. We saw a neurologist because we were concerned about a traumatic brain injury. Her speak regressed, she began sucking her thumb, and was found on more than occasion sucking on a pacifier of her newborn sister.
“Thankfully she has regained all she lost for that time and is doing great now. She still has PTSD and it is still very hard for her to talk about the actual attack. Part of that is because she doesn’t remember a whole lot. She says it all went black.”
According to Shanna, the owner of the dog that attacked Emmaleigh and her siblings has never taken responsibility for their pet’s actions that day nor offered to pay for her medical bills – only offering her a capri sun and drinking yoghurt when she couldn’t eat food thanks to her broken jaw.
Despite this, Shanna and Jarret credit their faith for getting them through the ordeal and say that the event has brought them even closer as a family.
“The whole family became so much closer. We were already close, but it showed us how fragile life is, how quickly it changes, and someone could be gone from us. It brought us closer to the Lord. But it also hurt us deeply,” explained Shanna.
“Asher has severe PTSD that he is still trying to learn how to deal with. I went through a very, very dark time and I am thankful that I am still here for my family. My husband has feared losing our daughter again. She was born very sick and premature at 32 weeks, so he had to process that all again.
“We had a newborn that was just a month old when the attack happened. So between that and the attack we really felt like our world was spinning out of control for a time being. Our other kids spent a long time trying to figure out how to cope with what they saw.
“They had to stay and clean all the blood out of the carpet while we were at the hospital. That is something they should never have had to do.
“Addison still has flashbacks and hears Emmaleigh’s screams in her head. She is the one who pulled the dog off and got bitten on the hand. I could go on and on, but in the end, all that matters is we are here, we are loved, and we will overcome.
“We have also stayed strong by seeking justice. We had to fight to get criminal charges filed against the dog owner. We are still fighting in that regard. We just now over two years later met with the district attorney for the kids to tell their story and hopefully finally go to court one day.”
Terrified by dogs after the attack, the family decided to buy a dog of their own in March this year called Thor to help them overcome the ordeal and Emmaleigh loves playing with him.
“We got a dog for multiple reasons. A few of us have been terrified of dogs since the attack. We needed to work on that,” added Shanna.
“We had a friend who was selling some of their puppies that they raise as livestock working dogs. I knew they came from a good background and that they were loved and taken care of, so we bought one.
“It has been a great experience, but also emotional. He is a puppy; a very big puppy. He nips and is very active, so having to work through that and remind them that this is normal puppy behaviour and he will outgrow it is hard some days.
“But at the same time, he is loving and protecting. He follows the kids around and is a huge baby that loves to be rubbed and walked on long walks.”
Despite this, Shanna shared a final message to dog owners.
“I want to share the message that you cannot ever, never trust a dog. And damnit if you are going to have a dog take responsibility,” she said.
“They are animals. They are not humans. They need protection, care, and provision.
“If you are not willing to give that and make sure your dog is always secure, then you should never be a dog owner.”
For more information see www.gofundme.com/emmaleighhinrichs