EXCLUSIVEI was attacked by an XL bully. This is what it felt like – and how dog experts say you should defend yourself

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In a horrifying attack, Angeline Mahal, in her 50s, died after she was savaged by her two XL bullies in east London yesterday. It was thought to be the first fatal attack by dogs exempted from the nationwide ban on the breed.

Here ISOBEL BOYD recounts the moment she was mauled by an XL bully – and reveals how to defend yourself if you’re ever in a similar situation…

Screaming in agony as the dog’s teeth sank deep into my arm, I was flung across the pavement like a rag doll and slammed to the ground.

I can’t describe the pain — its teeth felt like daggers, sharp and piercing, refusing to let go. The XL bully shredded my arm and fractured my knee, leaving me hospitalised for 11 days.

So my heart went out to Esther Martin, the 68-year-old grandmother mauled to death by two XL Bully dogs in Essex in February.

That poor woman lost her life in the most horrific way imaginable and it brought back all the trauma of what happened to me. At 77, I don’t know if I’ll ever regain full use of my arm or walk without having to use a wheelchair, but knowing how ferocious those dogs can be, I feel lucky to be alive.

It was a normal Wednesday morning, December 20, just before 9.30am. I’d called into my daughter’s house, just across the street from my own in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. I was walking on the left-hand side of the road to the bus stop where I planned to catch the bus into Stirling for a spot of Christmas shopping.

Isobel Boyd, 77, doesn't know if she'll ever regain full use of her arm after the attack

Isobel Boyd, 77, doesn’t know if she’ll ever regain full use of her arm after the attack

Ms Boyd was hospitalised for 11 days after the attack by an XL bully last year

Ms Boyd was hospitalised for 11 days after the attack by an XL bully last year

I hadn’t got more than three gates away from my daughter’s house when I saw a boy, of around 13 or 14, approaching with an XL Bully dog, a breed I instantly recognised from news reports. It was a big one — if it had stood up on its hind legs it would have been taller than me. 

He had it on a slack lead so I stepped on to the edge of the kerb to let them pass on the inside. It is quite a narrow path — around 4ft — like you’d find on any residential estate.

They had just gone past me when I felt what I thought was the dog’s nose against the left-hand side of my body, sniffing at my arm. Next thing I knew, it grabbed my arm in its teeth and flung me across the pavement, slamming me to the ground up against a garden wall. It was like a horrible nightmare.

I managed to grab on to the wall, while shouting: ‘Help me, help me.’ The boy with the lead was doing everything he could to pull the dog back but it was too powerful for him.

It was pulling and pulling at my left arm with its teeth, sinking them deeper into the flesh. It was excruciating. I thought my arm was going to be ripped right off. I couldn’t hold on to the wall any longer and the dog dragged me across the pavement and pinned me down on the ground so I was now lying half on the road. 

The dog sank its teeth deep into Isobel's arm and flung her across the pavement - leaving her with a horrific injury

The dog sank its teeth deep into Isobel’s arm and flung her across the pavement – leaving her with a horrific injury

Angeline Mahal, in her 50s, was fatally attacked yesterday at her home in east London

Angeline Mahal, in her 50s, was fatally attacked yesterday at her home in east London

It slammed me down so forcefully that I fractured my knee, though I barely remember that part. I was so numb from the shock that I wasn’t thinking straight. I was still screaming like mad, ‘My arm, it’s got my arm.’

By this stage there must have been blood everywhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to look. I think I thought that if I left it with my arm, it couldn’t get to my throat. I knew if it got my throat, that would be it.

I don’t remember what the dog looked like, or what the boy was doing at this point. It’s all a blur because of the pain. I felt like it wasn’t happening to me — like I wasn’t really there. But the memory of its teeth in my arm is very real.

One of the most sinister things was that, all the while it was attacking me, the dog didn’t make a sound. It didn’t bark or snarl — it just kept going for me. It was out of control and it never let up.

After what seemed like for ever — probably no more than a minute or two — a young man came running out from a house across the road. He had heard my screams and seen me through his front window.

He started beating the dog back with a skateboard. Looking back, he was my hero. Without him, I don’t think I’d be here to tell my story.

Then a man driving past in a car saw me lying on the road and stopped to help. Another woman came running down the street and started using a lighter on the dog’s nose.

I was never unconscious but I have blanked out what happened next. There were people all around me, hitting the dog and grabbing at me, trying to pull me to safety. Eventually, they managed to get it off me. I remember lying on the ground, blood everywhere. There was an ambulance and a police car, and they had to cut my jacket off to get to my arm.

Esther Martin, a 68-year-old grandmother, was mauled to death by two XL bully dogs in Essex in February

Esther Martin, a 68-year-old grandmother, was mauled to death by two XL bully dogs in Essex in February 

I was taken to hospital, followed by my daughter, my brother and my granddaughter, who had all rushed to the scene when they heard what was happening. They were traumatised; they had to see me lying there, not knowing if I would make it.

I was in Forth Valley Royal Hospital for 11 days. I spent Christmas there, and my family all visited me in their pyjamas on Christmas morning.

EXCLUSIVEREAD MORE: Family of mother-of-two, 50, mauled to death at home by her two XL Bullys begged her to ‘give up the dogs’ before first fatal attack since breed was banned in February

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Fragments of what had happened came back to me, little by little. The doctors were amazing and made sure I wasn’t in any pain — but the reality of what I’d been through really hit me then. I had two operations and a skin graft on my arm. 

Tendons had been severed and it was broken in a couple of places. I have to go into hospital twice a week to get the dressings changed.

I still can’t move the fingers on my left hand and I don’t know if I’ll ever get the use of them back.

I’ve still got a big splint on my fractured knee. My whole leg is covered in cuts. I have to use a wheelchair, and I’m waiting to hear if I need another operation.

Since the attack — seven weeks ago today — things have been very difficult. It’s taken a lot away from me; not just my ability to get around, but my confidence, too. I live alone and I used to be very independent. I was out walking every day and did everything in the house on my own.

Now, I need someone to come with me when I leave the house. I feel anxious whenever I see a dog, especially bigger ones. That’s quite a thing to come to terms with, because I love dogs; I love all animals. 

I had Alsatians most of my life until I was 60, and I used to walk my granddaughter’s little Shih Tzu down the same road where I was attacked.

But when it comes to these XL Bully dogs, something needs to be done. People need to know how vicious they can be if they’re not properly trained and treated.

The dog that attacked me was put down. I found out later it had been brought from England a few weeks beforehand — presumably to escape the new ban on the breed, as they haven’t yet been banned in Scotland — to a house 100 yards from my home.

I have flashbacks all the time. I’ll be sitting watching TV and suddenly I’m back there, lying on the ground, not knowing if I’ll survive. 

When I heard about Esther Martin, a grandmother like me, it broke my heart. I know the pain I experienced, and the trauma my family went through — and what happened to her is so, so much worse. I’m still here and that poor woman’s not.

I wouldn’t wish an attack like mine on anybody else. It was horrific and it will stay with me for the rest of my life. But I’m lucky I am still here to warn others about the dangers of these dogs.

As told to Sarah Rainey.

 

And what to do if you’re attacked…   

After a string of ever more shocking attacks, XL Bullies were banned in England and Wales under the Dangerous Dogs Act this year, unless owners have a valid certificate of exemption, with possession punishable by a criminal record and unlimited fine.

But what can you do to defend yourself if faced with an XL Bully?

James Hare, a qualified dog trainer who teaches children how to behave around dogs, stresses that any dog has the ability to attack and we’re far more likely to get bitten by smaller breeds. But he adds that it is the size and strength of an XL Bully that gives them a stronger jaw lock and makes them more deadly.

Hare insists not all XL Bullies are dangerous, and that poor training is often to blame for their bad behaviour.

But, if you’re faced with one, it is important to first avoid eye contact. Dogs can find it quite intimidating. Teasing a dog, even playfully, in the form of unwanted prodding or touching, can provoke them.

Distracting a dog with food can help divert their attention from you. Bully dogs like cheese, chicken, ham and sausage. ‘But it depends how far through that predatory behaviour they’ve gone,’ says Hare. ‘If we’ve missed the warning signs food might not work.’

Signs that a dog has had enough and is getting stressed include yawning and lip-licking, turning their head away and turning their eyes so the whites show, known as ‘whale eye’. It leads to the lip curling, which leads to a growl and then the teeth showing.

Watch out for the position of its neck in relation to its body — if it’s lower or higher than its body, it’s likely to be relaxed, but if the two are aligned, ‘it’s got to the end of its tether, it’s a final warning,’ says Hare. ‘It’s almost like a stalking motion.’

Don’t run, because ‘it becomes a game and will heighten the dog’s intensity to attack’. Putting an object, such as a chair, between you and the dog ‘can give you more time to think about what’s coming next and manoeuvre yourself into the safest place possible’, says Hare.

He advises putting one side of your body against a wall ‘so you can keep half your body safe while trying to remove the dog’. If you or someone you are with can reach behind the dog, lifting their hind legs off the floor can throw them off balance and they won’t be able to spin and bite.

If you suspect you are about to get bitten, try wrapping any clothing around the most vulnerable part of your body, to lessen the impact. As counterintuitive as it might sound, it makes sense to offer one part of your body to the dog to protect other vulnerable areas. 

‘Nobody wants to go through that pain, but if you can accept it’s going to happen and move your outer thigh, which is meatier, you’ll still have your arms free to protect your head and neck.’ If you have been bitten, don’t try to pull away from the dog’s grip ‘because it becomes a tug of war to them’. 

Hare advises ‘getting its collar and twisting it so it starts to block its airway. I’d never advocate choking a dog ordinarily, but in that situation, blocking the collar can help get it away from you’.

Throwing an item of clothing over the dog’s head can also distract them.

  • A version of this article was published in the Daily Mail on Wednesday, February 7.