Family of boy attacked by pit bull fears psychological scars

pramati@macon.comJune 30, 2013 

Even when 5-year-old Anthony Ivey wears a ball cap, the reminders of a terrible afternoon in March still peek out from the edges.

There is no hair on the back and side of Anthony’s head, and the patchwork of skin looks as if someone poured acid on him.

By all accounts, Anthony cheated death March 14.

The 50-pound boy found himself in the jaws of a large pit bull with a history of violent attacks. Witnesses say Anthony is alive only because of the timely intervention by a neighbor.

Since the attack, Anthony has spent five weeks in a Boston hospital where he underwent three surgeries. Surgeons grafted skin from his thighs onto his exposed skull, to replace the part of his scalp the dog tore away.

The dog also damaged one of Anthony’s eyes, but remarkably, his family said, he didn’t lose any vision.

As horrific as those physical scars are, Anthony’s family fears the psychological scars may be worse.

“One little girl told him his head was ugly,” his mother, April Foster, said.

Rosemary Armstrong, his great-great-grandmother, said she thinks Anthony’s brother D’Vonte, who was with him when the dog lunged and began thrashing Anthony against the ground, may be suffering emotionally even more than Anthony.

“(D’Vonte) has changed a lot,” she said. “He gets an attitude and gets upset real quick. What he’s seen is really bothering him.”

The bad memories also haunt Eddie Deeb, the neighbor who saved Anthony’s life by pulling away the growling, gray pit bull named Blue that was tearing into the boy’s head.

Deeb said he can’t remember a lot of the details about what happened that day on Ousley Place in a north Macon neighborhood off Forest Hill Road.

“I don’t even remember going (into the yard),” said Deeb, who heard screams from next door and saw Blue attacking what Deeb first thought was another dog.

“I saw the child’s feet (from underneath the dog),” he said, admitting his own fear. “It was divine intervention, brother.”

A mad dog

Armstrong worked for the pit bull’s owners, Charles and Theresa Gay, for several years as a housekeeper. Sometimes, she said, Anthony and D’Vonte tagged along, and she watched them while she worked.

Armstrong said she had long been terrified of the Gays’ dogs.

While cleaning the house the afternoon of the attack, she explicitly told D’Vonte and Anthony -- who live in Warner Robins -- to watch cartoons and not go outside, she said. But while Armstrong was in another part of the house, Charles Gay told the boys it was OK to play in the backyard, D’Vonte said.

“The dog started to surround us, like it was scared of us,” he said.

Even before Anthony’s attack, Blue already had a dangerous reputation in the neighborhood. Deeb said Blue may have been involved in the deaths of other dogs the Gays owned over the years.

On two separate occasions, Deeb said, a Rottweiler and pit bull were killed in the backyard by other dogs the couple owned. Additionally, animal control removed another of their pit bulls and put it to death for being dangerous, Deeb said.

According to records, police were called to the Gays’ residence in 2008 after a neighbor claimed one of their dogs killed his cat.

Attempts to reach Charles Gay to comment for this story were unsuccessful. Telephone messages left for him went unreturned, and no one appears to be living in his house on Ousley Place.

There are a lot of elderly people on Ousley Place, said Deeb, who lives in the home of his late parents.

Deeb said his parents didn’t go into their own backyard for the last couple of years of their lives because of their fear of the dogs. Even the Gay family rarely went into their backyard other than to feed the dogs that were known to escape the fence, he said.

“This (incident) should have never happened,” Deeb said. “For all practical purposes, those dogs were feral. They had no human interaction, no social development. Even Charles was afraid to go into his backyard. ... This was something that was going to happen.”

On that afternoon three months ago, after circling Anthony and D’Vonte, Blue suddenly jumped at Anthony and sank his teeth into the child’s scalp, twisting and tearing it. D’Vonte said he ran inside the house, calling for Armstrong.

Armstrong, 78, said she heard the cries for help, ran outside and saw the dog mauling Anthony. She wanted to grab the dog to pull it away, but she fell down before she reached him. She said she was lying in Anthony’s blood while trying to get between him and the dog.

“I was just screaming and hollering,” Armstrong said. “Mr. Eddie jumped over the fence and pulled (the dog) off. Charles didn’t even move. But he has some good neighbors.”

According to a Macon police report, Gay told officers ‘I just never seen (the dog) do anything like that.’ ”

Deeb said he put Blue back in the backyard but forgot to secure the gate. Blue escaped and chased two other children from the neighborhood as well as another dog before he was captured and later killed by the county.

“My family said I’ve lived a colorful life,” Deeb said. “I’ve seen some nasty stuff. ... But I’ve never seen anything this horrific involving a child.”

The aftermath

Macon police charged Charles Gay, 60, with cruelty to children in the second degree, and he later was released on bond.

Deshala Dixon, an assistant district attorney, said Gay’s case hasn’t yet been presented to a grand jury because investigators were unable to talk to Anthony for weeks while he was in Boston. Dixon said the case probably will be presented to a grand jury in August.

Foster, 25, has suffered a series of hardships following the attack on her son. Because of the length of time she was with Anthony in Boston, she lost her job, she said. And without any income, Foster said she also lost her home.

Currently, Foster and her four children -- ages 3, 5, 7 and 9 -- are living in Armstrong’s public housing studio apartment in Warner Robins with Armstrong and Armstrong’s brother. She said she has tried to get assistance finding somewhere to live, but to no avail.

“I have all my clothes in my car,” she said, adding that the widespread publicity the attack generated has done little to aid her plight. “There are so many places that are supposed to help the homeless, but when the homeless come, they don’t care.”

Foster said she has gone back to school to get her nursing degree. She’s looking for any kind of help -- housing, clothes, money -- for her family just to get by these days. She said Anthony still needs to go back to Boston to make sure the scars are healing, and he could face additional surgeries if he hits his head and damages the tissue.

While Medicaid is paying for Anthony’s skin grafts, Foster said she doesn’t think it will cover the cost of plastic surgery to restore his appearance because it’s considered a cosmetic procedure.

Since the attack, Anthony doesn’t want to be around any animals, she said.

“He is afraid of animals, period,” Foster said. “You can see the way he handles things with his brothers and sister. He’s a little more aggressive. ... He has an I-don’t-care attitude.”

For example, Anthony recently was running across a courtyard at the housing complex, wearing socks but no shoes. Foster asked him to go to the car and get his shoes. Anthony initially refused.

Before the attack, Foster said, he never questioned her or talked back.

The road to recovery won’t be an easy one for Anthony, who will start kindergarten this year. He hasn’t had any counseling to deal with the psychological trauma, and his mother said it will be at least two years before he can have more plastic surgery to help conceal the damage on his head.

Meanwhile, Deeb said he’s familiar with post traumatic stress syndrome, and he said he experienced it in the wake of the ordeal.

His lasting image of that day is of Anthony, covered in blood and standing with his arms spread wide, wanting someone to pick him up and hold him.

Deeb has only managed to get past some of those feelings after finally getting to see Anthony after his return from Boston.

“It was especially bad, because I didn’t know the child before,” Deeb said. “The only thing I could think about was how he’s doing.”

This month, Deeb and Anthony finally were able to spent some time together.

Since then, Deeb said, “I’ve been doing pretty good.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used.

How to help
April Foster is seeking donations in the wake of her son's attack by a pitbull. To donate, contact her at lovelycashmere98@gmail.com.

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