The 41-year-old northern Penobscot County woman is back on her feet, and she plans to enjoy every minute of her life. “I’m glad to be alive,” she said Sunday while joking with her friends at the Four Corners Variety Store in LaGrange.
“I’m happy-go-lucky; I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me,” Stewart said. “The way I look at it is: Hey, I’ve got two legs, I’ve got a body, I’ve got one arm, I’ve got my brain, and I’ve got my health.”
Stewart can’t recall much of the event that altered her life on Nov. 12, but she is adamant that two dogs were involved in the attack. She said she is glad one of the dogs since has been euthanized, but she believes the same fate should fall on the other dog that “started the attack.”
“I want that dog gone, too,” she said. Stewart has asked state police to do that but was told it would be up to the district attorney.
“I have a lot of anger against the dogs’ owners, I do; I have a lot of anger,” Stewart said. She said they have not called to apologize, sent her a card or visited her.
Adam Bemis, 28, who owned the American bulldog mix involved in the attack, has been charged with keeping a dangerous dog. It is believed the other dog, a small beagle-type, belonged to a friend of Bemis’.
Despite Stewart’s recollection, state police believe only one dog was involved in the attack, and they believe the appropriate animal was euthanized.
Stewart, who had been staying a few days with her friend Vaughn “Sonny” Adams in LaGrange last month, recalled that the small dog “came out of nowhere and nipped at her butt,” while she was walking on Forest Street. “My butt is all black and blue,” she said.
“I just said stop, stop, stop [to the small dog],” Stewart recalled. The small dog stopped, and then she discovered Bemis’ large dog was behind her. That dog jumped on her back and pushed her down to the ground and began “ripping her apart,” she recalled. “He pushed me down and started right in on me — on my arms.” She has little recollection of what happened after that.
According to Adams, Stewart, “who was covered head to toe in blood and mud,” managed to drag herself back to his house. When he went to her aid, Adams was horrified. The dog took her elbow out, chewed her whole forearm so there was just skin and bone left, and her right arm had a bite about 3 inches deep and 4 inches wide.
While Adams grabbed whatever he could find to wrap Stewart’s wounds to stop the bleeding, someone else called 911.
Stewart was airlifted to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and later transferred to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
After a touch-and-go hospital stay in which her right arm was amputated, Stewart showed her strength and was released Dec. 10. She plans to stay with Adams for at least six months while she recuperates. She said she recognizes she has a long road of recovery ahead.
Hospital officials told Stewart she had about 40 bites on her body, most of which were on her arms because she had used them to defend herself. Much of the skin on her left arm was torn off in the attack, so doctors removed large patches of skin from her legs and grafted them onto the arm to save that limb, she explained.
“It’s disappointing [to lose an arm], it really is,” Stewart said. “You’re lucky you’ve got two arms and you better be thankful for that because one arm, it’s really a challenge.” While she is looking forward to being fitted soon for a prosthesis, she considers herself somewhat lucky in that she is left-handed.
For now, Stewart must be careful to avoid infection in her wounds. She must make regular trips to the Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln to have her dressings changed, something that Adams hopes he can do in the future to avoid the expense of traveling.
“He’s my hero, he’s the best angel,” Stewart said of Adams. “I owe him.”
The community also has been supportive of Stewart, among them her friends at the local store. “I think she has a better personality now than she ever had,” John Decesere, co-owner of the Four Corners Variety Store, said Sunday of Stewart. “She has a better outlook on life because of what has happened to her.”
Despite all she has been through, Stewart remains upbeat and can’t thank the public enough for the cards and the prayers she has received. She recalled that a Bangor woman’s letter was so heartwarming it prompted her to cry for about 20 minutes in her hospital room.
“I appreciate all the prayers — all the prayers [have] helped me through this,” Stewart said tearing up. “I thank everyone and everybody for everything, all the help and the support, I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. If there’s anything I can do to help anybody, I will be there for everybody like they was for me.”
Adams said the entire incident could have been avoided. “If the dogs were hooked, none of this would have happened,” he said.
Stewart agreed. “They all need to be tied, if you don’t have your dog tied, you shouldn’t even own a dog,” she said. She said she is just glad it was she the dogs attacked that night. “I’m really sorry to say it but I’m really glad it happened to me because I’m glad it didn’t happen to a child.”