Posted at: 05/30/2014 5:00 PM
Updated at: 05/30/2014 5:39 PM
By: Devin Neeley, KOB Eyewitness News 4
On the first Friday of summer break, 9-year-old Josiah Teller now plays inside. The almost 5th grader loves basketball and shows off his skill on a hoop over the closet door in the hall of his home in Upper Fruitland. With tears welling up in his eyes, he says why. "Cause it might happen to me again."
On Tuesday, Teller was bitten by a neighborhood dog that was running loose. The dog clamped down on the back of the boy's neck, from behind, grazing his carotid artery. It could have killed the aspiring hoops star.
The staples in the back of his head and bandages across his shoulders paint the picture of Josiah's fear. Sadly, one dog is not the problem.
As dogs bark all around the family's home, Josiah's mother tells us many dogs roam freely around the neighborhood and many parts of the Navajo Nation.
"Every single day you deal with that," laments Wanona Theberge.
The family used to take walks around the neighborhood on nice evenings, to have a little exercise and just get out of the house. But not anymore, she says they have to arm themselves with sticks to fend off the dogs and that is not worth the danger.
Theberge says the dog in question was quarantined by Navajo Nation Animal Control.
Messages left with Navajo Nation Animal Control were not returned late Friday and the Shiprock Animal Control Center was closed.
According to Navajo Nation Animal Control's website, there are more than 3,000 people treated each year for animal attacks and bites. Worse yet, there are only 5 animal control officers for all 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation. They say they just don't have the funds to enforce animal laws.
As for Theberge, she believes that everything happens for a reason. She almost lost her son, but feels no resentment or anger. Nor does she place blame. She hopes pet owners will learn from this time and abide by Navajo Nation Animal Code, calling for pets to be on a leash or in an enclosure at all times.
She also urges lawmakers to better fund Navajo Nation Animal Control so they may enforce the laws and ensure something like this never happens again.
"So that children feel safe and can go ride their bikes in the little community that we are in get out there and play with each other again," she said.