EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 2, 2013

Dog bite divides neighborhood

Six-year-old injured after falling onto dog

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — A South Elementary School first-grader is recovering after a neighbor’s dog bit her on the forehead Easter Sunday.

Sarah Stewart, 6, is home from school for at least two days and is scheduled to see a plastic surgeon later this week.

Oliver, a mixed breed dog, is in quarantine at the police station.

“I’m good,” Sarah said while sitting on steps outside her family’s townhouse yesterday afternoon. “Better than (Sunday).”

Large bandages covered part of her forehead and ear.

“We’re lucky it didn’t get her throat or eye,” father Greg Stewart said.

The incident happened about 5 p.m. in the Winterwood Drive neighborhood.

Sarah was playing with bubbles at Lisa and John Pamieri’s house when she tripped and landed on Oliver, part pit bull and part Labrador retriever.

“I (tripped) over his leash,” Sarah said. “He started attacking me.”

Lisa Palmieri was holding Oliver’s leash at the time.

Greg Stewart said he was watching golf on TV when he heard Sarah scream and ran to her.

“She was ripped,” he said. “There was a huge chunk of skin off her forehead.”

Londonderry police have quarantined Oliver. No charges have been filed and police are investigating, Lt. Tim Jones said.

“I’m not the kind of person to sue and I don’t want to hurt people,” Greg Stewart said. “I just want that dog out of here.”

Sarah’s mother, Debbie, described the Palmieris as “very nice people.”

Lisa Palmieri was upset, too.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “I feel bad for their family and I feel bad for Oliver.”

Their other dog, Kendra, a long-haired German shepherd, is missing her buddy Oliver, she said.

Oliver’s vaccinations are current, Palmieri said. Police were checking to make sure so Sarah won’t have to be treated with shots of her own.

Residents of the neighborhood are close. They share cookouts and the kids play together. There was an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood kids.

“This is sad for everyone, for both families,” neighbor Denise Ferreira said. “Everybody plays together. Everybody hangs out at each other’s home.”

Tracey Cook lives with the Palmieris. She is son Trevor’s girlfriend and mother to two of Lisa’s grandsons.

Oliver is 4 years old, she said.

“He is the biggest baby ever,” Cook said. “He is scared of everything.”

Oliver was shaking and panting at the police station yesterday. Police said he wagged his tail when fed.

But the dog made Greg Stewart uncomfortable. He and Debbie have four children, ages 19 months to 8 years.

“Pit bull covers it all,” he said. “There are a lot of kids here. It’s not right. I saw this coming, I just didn’t know when.”

Neighbor Deanna Sheldon said she had brought a petition to the homeowners’ association, alleging Oliver attacked another dog.

“We worried about this happening to a child,” Sheldon said.

But Cook disputed Sheldon’s story and said the association took no action against Oliver.

Ferreira thought the incident unfortunate for everyone.

“She fell on top of him,” she said of Sarah. “It was just the dog’s reaction.”

Cook said it was “totally understandable” that the Stewarts are upset, given their daughter’s injury.

Greg Stewart praised the medical care his daughter received from the urgent care unit at Elliot Medical Center in Londonderry and later at Elliot Hospital in Manchester.

Nurses were impressed by how brave Sarah was, he said.

“She was just a chatterbox,” he said.

He said he was just glad to have his daughter by his side and feeling better.

“She’s here with me,” he said.