The best Chicago dog story ever
It's a long read to the bottom, but this is an incredible story
June 5, 2005
BY SHAMUS TOOMEY AND LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporters
The cops had to fire so many shots to stop the lunging pit bull, the gunpowder set off an overhead smoke detector.
Still, the dog didn't die.
But she wasn't the toughest dog on the block. That title belongs to Maya, a 74-pound black Lab who took on India, the 120-pound pit bull who was mauling a sixth-grader on the Northwest Side.
Now 5-year-old Maya is being hailed as a hero -- a selfless pooch who rushed out of her home to save a stranger and has a scarred body to prove it.
She's the pride of her Albany Park neighborhood, and teachers at the injured boy's school have pooled their money to help pay her bills.
"I think it's wonderful," said Chicago Police Sgt. Magge Lameka, one of the first two cops on the scene. "She practically gave her own life for a stranger -- not even her owner. Coming to the aid of a stranger, I mean, you can't find a lot of people who would do that.
"If anyone's a hero, that black Lab was."
Maya's big day began just before 9 a.m. on May 26 as India, the next-door neighbor's pit bull, was acting up, police and witnesses said.
Maya's owner, Dawn Montiel, 35, arrived home from a night shift and pulled her car into her driveway in the 4200 block of North Drake. The pit bull greeted her by jumping on top of the car's hood. She managed to make it inside her house, but neighborhood kids began pouring down the street en route to class at nearby Patrick Henry Elementary School.
Montiel and her 15-year-old son, Michael, yelled to the kids from their windows, warning that a pit bull was loose. Many hustled away as India barked, but one boy froze.
"We kept telling him to 'Go! Don't stop! Keep going!' " Montiel said. "But he just stood there."
The 12-year-old boy later told his principal he stopped to help the smaller kids. But it gave India a chance to pounce.
To distract the dog, the Montiels threw bread and dog treats out of a window, but the pit bull ignored the food, she said.
The pit bull first latched onto the boy's groin, and then bit into his ankle, police said. His 9-year-old sister, who was walking with him, began swatting at the dog with her book bag. The boy yelled for his sister to run away so she wouldn't get hurt. That's when Montiel and her son went for the door to help.
"In our minds, we were going to go out and save the boy," she said. "But our dog had other plans."
As soon as their front door opened, Maya blew by, knocking the Montiels over "like bowling pins," she said. Montiel went down and Michael hit a wall.
Maya bounded down all eight stairs of her front porch in one leap, aimed for the pit bull and bit.
India let go of the boy, and as he fled with his sister, the two dogs began circling each other, Montiel said. Soon, India got the best of the smaller Maya and locked onto her neck. Then, in a move police called "bizarre," India dragged Maya up the Montiels' stairs and into the home, Montiel said.
They thrashed about in the living room, knocking over a coffee table, lamp and a chair before Michael separated them with a broomstick and rescued Maya, who suffered deep puncture wounds.
By then, Sgt. Lameka and Officer Froylan Serna, both of the Albany Park District, arrived. They found India cornered behind the chair and coffee table.
Soon, India began inching out.
"He looked like a wolf coming right at you," Lameka said. "The next thing you know, he came out lunging."
Said Serna: "We paused a half-second, then we shot."
Serna fired his 9mm Beretta three times, and Lameka shot her .38 Smith & Wesson revolver at least once and the dog fell to the floor. But after a few seconds, like a horror movie, the dog got up and lunged again. Lameka and Serna began firing again.
When they were done, they had shot nine bullets, hitting her seven times, they said.
The house fell strangely silent after the shooting ended, they said. But as the smoke wafted up, it set off the smoke detector.
It was the first time either officer had fired a weapon -- other than in training -- in nearly 30 combined years of service. "People asked why we didn't [use a stun gun]," Lameka said. "But it only would have aggravated him more."
Despite the bullet wounds -- including three to the head and one to the neck -- India was still alive. Animal Control workers carried her out on a stretcher. She was later euthanized.
'It broke my heart'
When the wounded boy and his sister got to school, Principal James Burns called an ambulance. Then he noticed the boy's sister staring into the distance. "She said: 'Nobody would help him. They all ran away. So I had to [help],' " Burns recalled. "It broke my heart. I was wiping my eyes, to be truthful."
The children's family declined interview requests for this story. But police said the boy is recovering.
"He's doing OK," Lameka said. "He's getting around. He's afraid to go past the house, which is understandable. But he knows the dog isn't there anymore, so that does help a little. But his fear of dogs is still there."
Police said the owner of the pit bull -- Francisco Akins, 33, -- was shaken by the incident and was worried about the boy. He received citations for not restraining the dog and failing to have a dog license, police said. He could not be reached for comment.
Maya, meanwhile, is on the mend. But Montiel is worried about her injuries -- and how she'll pay for them. She said the pit bull's owner paid the initial $250 veterinarian bill, but another $600 bill is coming and Maya may need more surgery.
That's why teachers and workers at Patrick Henry took up a collection. A school counselor dropped off $400 to Montiel on Friday with a card that read: "Congratulations on having such a marvelous dog."
"People say this sounds like a movie, but I'm not kidding," Montiel said. "God only knows what would have happened if it weren't for Maya."
Her son was more blunt: "If it [weren't] for Maya, the kid would be dead," Michael said.