Boy attacked by dog

OKEECHOBEE — If not for a couple of brave and quick-acting neighbors, Robert Rowell said his 9-year-old stepson would be dead.

The boy, Clayton Wolf, was walking Friday afternoon along N.W. 102nd Street when two dogs charged him and a third one grabbed his leg. The cur dog bit Clayton 26 times.

As the boy was screaming, a neighbor, Nicole Owens, saw what was happening and ran to the boy. She began to scream, grabbed the cur and tried to get it off the slender-built boy. In the process she, too, was bitten.

Mr. Rowell said it took 18 stitches to close the wounds to her right leg.

For Clayton, he had over 30 stitches in his legs.

“If not for the lady screaming, Clayton would have been dead,” said Mr. Rowell. “I just want to praise the people that went out to help.”

While Mrs. Owens fought with the one dog, another neighbor, Scott Videl, grabbed up a golf club and ran to help.

“He was swinging the golf club between the dogs and the woman and Clayton to keep the dogs off them,” recalled Mr. Rowell.

The worst of the boy’s injuries happened when he tried to climb a fence to get away from the attacking dog.

“The dog bit him on the left leg, grabbed him and dragged him down into the ditch. That bite went all the way through the muscle and into the bone,” explained the boy’s dad.

Clayton had surgery at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, and has an appointment Wednesday, March 2, with a plastic surgeon.

Mr. Rowell said Clayton is taking some “very strong antibiotics” as well as medication for the pain.

The dog in question is owned by Stephen Schoonmaker, a neighbor of Robert and Koren Rowell. The animal has been seized by Okeechobee Animal Control, and will be held in quarantine for 10 days.

So far, said Deputy Sergeant Arlene Durbin, who heads up animal control, the 55- to 60-pound dog is doing good.

“He seems to be like a normal dog,” said the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) deputy. “He’s shown no signs of being sick.”

She estimated the dog to be “a couple years old.”

Mr. Rowell said the dog’s owner couldn’t believe what the pet had done. Mr. Schoonmaker has shock collars on his dogs but, in this case at least, it did not prevent the attack.

“When he realized who it was, he was very upset,” said Mr. Rowell. “He has homeowners’ insurance, but it doesn’t cover the dogs.”

Because of that, Mr. Rowell said he and his wife will have to pay the medical bills. But, Mr. Schoonmaker has agreed to help out and pay the deductible as well as whatever the Rowell’s insurance won’t cover.

What has everyone scratching their heads is why this happened, and why this one dog?

“The dog has never done anything like this before,” Mr. Rowell said, and added that a neighbor told him the dog does get out once in a while but has never done anyone any harm.

This incident has also caused the Rowells to wonder why there is no leash law in the Okeechobee Little Farms area.

“You would be surprised at the number of dogs that run this neighborhood.

There’s no leash law in the county and I’d like to see that changed,” said Mr. Rowell. “They need to be chained up or behind a fence. If you’re the owner of a dog, you should be responsible and keep it in your yard.”

When asked, Mr. Rowell said Clayton is having some problems sleeping and he’ll “probably be terrified of dogs for a while.”

He just hopes his son will get over that fear.

“My son didn’t deserve this. He never causes any trouble. He was just walking down to his friend’s house,” said Clayton’s dad.

“But, we owe Nicole everything. She didn’t have to do anything. Scott said he saw Nicole grab that dog and swing it like it was a rag doll. But, by the time he got there she was worn out. She was ready to give up,” Mr. Rowell added.

Fortunately for Clayton, she didn’t.

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