This is devastating.
Heather Pingel, a 35-year-old mother, has sadly passed away after bravely protecting her son against an attack from their family’s pit bull, who turned violent and ripped off both her arms in the process.
The incident took place on December 8 at a home in Bowler, Wisconsin. According to a police report, Shawano County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Strike received a 911 call from Heather’s brother-in-law Travis, who described the home as looking “like a war zone.” He told the dispatcher that the 35-year-old “was dying and had no arms due to the dog attack.” Her son was also suffering after having “thrown up after a possible fall down the stairs.” The child, 4-year-old Damion, also had muscle tissue showing from a large wound in his leg, and Heather was bleeding so much, Travis wasn’t sure how to stop it. Scary!
Once Deputy Strike got to the scene, he found Heather’s partner Shane outside, though he was traumatized and was barely able to speak. The pit bull was dead in the snow beside him lying in a large pile of blood and with a cord wrapped around its neck. Inside, things looked just as horrifying.
Heather was found in the downstairs bathroom lying on the floor. The report explained that her “sweater soggy from blood, arms mangled, and face covered with a dark substance like soot,” adding:
“The bathroom… had blood smears all over the walls, floor, and splatter on the ceiling.”
Strike cut off the sweater with a knife to see the full scope of the damage — which was very severe. The mother’s left arm was hanging on by muscle tissue near her bicep and the bone had “been bitten through. Her right arm was loose and mangled with muscle tissue and fat showing.” While examining Pingel, the injuries were so bad that the jagged edges of the exposed bone pierced through the cop’s gloves and almost his skin! He reflected:
“She was in shock and was having difficulty breathing and appeared to be giving up on breathing.”
Heather was carried to an ambulance with which she would be transported to the hospital. Meanwhile, Deputy Strike went to check on her son, who at this point was curled under a blanket on a chair in the living room, covered in vomit and blood. His leg was bleeding heavily so Strike applied a tourniquet and asked the kid to continue to breathe.
Shane was finally able to talk about the incident once the victims were provided care. He explained that he’d been out job hunting with his brother. When he returned home, the bathroom door was closed, but he heard something inside. He asked Heather if she was okay, but she just asked for him to go check on Damion, explaining that he had fallen down the stairs and she didn’t know where he was. She never mentioned the dog.
Heather’s partner found Damion in the living room then sprinted back to the bathroom to get more answers on why the boy was injured. He opened the bathroom door, unleashing the dog he didn’t realize had been trapped inside with his wife. Seeing that Heather was being attacked, he grabbed the pit bull in a chokehold. His hand was bitten in the process, but he was able to get to the kitchen where he stored a pistol. Once outside on the porch, he shot the dog in the head.
Sadly, after spending eight days fighting for her life in the Wausau Aspirus Hospital, Heather passed away on Thursday. She had been suffering from kidney failure and had both arms amputated. She was never able to explain what happened, but family members and detectives have been able to offer somewhat of an explanation. For starters, deputies think she fought the dog with bare hands while in the bathroom. There was a toolbox present, but it was covered in blood and all the tools inside were clean.
Speaking to Wausau Daily Herald, her sister Shannon explained:
“We don’t know how long she was in there fighting him off. Shane got home to find her lying on the bathroom floor. She said, ‘I have no arms and I’m dying.’”
There are just no words for how heartbreaking that is. Shannon continued:
“She is the bravest, strongest mother I know to do that for her child; she risked her life to save him. She is a hero.”
Vets informed police that the family’s dog was up to date on shots and had no known health issues. His remains are currently being tested to determine any answers. But family members aren’t too surprised that the animal attacked. Apparently, he had a history of violence, perhaps because he had been beaten by a previous owner when he was younger. Heather and Shane had taken the dog in to give him a better life, but he occasionally got aggressive with them. A few years ago, Shane was attacked, causing injuries to his forearm. Shannon shared:
“My sister has the biggest heart for animals and just couldn’t get rid of it. Her heart was too big and they thought they could fix him.”
Understanding the dog’s background, Shannon believes something in the house must have startled him, causing the attack. She told the outlet:
“The dog was always kinda skittish when loud noises happen, so we are guessing Damion fell down the stairs and was crying and might have even kicked up towards the dog, and the dog grabbed his leg and Heather did everything she could to save her son.”
She believes that Pingel bravely dragged the dog into the bathroom, where she locked it (and herself) away from her son so that the boy would be protected. And it worked. Damion received 70 stitches to his leg but will survive. On Facebook, the mourning sister wrote:
“RIP my sweet sister. We will all be here for your babies! Give grandma a hug and wait for me to get there. I love you soo much! This isn’t gonna be easy.”
Not only does Heather leave behind Shane, Damion, and Shannon, but she also leaves behind a 5-year-old daughter. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay medical and funeral expenses. You can donate HERE.
We will be thinking of this family in this tragic time. Such a sad loss. R.I.P., Heather.
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