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Pit bull attack victim’s haunted dreams

New Brighton woman plagued by images of enraged dog’s bloodshot eyes

Having worked for her employer as a domestic worker from when the dog was just a puppy, Sindiswa Qaba questioned why Blackie, a pit bull, had turned on her in the way it did
NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE: Having worked for her employer as a domestic worker from when the dog was just a puppy, Sindiswa Qaba questioned why Blackie, a pit bull, had turned on her in the way it did
Image: ARTMAN1/123RF

When Sindiswa Qaba closes her eyes, vivid images of a black dog with red eyes flash through her mind.

She can still smell the dog and feel its warm breath on her neck as it tore through her flesh.

Having worked for her employer as a domestic worker from when the dog was just a puppy, Qaba questioned why Blackie, a pit bull, had turned on her in the way it did.

Had it not been for the community members who responded to her chilling cries for help and the dog owner’s selfless instruction to shoot the animal, Qaba would probably have been mauled to death.

More than a week after the incident, the New Brighton woman is still recovering in hospital undergoing treatment and awaiting plastic surgery.

She has severe injuries to her neck, arms and legs.

The harrowing attack happened on Friday last week at the home of Qaba’s employer in Kwazakhele.

The 63-year-old was rushed to hospital in critical condition when the pit bull she had watched grow up for the past four years suddenly attacked her, dragging her back and forth between the kitchen and garage.

Xoliswa Mpambani bought Blackie as a puppy a few months after Qaba started working for her.

Blackie and Qaba were well acquainted and were left alone most days when Mpambani went to work.

But on Friday morning, things went horribly wrong.

From her hospital bed, Qaba recalled how she had reported for work as usual as the family prepared to leave the house for work, and the children to school. 

At the time, Blackie was roaming around the yard.

Routinely, Qaba started cleaning the house once everyone had left for the day. 

“While I was cleaning, I could hear Blackie barking outside, running around the car.

“In my head I thought he was probably barking at other dogs so I paid no attention as it wasn’t unusual [behaviour]. 

“I then came into the garage and sat down to wait for the bathroom and dining room floors to dry.

“The next thing I know, the dog jumped up to me and attacked me.

“It was lights out after that,” Qaba said. 

Startled by Qaba’s cries for help, concerned neighbours flocked to the gate of the Zokwana Street home, too scared to get any closer. 

The ordeal had gone on for about 30 minutes before the dog could be stopped, eyewitnesses said.

Mpambani said she had received a call from a neighbour, alerting her to the situation.

“I was in a meeting. When I received the call, my son and I immediately rushed home.

“I asked my neighbour to boil a kettle of water and carefully pour it on the dog to try to get it away from [Qaba].

“When I arrived at the house, they had already poured the water on the dog and it was hiding behind the house.”

Mpambani said she then had to make the tough decision to have the dog she had loved and raised shot and killed. 

“It broke my heart that it came down to that, but I knew that had I let Blackie live, it would have looked like I valued a dog’s life over that of a human being. 

“We don’t know what happened because our priority was to immediately save [Qaba’s] life and our current focus is to now monitor her recovery,” Mpambani said. 

She said there had never been any issues between Qaba and the dog until the attack.

She had bought the dog for protection because her house had previously been broken into. 

Mpambani lives with her son, daughter and two grandchildren, who are still in school. 

She said her grandchildren had fed Blackie every morning before leaving for school.

Qaba said she was slowly improving physically, but the emotional scars were still raw.

He speech had also started to improve. 

She has wounds on the left side of her face and down to her arms and legs. 

“It was so traumatic.

“At times when I sleep or just close my eyes, I see this black dog with red eyes attacking me.

“I can also still smell its scent on my body.

“Physically I am slowly recovering but I can’t get it out of my head.

“There is a lot that doctors still need to do.

“I’m trying, but I’m still unable to walk and I’m still swollen,” she said.

Qaba lives alone in New Brighton, while her family is in the former Transkei. 

“My children have been to visit me and one of [Mpambani’s] come around to bring me whatever I need.”

Pit Bull Federation of SA spokesperson Lins Rautenbach said there was no safe way to save a victim under attack from a pit bull because the dogs were bred for their tenacity. 

“Their trait of never quitting in the pit is what they are sadly prized for in some circles.

“When this spills over into a human-directed attack, it is the same.

“It is why historically human-aggressive dogs were culled,” Rautenbach said. 

She said dog attacks on people were preceded by a series of events building up to the attack and often victims were at the wrong place at the wrong time when the final environmental trigger set the dog off.

“Human life always trumps dog life.

“There is no place in society for man biters or a dog with no bite inhibition,” she said. 

However, Rautenbach said pit bull attacks could be stopped by holding owners accountable. 

“You cannot rehabilitate a human-aggressive dog.

“Rescuers and shelters need to stop telling the public you can.

“And should a dog with a bite history be rehomed, the rescuer or shelter needs to be held accountable.

“When an animal mauls or kills, the owner needs to be charged in terms of the Animals Amendment Matters Act.

“And the SA Police Service has to stop turning victims away,” she said.

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