Karin van Straaten (50) from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape was seriously injured rescuing her grandsons from a vicious attack by the family’s Rottweiler. But she says she’d do it again if she had to.
Karin sounds fragile when she answers the phone.
“Every day is a bit better, thanks to God’s grace,” she says.
She was discharged from the local Cuyler Hospital just before the weekend after the incident on 2 June when she sustained serious injuries while trying to save her grandsons, Leonard (3) and Lambert (9), from the dog.
“I don’t wish it on anyone. That day, I put up the fight of my life,” she says.
YOU previously reported that the dog, which was locked inside the swimming pool area, had escaped while Karin was putting the washing on the line and got a hold of young Leonard.
“The boys’ mom had to run some errands and I was sitting with them in the living room crocheting when I heard the washing machine was done,” Karin tells us.
“I’m probably paranoid but I didn’t want to leave them alone inside, which is why I told them to come with me when I went to hang out the washing.”
The boys were playing hide-and-seek when Leonard and six-year-old Rottweiler Chop suddenly came face to face. Leonard got a fright and yelled – triggering the attack.
What followed is the stuff nightmares are made of.
She suddenly found herself shielding her grandsons from the attacking dog, which been a loving and gentle animal in all the years he’d been with the family.
The attack was relentless and at one point Karin lay on top of Leonard to shield him with her body.
It felt like an eternity before help came, she says.
“I just kept covering Leonard’s little head. I kept thinking if the dog gets a hold of his head, it’s over. I begged God for strength.”
At one point she used what strength she had left to scream for help. “I was exhausted. I thought I’d just scream one last time.”
In that moment their neighbour, who works from home, decided to walk around his house for no particular reason and heard Karin scream.
Karin saw the man and his son at the gate but they couldn’t get in. When the dog ran towards them, she screamed for the neighbour to shoot it.
“I didn’t even hear the shot. Thank God the kids and I didn’t see it,” she says.
After YOU’s first article was published, Karin was criticised for having Chop shot.
“I told the trauma counsellor afterwards, ‘I loved that dog but it feels like he betrayed me.’ I don’t pay any attention to what people are saying anymore. I just hope it never happens to them.”
As she lay bleeding on the ground after the attack, she felt as if she’d been in a car crash.
“Our neighbour used to be a fireman – he pulled the duvet from the washing line and used it to staunch the worst of my bleeding. They called the police and ambulance, and the boys’ dad.”
Karin married the boys’ grandfather, Lammie, in 2016 but says their father, Lambert (30), and mother, Bianca (31), are like her own children.
She was taken to Cuyler Hospital by ambulance while Lambert took his sons by car.
Karin and little Lambert were discharged after treatment the same evening, while Leonard was transferred to the Netcare Greenacres Hospital for surgery to his face.
“He’s doing much better. The doctor says there’s still some bleeding behind his one eye, but that will heal,” Karen says.
Little Lambert, who was bitten on his leg and torso, have already had his stitches removed.
Two days after the incident, Karin had a setback and was readmitted to hospital, also for surgery to her right arm. She says she’s still in pain but is confident of her recovery.
“The boys came to see me in hospital, each with a note,” she tells us.
“Little Leonard had drawn a picture of a lion and had his mom caption it, ‘Grannie is as strong as a lion!’ It’s very special to me and I’m going to frame it. I’d give my life for them.”