As they neared the end of their run, Rett glanced at his younger brother and said, âThere are two dogs chasing you.
The youngest got off his bike to say: “Good dog”. Instead, the beast tore him apart, throwing him to the ground. Rett tried to intercede but was quickly overwhelmed. They never had any luck. Rett weighs 65 pounds. Foster 48. The dogs, according to testimony, tipped the scales at 100 pounds each and maybe 125.
Merriam, who is 60, ran towards the boys, who were lying together on a lawn under the growling animals. She compared him to lions devouring prey. She repeatedly pulled Foster’s smaller dog but couldn’t move Rett’s larger animal. Blood was squirting on her neck, she remembers, “like a pipe.”
She got frantic. “He’s bleeding in front of me,” she thought.
The woman looked up to see a man walking down the street. She waved and shouted for help but he looked away and continued to walk.
Rett Godfrey, 8, (center) and his brother, Foster, 6, are probably alive because of the quick wit and courage of Joey Boassy and Mary Ellen Merriam. (Photo courtesy of Scott Godfrey)
Credit: Photo courtesy of Scott Godfrey
Credit: Photo courtesy of Scott Godfrey
She threw herself at the younger boy and was bitten herself, although this freed Foster momentarily and allowed him to run a quarter mile home on torn legs. She is now fighting about it. She thought they were children who lived in the neighborhood, a few houses down. Instead, they were too bloody to recognize.
âIt was like a whirling dervish rolling down the street. They just didn’t want to stop, âshe recalls. âIt started on the street, then went to a side yard, then to the front yard. There was blood spatter everywhere, going everywhere.
Enter Joey Boassy, ââ34, a foreman at a swimming pool construction company who heard the hustle and bustle of a backyard but, at first, thought nothing of it. However, something did not Feel right, he said. So I went out in front.
âRett had just walked away from the dog, he was red from head to toe,â Boassy remembers. “He took two steps and the dog was on top of him on his throat, shaking his neck and tearing him.”
It seemed to him that the boy had nothing left. Boassy sprinted 30 yards and tore the dog open with a right uppercut to his jaw. The punch did not frighten the dog (Boassy thought he had broken his hand). But it momentarily distracted the animal, just enough for Boassy to pull Rett out of there.
âI picked it up and ran to the yard,â said Boassy, ââwhere he thought he would find help. The dogs chased him down and briefly knocked him out, but they stopped dead in their tracks when they ran into four or five men coming out to see what was going on.
Boassy, ââa former Marine, took off his shirt and wrapped it around Rett’s neck. He could see the boy’s bones in his torn shoulder and arm.
Rett stared at him, asking him repeatedly, “Am I going to die?”
âI had his blood in my eyes and I was spitting it out,â Boassy said.
Meanwhile, 6-year-old Foster ran the quarter-mile home, bleeding profusely, and alerted his father, Scott Godfrey, who jumped into his car with the boy and rushed to the scene, only to see two bicycles lying unattended in the street. .
Then he saw a man – Boassy – taking care of his son. âHis eyes were huge,â the father said of Rett. “There was blood everywhere. He was in shock.
The younger boy then showed his legs to the adults. They were very torn.
They were taken by ambulance to Atlanta Children’s Health Care at Scottish Rite, where plastic and vascular surgeons worked there for hours. Rett had over 30 lacerations and needed 300 stitches in his neck, shoulders, arms and groin. The muscles were destroyed. Foster endured almost as many stitches. They both spent three nights in the hospital.
Fulton County Animal Services has cited the dog’s owner, Charlotte Claiborne Landy, for 10 violations of the ordinance, including “harmful” bites, having dogs at large and no county licenses. Lara Hudson, who heads the agency, said the investigation was continuing and would be passed on to the county attorney, who will determine whether there should be any state charges.
Landy filed a letter of apology and insurance information at the Godfreys home, but declined to comment on this column. She told police the dogs had already come out but had not been aggressive. They were euthanized this week.
Claudine Wilkins, a former prosecutor who founded Animal Law Source and helped draft dangerous dog laws, has said in the past two weeks that she has started representing victims in two new dismemberment cases. Injuries can be horrible and the carnage of Rottweiler’s attacks is among the most serious because of their size and jaw strength, she said.
Wilkins, who is not part of the Godfreys case, said a young boy’s scalp was pulled off a few months ago in southwest Atlanta by a Rottweiler while the child’s father was trying to fight the dog. The boy survived, she said, but added: âI’m tired of seeing autopsy pictures of children. What bothers me is that most dog bites are preventable. “
After a serious stroke, Wilkins said she often hears, “Oh, but my dog ââwould never hurt anyone.”
“How do they know that?” she said.
The Godfreys are considering legal action. âIt’s bigger than our children. We want to get the word out so people know, âGodfrey said. âIf you own a dog, be responsible. We want to tell a word of caution and help dog owners think twice. “
The boys have rebounded remarkably well and, with a little therapy, should be back to their pre-attack state. Godfrey doesn’t know what kind of mental trauma his sons have suffered, but it’s not obvious. At least not yet.
The Godfreys recently invited Merriam, Boassy and the ex-Marine’s family to their home to show their deep gratitude. Boassy said his children and the Godfrey boys were playing in the yard together.
If the two strangers hadn’t acted, then one or both of the boys would have died horribly. âOf that I’m 100% sure,â Godfrey said.
Instead, they run like children.
âIt’s a hero story,â Godfrey said. “That’s for sure.”
About the Author
Bill Torpy, who writes on the Atlanta metro for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, joined the newspaper in 1990.