They now come at me at night in my head, says victim of pitbull mauling
The Port Elizabeth man who was horrifically mauled in a pitbull attack – in which he lost an arm – is suffering recurring nightmares that the dogs are still coming after him.
Making a slow recovery but still in tremendous pain, Gerald Cloete, 40, miraculously survived the savage attack by three pitbulls in Rowallan Park on February 18.
Having always made what he describes as a decent living as an odd-job man, he has denied claims that he was trying to break into anyone’s home or property at the time of the attack.
Cloete faces an uncertain future because of his injuries.
“I now dream of dogs – black dogs. They come at me at night in my head,” he said.
“My heart will beat fast – then I wake up.
“It is at night that I am most scared.”
Cloete suffered life-threatening injuries to his chest, arms and ears and was placed on a ventilator after he stopped breathing at the scene.
Neighbours who witnessed the incident said they were baffled as the dogs had never hurt anyone before.
Marcus van Meiring lives at the house in Rowan Street where the attack took place outside the property.
His neighbour, Hennie de Klerk, 50, said at the time that Cloete – who was known as Marks or Pompies – was well-known in the area.
Cloete said from his hospital bed in the surgical ward at Livingstone Hospital yesterday he believed it was God who had kept him alive.
“I have walked that road many times before,” he said. “I work for a man who lives up the road.
“I was coming from the little shopping centre, where I had gone to buy myself a drink.
“I was walking by the house with the pitbulls and was already past the gate when the first one grabbed me by the arm.
“I had a black bag in my hand and tried to put my hands up to stop them. “Another [pitbull] went for my neck. Another took my leg.
“I managed to shout: ‘Help! Oh dear God, help me.’ Then I fell.
“It only took a few seconds. There was a little one as well who kept on biting my legs.
“I remember seeing the blood. I didn’t know where I was bleeding from. I never saw so much blood.
“There was a white man – a tall white man. He had something in his hand.
“He ran towards me, chasing the dogs off. “I don’t remember anything else.” Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said a Jannie van Schalkwyk had also been treated later for bite wounds at Livingstone Hospital.
Cloete said he loved dogs and had three of his own – Sparky, Matchie and Denzie.
“They are just ordinary dogs. They only bark – they don’t bite people,” he said.
Cloete woke up in his hospital bed in the intensive care unit on Thursday last week. He had suffered deep bite wounds all over his body, resulting in his left arm being amputated.
“I remember talking to the doctor,” he said.
“He asked if I could feel my hand. I said my fingers were cold.”
Cloete said he was angered by allegations that he had been attacked after breaking into the house where the dogs were.
“I used to do contract work in the building trade,” he said.
“When the contract ended, I thought I would need a way to make money for my family.
“I built a wooden cart [and] would take it and offer to take people’s rubbish away.
“Then I would go through the bags and take what I could. The rest I would take to the tip.
“It was a good business. I made between R4 000 and R5 000 a month.
“I didn’t have to steal. I never even begged for money.”
Cloete said he had walked those streets for years.
“The people there know me as ‘Marks’. I am an honest man,” he said.
Cloete said he lost his identity document in November when his house burnt down.
“My life isn’t easy. It has never been easy. What can you do?” he said.
“I lived in a house I built in Kuyga. In November, a candle fell over and my house burnt down.
“I started rebuilding it. I have finished one room so far, [but] I don’t know what I am going to do now with this arm.
“However, I will make a plan – I am still alive.”
Cloete said he was still in excruciating pain.
“The pain is terrible. I have pills, but it never goes away,” he said.
“The dogs scare me in my dreams. When I go to sleep, I dream that they are coming at me.”
Cloete said he was always careful around big dogs.
“I would ask people to put them away if I worked in the garden,” he said.
He hopes to regain most of his strength and be discharged soon. He did not know anything about the lock on the gate of the property being broken.
“The people I worked for trusted me,” Cloete said.
“They would let me work in the garden. I don’t break into houses.
“The police came here this morning [yesterday] but said they would be back to take my statement.”
Meanwhile, the man who lets his house to the owner of the pitbulls opened a case of malicious damage to property last week, saying the gate at the house had been tampered with.
Christo van Meiring owns the house where pitbull owner Marcus van Meiring lives.
It is not known whether the men are related.
Christo, a policeman at the Motherwell police station, alleged that a padlock on the perimeter gate had been found lying on the ground and appeared to have been tampered with.
Marcus, meanwhile, is under investigation for failing to prevent injury to a person under the Animal Protection Act.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the matter was still being investigated. – Additional reporting by Gareth Wilson