By Mia Deckman
After 50 bites, the doctors stopped counting.
Sophia Wiernusz was in the hospital, surrounded by medical staff and in overwhelming pain after suffering a violent dog attack when she was twelve.
Sophia recently told the Informer the story of how she was attacked and how this traumatic experience continues to affect her.
One winter day, she and her mom went to visit her elderly neighbor to pick up some paperwork. “Oh, my dog’s a little jumpy,” her neighbor said before they entered the kitchen where the German Shepherd was.
Then they went out to the backyard, which had a nicely landscaped lawn and a pool.
Suddenly, the dog, whose name was Barren, started jumping on Sophia and nipping at her. Sophia ran away, but the dog cut across the pool cover. He then jumped on Sophia, attacking her.
The German Shepherd brought Sophia to the ground, digging his teeth into her shoulder and ripping her rotator cuff. Sophia’s mom managed to pull her off the ground and drag her away from Barren, but the dog continued biting Sophia on her legs and hip area.
The elderly neighbor was yelling profusely for Barren to stop, but he didn’t. Sophia’s mom threw her arms around her daughter, blocking her from Barren, which resulted in the dog severely biting her mom.
The neighbor, Sophia, and her mom raced into the house to get away from Barren. When they made it safely inside, the dog was violently scratching at the door, trying to get in the house, while Sophia hid behind a bookcase. She was covered in blood, panting and in excruciating pain.
They quickly rushed home to get Sophia’s dad and then raced to the hospital, with Sophia in hysterics. Sophia and her mom were left with a total of more than 75 bite wounds covering their bodies.
The doctors couldn’t stitch Sophia up due to the risk of infection. However, Sophia received the medical attention she needed, including antibiotics, bandages, and thin adhesive strips called Steristrips to cover her wounds.
For the next year and a half, Sophia had to visit the doctor once or twice a week for a check-up. She also had a year and half of physical therapy for her rotator cuff injury.
After this traumatic event, Sophia suffered nightmares of the attack. She also was so scared of German Shepherds and other large dogs for fear of being attacked again that she would end up in tears whenever she was around dogs.
Her therapist brought in a German Shepherd to try and help her overcome her fear.
Sophia, who is now a junior, has been so strongly affected by this experience that she said she deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a condition that affects your mental health and causes flashbacks to a previous traumatic event.
Whenever she hears a dog bark or growl, her heart rate rises, she feels panicked, and she immediately checks her surroundings. Even a sound similar to the jingling of a dog collar can trigger her PTSD and put her back in that moment when she was attacked.
After this traumatic event, Sophia has tried to move on and continue her passion of playing tennis and performing community service. Most of the time, she tries to avoid being around dogs. When she has no other choice about being around a dog, she is only comfortable if she knows that she has control over the situation and can defend herself.
“I will always be nervous for the rest of my life around dogs,” Sophia said, “especially when someone says, ‘My dog is just a little jumpy.’ ”