Jace Britton faces a long, painful recovery from a dog attack.
One minute, 4-year-old Jace Britton was a happy-go-lucky preschooler. The next, his face was so chewed up he needed nearly 170 stitches.
The West Bloomfield, N.Y., boy was attacked at a picnic Aug. 18 by a 120-pound husky-Labrador mix. Now, Jace is the focus of a community fund-raiser to help pay for his medical needs.
Jace's parents, Addie and Roger Britton, went shopping for their son's school clothes the morning of the accident. They left the boy with his maternal grandparents, who asked if Jace could accompany them to a picnic at the home of a mutual friend.
With permission granted, the grandparents went to Bloomdale Trailer Park to enjoy the afternoon. Bob Proctor and his large dog lived in Space 65 next door to the hosts. In keeping with the trailer park's rules, his pet was tied up.
Jace's grandpa was chatting with Proctor, and Jace was playing across the yard.
According to the victim's family, the boy decided to walk over to grandpa, and when he was a few feet away the dog lunged at him, puncturing his neck and face.
"It was a big dog," Jace recalled. "His name is Ruppy the Puppy, but he's not a puppy."
Asked what he did after the dog bit him, the child said, "Nothing. I dropped myself into the grass and cried."
An ambulance took Jace to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. His surgery lasted two hours and 17 minutes. He spent two days in the hospital and another day next door at the Ronald McDonald House, a place for families with sick and injured children.
Meanwhile, there's a court case for the adults and, for the child, a medical ordeal.
Authorities said the 7-year-old dog has no record of viciousness and is now quarantined at the Humane Society. Proctor was cited by animal control officers for having an unlicensed, unvaccinated dog, and also, the Brittons filed a dangerous-dog complaint Aug. 21.
West Bloomfield Town Court Justice William F. Harvey Sr. will decide the dog's fate Sept. 24.
As for Jace, "he's angry," said his mom, Addie. "He's house-bound, he can't go out and play because of the risk of infection. He misses out on birthday parties, he misses his friends."
Jace doesn't like a daily routine that includes two rounds of wound care, taking antibiotics and codeine for pain, and not being able to scratch his wounds. His eyes tear up, and his parents frequently dab at his eyes with sterile swabs. They are trying to keep him from touching his wounds so they heal properly and don't become infected.
They are stocked up on supplies: ointments, bandages, scissors, hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide and more.
But the bills are another matter. Addie, 24, is a nanny and home-health aide, but she has no health insurance. Roger, 32, is unemployed. They just applied for Medicaid and are hoping they'll qualify.
After the accident, Addie didn't have money to buy Jace button-up or zip-up shirts. The pullovers he had interfered with his wounds. She went to the Community Support Shoppe, a little thrift store located in a strip mall in Bloomfield.
She asked the manager if she could have a few shirts for Jace. She was told there are too many people who try to take advantage of the charity. Addie showed the photos from the operating room, and the manager helped them and said a prayer asking for mercy for Jace when he goes to Head Start preschool Sept. 19. It asked that children treat him well.
"People can be so cruel, especially children," his dad, Roger, said. "They'll just say 'Ew, what happened to your face?'"
Addie said a little neighbor girl saw Jace and said, "Looking at you makes me want to puke."
Jace faces at least two more operations, not including plastic surgery afterward. "That means more stitches, more black eyes, more wound care," Addie said. "I feel so bad for him."
The fund to help with Jace's medical needs is being established by the New Hope Fellowship in Bloomfield. Any contributions should be sent to the church's Community Support Shoppe, c/o Jace Britton, P.O. Box 131, Bloomfield, NY 14469.
Billie Owens can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 320, or at firstname.lastname@example.org