How can you help?
-If you see a chocolate brown lab or a black rottweiler-mix dragging a broken chain, call Animal Control at 770-786-9514
-After hours, call 9-1-1
A Memorial Day weekend in the sun turned terrifying when a two year old was mauled by two large dogs Saturday between 6 and 6:45 p.m., suffering extensive injuries above his shoulders.
Colton Hardegree, who turned two on May 1, was playing with a water toy his aunt had given him outside of his house when the dogs came into the backyard from the back corner, according to his father, James Hardegree, who was with Colton Hardegree at the time.
“They were snooping around, playing around. Everything was fine,” James Hardegree said.
But then one dog, which James Hardegree described as a brown lab, picked up “a dead something,” causing the other dog to begin wrestling into a tug-of-war.
James Hardegree said the second dog was black and could have some brown, thinking it may be a Rottweiler-shepherd mix. It was dragging a broken seven- or eight-foot chain.
When James Hardegree saw the dogs begin to brawl, he said he put Colton Hardegree in the house and latched the door before going back out to break up the fight. However, Colton Hardegree was able to unlatch the door and came back outside.
“I guess he ran right to them and got tangled up in the chain and was in the middle of it,” James Hardegree said. “When it happened, it happened so fast. It was just a blur.”
Colton Hardegree’s waist was wrapped in the dog’s chain.
“It was scary,” James Hardegree said. “No one wants to see a kid up under two dogs fighting.
“Something needs to happen. If I was in somebody else’s yard, then OK, but them two dogs should have never been in my yard to begin with. And it was pretty obvious with those chains they shouldn’t have been going anywhere.”
“He was lucky”
Hardegree said he took his son straight to the hospital and didn’t have time to focus on where the dogs went.
Colton Hardegree’s mother, Lindsay Brown, is a housekeeper at Newton Medical and was on-shift when Shane Hardegree and Colton Hardegree arrived at 7:10 p.m.
“(James) called me on the way, saying he had to hold (Colton’s) head because it was bleeding,” Brown said. “I was just afraid. I screamed when I saw him and rushed him straight in. They took him straight back.”
A plastic surgeon spent one and a half to two hours in surgery with Colton Hardegree. Brown said an appointment on Monday will determine whether a second surgery is needed.
Brown said her son had a four-and-a-half-inch gash on the side of his face that reaches the bone, and his ear on the other side of his face was ripped open. There was a tear in his ear and puncture wounds and scratches on the back of his head and neck. His eye was swollen shut but has begun to open after being released from the hospital Monday.
He will probably have some scarring, but there appears to be no nerve damage, Brown said.
“The doctors said he was lucky,” Brown said. “I’m gonna take him to the eye doctor just to make sure his vision is OK.”
She said although the initial trauma has passed, the situation is still scary.
“It still makes me sad when I see him,” Brown said. “He’s starting to get back to his normal self. He’s got a long road to recovery, but he’s starting to act like Colton.”
Colton Hardegree shares a birthday with his four-year-old sister who was out of town with their grandparents at the time of the incident.
“He’s already been through so much”
Brown and Shane Hardegree both said they know nothing about the dogs or their owners but that they must be from the neighborhood. The family lives on Woodland Ridge Circle off Crowell Road. The dogs still have not been located, nor have the owners come forward.
“We just want somebody to come forward with their animals or someone who knows about them,” Brown said. “(Colton) will have to have a rabies shot if they’re no one’s dogs. He’ll have to have shots in his hip and face if they don’t find them. I don’t want him to have to go through that. He’s already been through so much.”
Rabies shots must be administered within 10 days of the incident, so Colton Hardegree’s deadline is Tuesday, June 3.
Terry Key-Hooson, director of Newton County Animal Control, said surrounding neighborhoods should remain vigilant if they see roaming dogs or know anyone who owns dogs that may be similar or missing. She said Animal Control has not received a single call about them.
“For a dog dragging around a chain, that’s unusual,” Key-Hooson said. “Somebody put a chain on that dog. They’re not real expensive dogs, but they’re nice dogs. I can’t imagine having one and not going to look for it.
“There’s tons of kids in our neighborhood that walk and bike,” Brown said. “The owners of the dogs need to take responsibility.”