McHENRY – Adria Hanus remembers only the sounds of a man yelling and metal clanking before she was able to make out the dark shape of what she thought was a dog latched onto the neck of her service dog, Cassie.
Hanus, who is legally blind, had gone out for a walk with Cassie on the afternoon of March 29 near her McHenry home when, she and police said, a PIT BULL MIX charged at them, biting Cassie on the neck until the owners pried the dogs apart.
During an exam shortly afterward at the Wonder Lake Veterinary Clinic, a swipe of Cassie’s golden fur revealed a bite that had punctured the skin behind the dog’s left ear.
“When the vet opened up the fur I couldn’t tell how bad it was, but I could see that dark red blood running,” said Hanus, 76.
Even less clear was Cassie’s future as a guide dog. Hanus, who has relied on Cassie for the past four years, said she was worried the golden retriever would have too much emotional trauma to work again. But nearly two weeks after the attack, Cassie and Hanus are leaning on each other to rebuild their courage to leave their home.
“The wound is healing,” Hanus said, nearly 5-year-old Cassie lying obediently at her feet in the harness that puts her in work mode.
“But before we go out I need to be relaxed, and there’s the problem. She knows I’m upset, and it goes right through the harness.”
The attack happened about 3:30 p.m. on Greenbrier Drive in the neighborhood where both Hanus and the pit bull’s owners, Terry and Michelle Brock, live. The pit bull behind the bite also had been on a leash with its owners when it thrashed its way out of a new collar, McHenry Deputy Police Chief John Birk said. The bite required medication but did not need to be sutured. Hanus had an abrasion on her hand after the scuffle.
According to the police report, Birk said Terry Brock told police THE PIT BULL DID NOT LIKE OTHER DOGS.
Standing in the entryway of her home with the pit bull, 1-year-old Bella, whining behind a gate at the top of the stairs, Michelle Brock said her dog wanted to play. She said the pinch collar they had recently bought was too loose, and Bella only bit because she had not been socialized, and Cassie growled.
“She wanted to play, but if a dog growls at her,” Brock said as Bella grew quiet. “I feel bad. I understand how traumatic it had to be. We were shaking. It was a tragic accident.”
Terry Brock, 65, was cited for not controlling a dangerous or threatening animal. He is next due in McHenry County Court on May 18. The ordinance violation is punishable by a fine set by a judge, Birk said.
As for Bella, Michelle Brock said the dog has not been outside beyond the confines of their fenced yard since the incident. She said Bella starts one-on-one obedience lessons Tuesday, the day after the quarantine imposed by the authorities is lifted.
Birk said police have not had any reports related to a dog at the home or involving the Brocks before.
“It’s unfortunate,” Birk said. “We did the follow-up on it and notified the Department of Community and Economic Development to make sure if there are any future occurrences that progressive punishment is sought.”
The proper punishment to Hanus and her husband, Ed, would be for Bella to be required to wear a muzzle anytime she leaves the house.
“We cannot have dangerous dogs running around McHenry,” Ed said.
For now, the couple and their two dogs – they also have a 12-year-old seeing eye dog named Honey-B – are trying to move forward together. They know it will be a slow process. Cassie is more on edge than usual, and Hanus won’t leave the driveway unless she’s in a car going to Kohl’s or Meijer.
But a special bond exists between a guide dog and its owner, and that’s why Hanus is holding out hope they will be able to recover.
“She not only guides me because I can’t see,” Hanus said, “but she is a companion. She gives love. I get strength from her.”