Dog attack on young girl took place at Iditarod musher's kennel

Michelle Theriault Boots

A 2-year-old girl seriously injured when a dog attacked her Friday at a top Iditarod musher's Big Lake kennel is expected to survive, her father said Sunday.

"Her life is altered," said Brody Shuck. "We are certainly not out of the woods yet."

Shuck said his daughter, Elin, was with her mother and siblings at musher Jake Berkowitz's Apex Kennels Friday when a dog broke the "S-hook" that kept it tethered and attacked her. Her mother twice pulled the dog off her and used her son's shirt to try to stop the bleeding, troopers said.

"My wife is a hero," he said. "She saved that little girl's life."

When medics arrived, Elin was unresponsive, according to troopers. She was flown by helicopter to Providence Alaska Medical Center.

She lost function of her vagus nerve and jugular vein in the attack, Shuck said, and is sedated and on a breathing tube.

The implications of her injuries aren't clear yet. Doctors are watching her closely for signs of infection.

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."

Shuck's wife had gone to the dog yard that day to drop off money and dog food for sled dogs they board there, Shuck said. She was not there to care for the dogs herself.

The children had visited the dog yard before, he said. The family first got to know Berkowitz through his wife, who babysat their children.

Mat-Su Animal Care and Regulation officials have said they'll keep the dog at a shelter for at least 10 days in quarantine, as they do with all dogs that bite people.

An animal control officer for the borough said that he could not comment on the incident at Apex Kennels because the investigation is ongoing.

Shuck said he wasn't interested in assigning blame and wanted to keep the focus on his daughter.

Berkowitz and his wife had come to the hospital but the family isn't ready to see them, he said.

"This is an awful accident and all parties involved are suffering," he said. "Mostly my daughter."






Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.