WARNING – GRAPHIC IMAGES: Abbie Whitehead, 22, was left with a huge scar after pet dog Woody savaged her face in an attack last Thursday.
- BY SOPHIE NORRIS, NEIL MURPHY
- 13:07, 21 DEC 2018
A teaching assistant who had her bottom lip bitten off by her family dog has shared pictures of her horrific injuries – and has warned parents about the dangers of animals.
Abbie Whitehead was cuddling her dog Woody last Thursday when the tiny Lancashire Heeler savaged her face, leaving blood ‘pouring’ from her lip.
Now she has warned parents to keep an eye on their children around dogs, as things can go wrong in a matter of seconds.
Despite loving and caring for the small and docile dog since he was a puppy, Abbie believes the seven-year-old pooch snapped at her because he had been nursing a sore ear.
The 22-year-old was rushed to hospital where she was operated on for more than two hours as surgeons tried to reconstruct her lip and chin.
Distraught Abbie is now telling her story to remind owners that their pets do not have the ability to ask to be left alone and should be given space – as well as not be allowed near faces.
Abbie, from Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, said: “I was in my bedroom with my dog. He was stood at my door waiting to be let out.
“I’m always mithering him and cuddling him. I bent down to squeeze him and I went to the side where he’d had a sore ear.
“As I knelt down he yelped but he didn’t growl or bark.
“He just yelped to say ‘get off me and let me out.’ At the time I’d gone in to kiss him and he caught my lip.
“I was in complete shock. I didn’t even feel him bite me – I thought he’d bust my lip. I thought he’d headbutted me.”
However she quickly realised that Woody had not headbutted her but had bitten her face, removing a large chunk of her bottom lip in the process.
Abbie said: “After he bit me, both of my hands were covered with blood. It was all over the floor and pouring out of my face.
“I couldn’t feel the pain because of the shock.
“The chunk was around two centimetres deep and quite wide – pretty much the whole left side of my lip.
“It was only when I felt all the blood pouring out that I realised it was really bad.
“When my boyfriend saw my face he jumped straight into the car and flew up the road to A&E. My mum nearly fainted.”
As soon as Abbie’s boyfriend John, 22, saw her lip he rushed her to A&E at Fairfield Hospital in Bury, Manchester.
The next day, after her lip had been cleaned up, she had surgery to try and stitch it back together.
Abbie was left with 15 stitches and will wait until the New Year to find out if she needs plastic surgery.
Abbie said: “After being in A&E, they sent me to North Manchester General Hospital to see the Maxillofacial team.
“I then went to the plastic surgeons and they put me into emergency theatre within an hour to reconstruct my lip.
“It was a two and half hour operation under general anaesthetic.
“At first they numbed my lip to try and stitch it, but they realised there was nothing left on my lip to save.
“In the operation they pulled my bottom lip a bit smaller, did a slit down my face in a ‘v’ shape to try and repair it without plastic surgery so my face wasn’t uneven.
“They’ve now sewn it all and I’ve got 15 stitches.
“The surgeons don’t know at the moment what I’ll look like in when heals.
“I get my stitches taken out on Christmas Eve then in the New Year I’m going to see the plastic surgeon to decide if I need more work done on it.
“Because I’m only 22 they want the best result possible.
“I’ll be left with a scar down my lip and my chin, but hopefully with makeup and time it’ll be easy to cover up.”
Abbie is hoping others will learn from her experience that dogs need to be given space.
Although she will recover from her horrific injuries, Abbie worries if it had happened with a small child or baby, they may not have survived.
Abbie said: “It’s awful when you love your dog that much. We’ve had him since he was born.
“When Woody bit me, he didn’t run away or anything because he knew that he’d hurt me.
“He stays away from me now, but he’ll lick my hand that was covered in blood.
“He’ll look at me then look away, but straight after he bit me, Woody was stuck by my side the whole time until we went to the hospital.
“He was looking at me shaking with his puppy dog eyes.
“Every time I see him I point to my face and say ‘look what you’ve done’, but I’m going to take him for some walks this week so he knows I haven’t fallen out with him.
“I want people to be aware that dogs do have feelings like humans, but they can’t express them like we can. They can’t speak so they can’t tell you if they’re uncomfortable or in pain.
“If they’re having a bad day or need some space, they can’t just say it.
“I’m always the one to say ‘my dog would never bite’ but it’s one of those things.
“I want people to know that they should always have their eye on their babies or children near a dog.
“If the same thing had happened to a baby, I don’t think it would have survived.
“They wouldn’t have stood a chance and my dog is so tiny.
“You should always be chin upwards from dogs too.
“I don’t want people to ever be scared of dogs, but I just want them to know that dogs can’t speak or tell you as easily that they don’t want to be mauled or played with.”
Animal welfare charity Blue Cross have also urged dog owners to teach their families how to read a dog’s body language and understand they can react unexpectedly at times.
A spokesperson for Blue Cross said: “Most dog owners have lovely family dogs who they consider wouldn’t hurt a fly.
“But for all dogs there are times when they can react in an unwanted way, for example around food, when woken, in pain or stressed.
“There are many benefits to having a dog in the family, but it is important to know how to all live safely and happily together.
“Understanding your dog’s body language and teaching children how to behave around dogs is so important for you and your child’s safety and your dog’s well being.