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Jayden Henderson, 7, died after a dog attack Tuesday in Garner, North Carolina. Her mother, Anderson native Heather Trevaskis, was badly injured.

The dog showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, at my open garage door.

Hair bristled on his shoulders. A snarl curled his lips, and a low growl rumbled in his throat.

“Get out of here!” I shouted, throwing my hands up.

Instead, he took two slow, measured steps toward me. He was no more than 10 feet away.

Heart pounding, I grabbed a chunk of concrete off the work bench and raised it in my right hand.

“Get out!” I shouted again.

The dog stood his ground, head down as he crouched lower, as if about to pounce.

I slung the concrete chunk.

The dog hopped to one side, but concrete slammed into his rib cage.

He whimpered sharply, staggered for an instant. Then ran around the side of the garage and out of sight.

That was in the spring of 2020, and the dog didn’t show up again on my property — until last week.

I had parked in front of the garage, and as I climbed out of my car, I heard a dog bark angrily. He stood, hair bristling and lips snarling, next to my rear bumper.

“Get out of here!” I shouted. “Go home!”

Perhaps remembering our earlier encounter, the dog backed slowly away, then turned and trotted down the gravel lane that runs beside my garage. He disappeared into an overgrown patch of weeds on a neighbor’s property.

Two days later — last Friday — I learned that a 7-year-old girl, Jayden Henderson, had died in a dog attack in North Carolina. Her mother, former Anderson resident Heather Trevaskis, had been severely injured in the attack and was still recovering Sunday in the hospital after surgery.

I shudder to imagine the terror they must have felt.

I’m a 6-foot-6, 210-pound man, and my heart was beating in my throat both times the mid-sized mongrel showed up at my garage.

Jayden and Heather had faced two dogs, not one. And both were pit bulls.

The mother and daughter were doing a good turn, helping take care of the dogs while neighbors were out of town.

We still don’t know why the dogs attacked them. According to the neighbors and police, the dogs had never caused problems before.

But we do know this: Children are often the target of dog attacks. And the attacking dogs are often pit bulls.

According to dogsbite.org, from 2005 through 2019, 521 Americans died from dog attacks. Pit bulls were responsible for 346, or 66%, of the deaths.

Rottweilers were the next most frequently blamed breed, accounting for 10% of the deaths. Forty-four different breeds were involved in the fatalities during the 15-year period.

Children 0-4 years of age are most often victimized in fatal dog attacks, and ages 5-9 are next in line. Animalwised.com estimates that 80% of victims are children.

“Before an attack, the dog sends us a series of warning signals ... such as showing their teeth or growling,” the website reads. "... These physical signs are obvious to us, but not to children, who believe that this is a game.”

Also, animalwised.com points out, children sometimes engage in behavior that irritates dogs: staring, pouncing on the dog, pulling tail or ears, not letting the dog rest, shouting, hugging tightly, putting fingers in the dog’s mouth or ears.

Animalwised.com warns that even a dog with no history of aggressiveness could be dangerous.

“It does not matter if we have full confidence in our 10-year-old dog, sometimes a finger in the eye, age problems (such as arthrosis) or a moment of hyperexcitement can trigger an unexpected response,” the website explains.

As for the preponderance of pit bull involvement in fatal attacks, we should understand that the vast majority of pit bulls never attack a human. But we should also be aware that some have been bred and trained for fighting or have been otherwise abused, and statistics show that an individual pit bull might be more apt to be dangerous than dogs of other breeds.

My niece has a sweet pit bull mix named Marley who, as far as I know, has never shown any sort of aggressiveness toward humans. My niece also has a 10-month-old daughter.

I’ll see them later today, and I’ll tell my niece the story of Jayden and Heather.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column is published Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4845.

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