The 67-year-old woman mauled by two pit bulls outside her home last week continued to recover at Medical Center Hospital in good spirits after a skin graft surgery on Monday, her son Sam Rodriguez said in an interview.
The 48-year-old son said one or both of the animals “ripped off a significant amount of flesh” from her neck and chin, and he provided photos of his mother in the hospital after the gruesome attack.
“She’s in real good spirits,” Rodriguez said. “She’s conscious. She can talk and everything. She’s very positive about all of this. She’s a trooper.”
Odessa police reported the woman, Juanita Rodriguez, was taking out trash at about 11:18 a.m. Friday in an alley near South Lee Avenue and West Ada Street when the animals mauled her face, neck and chest.
Officers arrested the owners of the TWO PIT BULLS, 40-year-olds Aurelio Hernandez-Leyva and Maria Quintero-Leyva. They lived nearby.
Each was charged with third-degree felony Attack by Dog under the Texas Health and Safety Code. The Leyvas, 716 S. Lee. Ave., were released Saturday from the Ector County Detention Center, each on a $50,000 bond.
“I’m glad that they arrested them right away like that,” Sam Rodriguez said. “Because that could have been a kid down the street that those dogs could have jumped on. Somebody far younger would not have survived.”
He said his mother had been mowing her lawn, and the trash she was throwing away was yard clippings.
OPD Capt. Jesse Duarte also said Friday that a child could have been killed in the attack and argued the mauling should serve as a warning for people with dangerous animals.
In this case, police reported witnesses said the dogs had been aggressive before and said there were previous escapes. Investigators found the fence surrounding the Leyva’s backyard was in disrepair, with a broken gate and holes in the chain link.
The two pit bulls seized Friday will remain quarantined for a total 10 days to make sure they do not have rabies. Then, Duarte said if the Leyvas do not release the dogs to Animal Control so they can be euthanized police will seek a court order to euthanize them.
Sam Rodriguez pointed to a “hero in this story” — his childhood friend Louie Garza, who helped fend off the animals, called 9-1-1 and aided his bleeding mother until an ambulance arrived.
In an interview, Louie Garza said he lives across the alleyway from Juanita Rodriguez. He said he walked into his backyard to take care of chores that morning, when he heard barking. His dogs, a Chihuahua named Easy Money and his pit bull named Chico Man, were barking. But he heard more barking — and screams — beyond his picket fence.
“I got a partial glimpse of Mrs. Rodriguez,” Garza said. “She was laying on the ground.”
Then, he said he jumped the fence and stumbled.
“I was screaming myself,” Garza said. “’Get away. Get Get Get’.”
By then, Garza said Maria Leyva had arrived and called off the dogs, but only one complied at first before Garza ran toward it.
Duarte said Friday that Animal Control officers told police investigators that an owner of the dogs halted the attack.
But Garza said the woman left without helping. And Sam Rodriguez relayed a similar account from his mother in the hospital.
“She pulled the dogs off and then she asked my mom, and here my mom is with blood all down her neck and all over her clothes, and she asks ‘Are you all right?’” Sam Rodriguez said, adding that his mother asked her to call 9-1-1. “All she said was, ‘I don’t have a cell phone’ and just got the dogs and left.”
Garza said 9-1-1 dispatchers guided him on how to stop the bleeding and alerted Juanita Rodriguez’ son-in-law, who was inside the home without having heard the attack. Together Garza said they slowed the bleeding with a towel, but by then her clothes were covered in blood and skin was hanging from her neck.
On Monday, Juanita Rodriguez was listed in fair condition at Medical Center Hospital. Initially emergency responders reported her injuries as life threatening.
“Thanks to God that Mrs. Rodriguez is OK,” Garza said. “She's a really special lady.”
Sam Rodriguez said his father was shaken by the attack. His father, Sam Rodriguez Sr., was in Big Spring during the attack for a doctor visit at a Veterans Affairs clinic.
Sam Rodriguez said his mother has three children including him, along with nine grandchildren, but she’s known for her toughness. The family stories about her include that time when she was still working at Sally Beauty Supply and disarmed a would-be robber.
But the dogs, Sam Rodriguez said, were an ongoing problem. He said one of the dogs tried to attack his mother years ago but a passerby with a stick fought it off.
Garza said he had seen the dogs roaming loose before too and now he’s angry.
“I hope other dog owners will learn a lesson from this,” Garza said. “I hope they will learn about how to bring their dogs up. You don’t have to bring them up to be vicious. They don’t have to be vicious to protect the yard.”