Minding her own business, figuring out what to put in the kids’ lunch for the next day, she walked under yellow street lights as the sun sank sun on a cool summer night in Toronto’s east end.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted someone emerging from a building with two dogs in tow — one unleashed, sniffing its territory.
Bam! Seconds later, Cara, 38, was screaming in vain as one of those dogs tore at her flesh.
Her right calf was nearly ripped off during a 30 second-attack by a rampaging pit bull, that treated her as prey. The grisly attack was caught on a doorbell surveillance camera and witnessed by her friend and area residents.
Cara, a happily married mother of two children, is now on the mend, but the memories never fade and some of her wounds are still extremely painful.
“Things are going well, the healing is happening, the physical wounds have closed, which is great,” said Cara. “My leg (right calf) only closed a few weeks ago.”
“The healing is going well, but the fearfulness that comes from trauma is a much longer process.”
The attack on July 30 occurred along a stretch of Mortimer Ave., outside a low-rise apartment. Police charged the dog’s owner, Carla De Oliveira Banagha, 51, with criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The case is still before the courts.
With wounds to her right calf, right tricep, lower back, right buttocks, and scalp area behind her right ear, doctors were unsure if Cara would suffer any permanent damage.
“There is some permanent nerve damage on some of the locations. Areas I no longer have sensitivity on,” added Cara, who spoke to The Toronto Sun on condition her last name not be used.
She is upbeat about her recovery, adding that talking about it helps her and maybe victims of similar attacks.
“I mean, anybody who has experienced trauma knows how much it impacts your sense of safety and just in general — and now obviously around dogs,” said Cara. “Toronto is a city populated by dogs, so it is a bit of a challenge.”
She still loves walking and staying active, “but it takes a lot of mental resiliency to move forward, from this kind of violence.”
She will cross the street now if she sees any kind of “large breed dog” or “bully” breed dogs, saying, “I struggle walking near to them.
“But I’m very proud of myself that I can now walk on the same sidewalk as some kinds of dogs. That’s been a big step forward for me,” said Cara. “But yes, it’s a process.”
Part of that process has been long and seemingly never ending, with trips to doctors, and daily physio, which now includes a bit of biking and learning motor skills. Even sleeping on a pillow is a challenge because of the scalp injury — a huge flap of skin behind her right ear was ripped open — she sustained.
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“I am now trying to build up some muscle, in the calf that was pretty badly injured.”
She explained the pain has not subsided and even sleeping at night can cause her discomfort — especially the wounds to her head when she shifts on pillows while sleeping.
She is fortunate to have a massive support system, including some people who didn’t know her until the night of the attack.
Her biggest support has come from her husband, Joe, her children, friends, and the “meal train” that helped them out in the initial days and weeks. She’s also thankful for assistance from the area’s city councillor, Paula Fletcher, Toronto Police, Animal Services and just the kindness of the East York community.
Cara noted Ontario’s current “pit bull ban legislation” is very “heated and “polarizing” and she wasn’t interested into wading into its controversies.
However, she added, “what that law is, it should be upheld.” According to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, no person shall own, breed, transfer or import a pit bull in Ontario.
When it came to telling her children what happened, she recalled providing them “a very small version of the truth.
“I don’t want them to be fearful of all dogs,” said Cara. “And I don’t want to share (with them) this new anxiety I have developed.”
Despite her ordeal, Cara still loves dogs.
Her family lost their pet, Darwin — a 14-year-old pug-beagle mix — a year ago.
Cara noted that when she and Joe got married a many years ago, they even had a miniature Darwin sitting atop the wedding cake.
“I’ve talked about it with Joe. Would I ever get a dog again? Absolutely. We talk about him every day and love and miss him,” said Cara.