Shepherd bounces back from mauling

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2014
Shepherd Mea
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ

GETTING THERE: Shepherd Mea with his mother, Katarina Kopa.

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Shepherd Mea remembers the afternoon he was almost killed by the family dog, but doesn't like to talk about it.

"The dog bit me," he says simply, as he clings to his mother Katarina Kopa.

Shepherd, 4, was playing with family dog Musha, a pitbull-mastiff cross, at his Otahuhu home on August 2 when it turned on him, grabbing him by the head and inflicting deep gashes and cuts to his skull and face.

He spent 10 days in Middlemore Hospital's intensive care unit and then its children's hospital where he underwent surgery to stitch and staple multiple head wounds before being discharged on August 11.

Kopa said family members were overwhelmed at Shepherd's quick recovery and were counting their blessings.

Despite initial fears his eyesight would be damaged, Shepherd's biggest reminder of the attack is lingering swelling and cuts.

"He was running around in just a few days and the doctors say he won't have any lasting injuries," Kopa said.

The family knows how lucky he is.

In March, 7-year-old Sakurako Uehara was mauled by four staffordshire bull terrier-cross dogs at a family picnic, suffering more than 100 bites.

She required a facial reconstruction and was discharged from hospital only last week on Tuesday, but the Middlemore Foundation said her care was "far from over".

In the latest attack, the Auckland Council said it was investigating whether it would prosecute the dog's owner, Shepherd's father Orlando Shepherd.

Neighbours described the dog as intimidating, with one neighbour alleging it had been aggressive with young Shepherd before.

This is vehemently denied by Orlando Shepherd who said he'd had the dog just three weeks, in the wake of an attempted burglary at his Housing New Zealand (HNZ) home.

Shepherd said the allegations broke his heart and the dog, which has been destroyed, was "a good puppy".

"I couldn't keep my eyes on the house all the time and you never know when these guys are going to come back. I'm just protecting my family," he said.

He described his son as "a strong little man" who'd asked for a bowl of mussels the first time he woke up in hospital.

Shepherd is now staying with his mum while he recovers.

HNZ launched an investigation into the attack to ascertain how a dog had been kept at the property without its knowledge and against its no-dogs policy.

Housing Minister Nick Smith previously said he would release the results of that review publicly but, for privacy reasons, has now provided a summary instead. 

He said the Beatty St property underwent a routine inspection on February 27 and there was no evidence a dog was being kept there until Orlando Shepherd said he'd had a dog stolen from the house.

There were no registered complaints from neighbours prior to the attack but HNZ confirmed it later heard dogs had temporarily been at the property.

"HNZ will be following its antisocial behaviour policy to identify its next steps with the tenant. However, it is appropriate to give the tenant time to focus on his son's recovery and as such, no decision has been made at this time," said Smith.

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Kopa hopes Shepherd will learn to trust animals again and doesn't hold any grudges against Musha, saying it was just an unfortunate incident. "I got mad that he was attacked and that as a mother I wasn't there to protect him [but] dogs are not bad animals, I think its just an unfortunate thing.

"I wish that one day he could go and pet a dog because I don't want him to be scared of them. One day it will happen."

- Sunday Star Times

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