Dog attack story: Survivors tell of their fear and their faith

The house next door had a sign, too. And so did the one across the street.

In this neighborhood, tucked behind the Bama Foods plant on North Lewis Avenue, are a security system.

was part of a citywide effort last week to reach literally every house in Tulsa with an invitation to a “Memorial of Jesus' Death,” a yearly service for Jehovah's Witnesses.

“I knock on every door,” she says. “The work is too important to skip anybody.”

On Tuesday morning, in the 2000 block of North Lewis Place, Parker went up to a small white house with a chain-link fence around the yard.

A woman answered immediately and said something through the screen door. But at 78, Parker has trouble hearing.

The dog didn't bark. An 80-pound pit bull, it was just standing there, behind its owner.

After 40 years of going door to door, Parker didn't think twice about it.

Then the dog jumped.

The screen door flew open.

Parker landed in the yard.

Teeth ripped into her forehead.

“My face, my face,” she kept thinking. “I have to protect my face.”

Five feet, 4 inches tall and 119 pounds, she tried to push the dog off, but it wouldn't budge. So she turned her head and buried her face in the grass.

The dog sunk its teeth into the back of her scalp.

“I heard it take my ear off,” Parker remembers. “It made a terrible sound.”

She didn't scream. The dog's owner did.

Delivering an invitation two doors down the street, 43-year-old came running.

The owner was waving a baseball bat. So took it and swung as hard as she could.

The dog let go of Parker's head and turned around.

Wright swung again.

The dog jumped.

Wright screamed.

Mike Harrell heard it two blocks away, where he works for a steel company. He keeps a loaded gun in his truck, so he jumped in and drove to the house.

One bullet stopped the . But by then, Parker and Wright were both soaked in blood.

The first 911 call came at 10:18 a.m.

An hour later, emergency room doctors warned Parker's family: If she lived, she would never be the same.

‘To make a fuss'

On a trip to Texas, Rhonda Thompson got the call just before 11 o'clock.

“Your mom's at St. John,” a cousin told her. “You need to get here ASAP.”

It took four hours to drive back to Tulsa. Parker was still in surgery.

Doctors were sewing her face back together, arranging pieces of skin like a puzzle.

One ear was missing. Her eyes were swollen shut. Both hands were broken. And a ventilator kept her breathing.

“They never said it,” Thompson said. “But we could the doctors were surprised. They didn't think she would make it.”

Thompson was 6 years old when her mother started studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses in the 1970s.

“Her has been 150 percent ever since,” she says. “She's never looked back.”

Full-blood Cherokee, Parker grew up near Tahlequah speaking that language first, English second.

“She's very quiet and very humble,” Thompson says. “She would never expect anybody to make a fuss over her. She'd be very shocked to know how many people care about her.”

The waiting room was shoulder to shoulder with members of her congregation. Flowers came from as far away as California and Britain, sent by strangers.

As soon as the ventilator tube came out of her throat Wednesday morning, Parker wanted something to eat.

She asked about Wright, then told her daughter to go to her house and take out the trash.

“I don't want it to stink when I get home,” she said.

‘Would do anything'

Never mind that she's 35 years younger. Wright bonded with Parker as soon as they met at north Tulsa's Meadowbrook Heights congregation.

They went door to door together, often 30 hours or more a month. And on other days, they went shopping, ate lunch or just sat and talked.

“She's my partner and my sister,” Wright says. “I would do anything for her.”

As soon as she heard the first scream, she ran up the street, through the gate and across the yard.

“I wasn't thinking,” she says. “I was reacting.”

She put the dog in a headlock. And for a moment, it let go of Parker.

But Wright couldn't hold on. And the dog clamped down again.

“Give me the bat!” Wright yelled. “Give me the bat!”

After a couple of blows, the dog let go of Parker and turned around.

“I swung again and again,” Wright says, “but it just kept coming at me.”

She fell backward and pulled her leather jacket up over her face.

The dog bit her ear but couldn't get to her face.

“I looked down and saw him bite into my leg,” she says. “And he started dragging me across the yard.”

She was yelling.

“Jehovah, save me! Jehovah, save me!”

Then she heard a gunshot.

‘The right place'

Another employee heard a commotion outside, and 28-year-old Harrell went to look.

Up the street, he could see people rolling around.

“We couldn't see a dog, and I thought maybe it was a domestic situation,” he says. “Then we heard more screams.”

Harrell has a concealed carry permit and keeps a Walther P99 in his truck. When he got to the house, he put the gun behind his back and walked up to the gate.

Parker was lying motionless near the porch. Harrell thought she was dead.

The dog was still mauling Wright. And a third woman, who turned out to be the dog's owner, was kneeling in the grass.

“She was covered head to foot in blood,” Harrell says. “I thought she had been attacked, too.”

He yelled to get the dog's attention. And it looked up, making eye contact.

“Then it just turned back and kept chewing on that woman's leg,” he says.

“It was so frustrating because I just couldn't get the dog away from her. At that point, you want to yell every cuss word there is.”

Finally, he stepped into the yard and banged on the fence. The dog turned and rushed toward him.

Harrell jumped back behind the gate and the dog crashed into it.

“Is that your dog?” he asked the woman. “Can I shoot it?”

Saturday afternoon, he came to visit Wright and Parker in the hospital.

Parker's daughter wanted to know why he asked permission before taking aim.

Harrell chuckled.

“I don't know,” he said. “If she had said no, I would've done it anyway. In that moment, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

The dog turned sideways, and Harrell pointed the gun at its chest.

“I'm so proud of you,” Parker told him Saturday, while she was sitting up in bed with bandages wrapped around her face and arms.

“It's no problem,” he said, blushing and looking down at his shoes. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”

‘Not one bit'

Sitting in her own hospital room, Wright was thumbing through a Bible, looking for a certain scripture.

She found it at Psalm 119:133 – “Fix my own steps in your sayings and may no hurtful thing dominate over me.”

Both arms were bandaged, and her right leg was propped up with a drainage tube coming out of it.

At first, doctors warned her that she could lose the leg. And she might still need more surgery to repair nerve damage.

For now, she's using a wheelchair. But with months of physical therapy, she hopes to walk again.

A part-time housekeeper, Wright lives with her daughter and helps take care of a 3-year-old grandson.

Leaving intensive care earlier this week, she wheeled past Parker's room and stopped to say hello.

“You're my hero,” Parker said, lying in bed.

“No,” Wright told her. “You're my hero.”

Parker will need more surgery on her hands, and doctors will have to make a prosthetic ear.

The scars will fade but not disappear.

“As soon as I can, I want to go back into field service,” going door to door, she says.

The first stop might be the 2000 block of North Lewis Place.

“I never got to leave the invitation,” Parker says. “I don't have any hard feelings toward the woman.”

The dog's owner will be cited for not having it neutered and for not having a city license, officials said. But she won't face other charges.

“I hope she will come to a meeting with me and study the Bible with us,” Parker says. “It's very important.”

She hasn't changed at all, her daughter says.

“Not one bit.”

Irene Parker fund

To help cover hospital bills, family members have set up the Medical Fund, c/o Bank of Oklahoma, P.O. Box 2300, Tulsa, OK 74172. Checks can also be dropped off at any BOK location.

Plans to set up a medical fund for Beverly Wright are under way.

Original Print Headline: of dog attack tell of fear, faith

Michael Overall 918-581-8383

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