STONEWALL — Daniel Murray was on the home stretch of his eight-mile morning run recently when a pack of angry dogs descended upon him and began chomping at his legs.
Murray said he would have been killed if he hadn't managed to jump on top of a car and ride out of danger when a passing motorist came to his rescue.
Murray, 47, is an avid runner. Every morning he runs eight miles as part of his marathon training. On July 8, he set out before the sun was up, pacing his strides along the side of the old highway that led out of his hometown into the country. He was on the last section back with only a half mile to go when the dogs made their first strike.
“They were coming at me like hungry piranhas, and I was dinner,” Murray said. “The harder I fought the more aggressive they got.”
Murray tried to ward them off with a small pocket knife, but the six dogs — ranging from medium to large — kept coming at him with all their weight behind their snapping, sharp teeth. He said the canines had him surrounded. Although blood oozed from the numerous wounds the dogs had made in his calves and thighs, Murray continued plugging along, covering five blocks while the dogs repeatedly lunged at him.
“I think once they smelled blood that was it,” he said. “I was sure if they knocked me down, I was a goner.”
At the time of the attack, Jennifer Sweet, 28, of Stonewall, was on her way home from dropping off her husband at work. Her toddler was in the back seat of the car when she drove up on the horrific scene — a man covered in blood surrounded by a pack of animals acting more like hungry wolves than domestic pets.
She honked her horn — again, and again, and again. The dogs weren't spooked and stayed focused on their prey as Sweet followed.
“I knew I was really in trouble when I saw the horrified look on her face,” Murray said. “She kept screaming ‘what should I do,' but I didn't know either.”
Murray said he knew the dogs would turn on Sweet if she tried to get out of the car to help him. He was afraid to get in the car, because he might not be quick enough to keep the snapping dogs out.
Finally, he climbed on top of the hood and they drove away, leaving the barking, growling dogs standing in the roadway.
Stonewall Police Chief Jason Teel said Sweet was honored with the police department's first citizen's award for her bravery and willingness to come to the aid of another.
Teel said the dogs were rounded up and have been quarantined to ensure they weren't infected with rabies. He said dog attacks are rare in his town, but outside city limits there is no animal control and dogs often roam freely.
“We felt like we needed to do something special to honor her,” Teel said. “It's not every day an average person steps up to do something heroic, especially when it puts their own well-being in danger.”
Teel said the dogs' owner agreed to pay Murray's medical expenses, and the costs of boarding the dogs and putting them to death.
Teel said Murray was fortunate Sweet came along. If he had fallen during the attack, his injuries could have been far worse. Murray said the dogs bit him seven times on his left leg alone.
Teel suggests runners arm themselves with spray device like mace or pepper spray, similar to what police use to subdue criminals.