Leonard Miller was in his kitchen when he heard a frantic knocking at the door and the sound of a little girl screaming for help.
The 13-year-old girl told her neighbor their dog was attacking her younger sister and would not let her go. Miller didn’t think. He reacted.
The following minutes were a blur as he rushed to the next-door home.
Thinking back to Sunday afternoon, the 88-year-old wishes he would have grabbed his baseball bat before heading into the home. He didn’t want to be without a weapon, so he snatched up the first thing he could — a 2- to 3-foot nutcracker that was part of a Christmas display outside of his neighbor’s home.
“This dog had this little girl down just growling,” Miller said. “He had her arm and was shaking her like he would shake an animal or something. I hit the dog in the head three or four times, and it wouldn’t let loose.”
After hitting the white PIT BULL a few more times in the back, it finally let loose its grasp on the 10-year-old child, Miller said. The girls ran out of the home, and Miller backed away from the dog, locking it in the house.
As he made his way out of the residence, the dog didn’t make a move to attack him, he said. It didn’t growl at him. He yelled authoritatively at the dog: “No. No. No.”
He took the girls to his home where he called an ambulance.
On Monday, the dog’s owner surrendered it to the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.
″... That dog was vicious,” Miller said Monday morning. “I don’t know what they’re going to do. ... I couldn’t sleep too good because of everything that happened yesterday.”
Miller, a U.S. Army veteran, served as a combat medic in Korea. His instincts kicked in, and he didn’t hesitate to help the girl. Even at 88, Miller uses the treadmill and lifts weights to stay in shape.
“My doctor tells me, ‘you’re in better shape than most 50-year-olds,’” Miller said.
Perry Police Chief Mike Pomesky said officers were called to join the Fire Department just before 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
It appeared the attack was unprovoked, Pomesky said. The girl was transported to the hospital with severe injuries, he added.
The 10-year-old girl’s condition was unknown Monday. She had severe injuries to her left arm, officials said.
The neighbor girl reminds Miller of when his own children were young. He said he often saw the girl, who is a Perry cheerleader for youth football, doing somersaults and playing in the front yard.
“I’m glad I was here to help,” Miller said. “I don’t know what would have happened.”
Not long before noon Monday, Miller was outside of his residence talking with reporters when he saw a man exit the home and then quickly return inside.
Miller crossed the yard to his neighbor’s home and knocked, hoping to get an update on how the girl is doing. No one answered the door. As he stood outside the residence, he picked up a nutcracker matching the one he used to hit the dog.
“This is heavier than I thought it was,” he remarked before setting it back in place.
The dog remained at the residence overnight. Miller could hear it barking Monday morning.
Major C.J. Stantz of the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, said the dog was deemed vicious. Deputies went to the residence Monday afternoon to talk with the owner, who decided to surrender the dog, Stantz said.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, a “vicious dog” is a dog that, without provocation, has killed or caused serious injury to any person. The owner of the dog has the option to surrender the dog.
When the girl’s mother was notified by the Sheriff’s Office and given paperwork, she told officers the dog did not belong to her; it belonged to a man who had also been living in the residence, Stantz said.
“As a police officer, we can recommend,” Stantz said. “We can strongly recommend to the homeowner and give them some scenarios. Ultimately, it’s the property owner’s decision what they do with the dog. ... We can’t violate their rights.”