Laura Zalar has been volunteering and working as an aide at Hale Road Elementary School since her own children were young. “Because I love children,” said Zalar.
And Monday afternoon she showed just how much she cares, risking her own safety to save a 10-year-old girl.
It happened during recess on the schools playground in Painesville.
A large PIT BULL MIX DOG suddenly charged onto the grounds, and Zalar said the 60 or so students outside for recess began running around and screaming.
Zalar said the dog was tall and looked like it weighed about 60 or 70 pounds.
“It was a massive dog,” said Laura, “It was nothing but muscle.”
She and the other adults tried to calm the children as the dog continued to circle the playground.
Then she said it zeroed in on a fifth-grader named Leah Puffenbarger, biting her forearm.
The young girl said she was trying to get away from it when the dog attacked. “I was scared… REALLY scared.”
Zalar rushed over to help, wrapped her arms around Leah and wedged her leg between the girl and the dog.
“He would not let her go,” said Zalar.
She said she continued to spin in circles until the dog finally let go, but then another fight began.
“It took me backwards and down; it threw me on the ground,” she said.
The courageous aide then threw herself on top of Leah and covered her head until the dog finally ran off.
At the hospital, Zalar was treated for multiple puncture wounds and deep muscle strain and bruising. Leah’s arm was even worse and needed 26 stitches to repair the damage.
Leah's father, Jason Puffenbarger, called the wound the worst he’s ever seen.
“The wound was so bad. The skin was pulled back; muscle was showing. It was disgusting,” Puffenbarger said.
But he and his wife are so grateful for Zalar's actions and said they know the injuries could have been far worse. Although Zalar said she did what any other person would do.
“Your instinct is to protect,” she said. “They’re somebody’s kids; I would hope they would do the same for mine.”
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and told Fox 8 that the three-year-old dog had escaped from its home near the school.
They said the dog’s owner is being cited for having a “dangerous dog at large.” The dog is quarantined for 10 days with the Lake County dog warden, which is standard procedure.
Zalar may not consider herself a hero but everyone else does, especially Leah and her family.
“To go in and put herself in danger is truly amazing,” said Jason Puffenbarger. “I totally agree,” added Leah, “I’m so happy.”