Man bites dog on nose to save wife from brutal attack

9:39 PM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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Caren Henry and her husband, Laine Henry, of Grimes talk Thursday at Mercy Medical Center. Caren lost her nose in a dog attack Sunday. / BILL NEIBERGALL/THE REGISTER

DES MOINES, Iowa - The terror struck on a familiar road.

Caren and Laine Henry walked their pet beagle along a gravel road near Laine's father's home in rural Madrid on Sunday afternoon. Their dog was on a leash and happily trotting along the trail, leading its owners.

"It was a perfect spring day," Caren Henry remembered.

Then a 50-pound Labrador retriever mix with a black-and-white coat bounded out of a yard. The dog, named Buddy, plowed into Caren Henry. It bit into her right thigh and abdomen, puncturing the skin in both places.

Then the dog went for her face. It bit and scratched at her eyes, breaking her sunglasses. Finally the dog clamped on her nose and tore it off.

Laine Henry hustled to help his wife. He fought the dog, which bit his left arm. "He finally had to bite the dog in its nose, and it let loose," his wife said.

The Henrys, who live in Grimes, ended up at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.

Caren Henry is beginning a series of reconstructive surgeries that she hopes will restore her nose. The bite on Laine Henry's arm became infected. It was so severe that he had to take leave from his work as a heavy equipment operator.

And the dog? The dog is under quarantine - at the same home from which it escaped and attacked the Henrys. Dallas County does not have a vicious dog ordinance that would require criminal penalties for the dog's owner and potentially lead to the animal being put down.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office referred the matter to the county's environmental health office. Director Ted Trewin ordered the animal quarantined for six weeks. But after that, it's released back to its owner.

The county has no animal control facilities and no place to quarantine or cage a potentially vicious dog.

Trewin's investigation found that Des Moines police had impounded the dog in 2012 for attacking another dog. Trewin also dug up a certification that the animal was free of rabies, a relief to the Henrys.

"It could have been so much worse," Caren Henry said.

"If I hadn't been wearing my sunglasses, I'm sure I would be missing an eye. If it had gotten ahold of my throat, I'd be dead."

Who owns the dog is another mystery. The dog was staying with Marcus Johnson of the Zook Spur Road address. Johnson told authorities he doesn't own the dog. It belongs to Thomas Goodson, who is homeless in the Des Moines area, Johnson told officials.

Johnson occasionally provides food and shelter to the dog, but it doesn't stay with him on a permanent basis, he said. However, Ryan Beattie, an attorney representing the Henrys, said neighbors told him the dog is at the Johnson residence most of the time.

Efforts to reach Johnson by telephone Thursday were unsuccessful.

The Henrys both work and have health insurance, but how much of the surgeries will be covered is unknown. Doctors plan to take cartilage from Caren Henry's ear and elsewhere on her body to rebuild her nose. It will take multiple surgeries.

"We took pictures at the hospital, and it was the most grotesque things I've ever seen," Beattie said. "There's just a hole where a nose should be."

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