2-year-old girl seriously injured in dog attack at Iditarod musher's kennel

Kyle Hopkins,Michelle Theriault Boots

A 2-year-old girl was seriously injured when a dog attacked her twice Friday at a top Iditarod musher’s Big Lake kennel, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The father of the girl said the attack came when his wife and children were visiting  musher Jake Berkowitz’s Apex Kennels. The family pays to board several of their sled dogs there, he said.

Brody Shuck said his daughter, Elin, is expected to live. The dog attacked her neck, he said, damaging her vagus nerve and a jugular vein.

“She will have a hoarse voice for the rest of her life because one of her vocal chords was damaged,” he said.

Berkowitz, a Minnesota-born musher who placed 8th in this year’s Iditarod, wrote in a statement that he wasn’t home at the time of the incident and didn’t know that small children would be visiting the property. 

“We are devastated by this event,” he wrote. “All that matters now is Elin’s recovery.” 

A trooper spokeswoman said the girl was unresponsive when medics arrived and was flown by helicopter to Providence Alaska Medical Center. She was in stable condition Saturday, troopers said.

The attack was reported to troopers at 12:18 p.m. at the Henderson Road kennel, spokeswoman Megan Peters wrote in an email.

“Investigation revealed that the girl’s family was out on the property feeding and tending to their eight canines when the 2-year-old was attacked,” Peters wrote. “The girl’s mother was able to get the canine off of her daughter, at which time the canine attacked the child again.”

Shuck said his wife had been walking out of the dog yard with their year-old daughter in a carrier on her back, followed by Elin and the couple’s 4-year-old son, he said.

“She turned around and saw the attack. My son was there screeching and screaming his sister’s name,” Shuck said. He said his wife had their son remove his shirt, and she used the shirt to attempt to stop the bleeding. The girl was unresponsive when medics arrived, according to troopers.

The dog had broken the “S-hook” that kept it tethered, Shuck said.Mat-Su animal control officials removed the dog from the property, troopers said. An animal care and regulation officer for the borough said he could not comment on the incident because it was an ongoing investigation.

Dogs that bite people are held at the shelter for at least 10 days for quarantine to make sure they do not have rabies, he said. Shuck said he believes the dog should be euthanized. 





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