By Chris Camire
ASHBY -- Michele Dembowski is warning the public to be on the lookout for a potentially dangerous pit bull that she says viciously attacked her horse last week on an Ashby trail.
On Saturday, Dembowski was out for an afternoon ride on Jessie, her 20-year-old palomino quarter horse, when she came upon two unleashed pit bulls on Valley Road, a dirt trail that is closed to vehicles.
Dembowski described one of the dogs as plump and white and the other as small and chestnut-colored. The dogs' handlers, whom Dembowski described as a white man and a woman in their late 20s, were nearby.
As the horse galloped toward the dogs, the smaller of the two canines suddenly "made a beeline" toward the horse and leaped in the air, clamping its jaws on the much larger animal's neck, said Dembowski.
"The horse starts kicking its feet out, like a bucking bronco, trying to fight the dog off of her," said Dembowski. "All I'm thinking is, if I fall off I'm screwed."
Dembowski said she was "holding on for dear life" and likely would have been thrown from the horse if it weren't for the horn on her western saddle.
The dog fell beneath the horse, but did not let up. Dembowski said the dog bit the horse's "loin area" before Dembowski was able to get away.
She said the dog's handler ran over, apologizing. Fearing for her safety, Dembowski quickly rode off on her wounded animal.
"All I could think about was to get away from the situation before it got worse," said Dembowski, who came across a home about 2 miles away.
"I just started yelling," she said. "A couple of boys came out. I said I was attacked by a pit bull."
The boys called the police and Dembowski's husband, John. A friend who owns a horse trailer came by and transported Jessie back to Dembowski's home, where the horse was treated for its injuries.
"There was a deep wound to the neck," said Dembowski. "She was bit in the loin area."
The horse's mane was saturated in blood, she said.
Dembowski has owned the horse for five years. She also keeps chickens, goats and rabbits in her backyard barn.
The following Monday, a veterinarian treated the horse with an antibiotic. Stitches were not required. The treatment cost $200, said Dembowski.
Dembowski said she has "no problems with pit bulls at all," and used to work with the breed regularly at her sister's pet-care business.
"But if you don't know what you're doing, you shouldn't own one," she said.
Local police referred the case to Animal Control Officer Mary Letourneau, said Dembowski.
"She said if they were to catch the people, it would be a $25 fine for the dogs being off-leash," said Dembowski.
Letourneau did not return a call seeking comment.
Dembowski hung up a sign at the site of the attack to notify the public what happened. She hopes the dog's owners see it.
"Maybe the people would feel bad and see the story and get in touch," she said.
Follow Chris Camire on Twitter @chriscamire.