Skier recovers from pit bull attack

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Anders Gillis had a premonition that something bad was going to happen as he strapped on his roller skis for a training session.

Thinking it might be a day he would fall, he dug around in his car, pulled out a helmet despite the warm temperatures in Fairbanks and said a prayer.

"It was almost like the Lord was trying to tell me something," he said Wednesday. "I said, 'Jesus, I pray that you'll protect me today.' "

Five minutes into his training session, he was fighting for his life.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks skier was attacked by an adult pit bull that knocked him down, bit him in the arm and buttocks and tried to drag him off. Gillis, 19, is 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds.

Last Friday, he planned to roller ski a bike path along Farmers Loop. The busy rural road starts at the university and arcs north over Fairbanks to the east side of the city.

He double-poled to a house where he had seen the pit bull before, always on a chain, but nearly choking itself trying to get off.

He heard a noise, looked left and saw the dog off the chain, bearing down on him.

"This dog just blind-sided me and hit me to the concrete," Gillis said.

Roller skis are short skis with wheels. Athletes wear ski boots that attach to skis with bindings.

Gillis thought the dog would knock him off the tippy roller skis, he said, but he did not expect the attack that followed. The helmet may have saved him.

"If I had gotten knocked out, it would have been all over," he said.

As Gillis screamed for help, the dog locked on to his right arm and dragged him.

Just one car was in the roadway, but the driver made a U-turn and came to his assistance, honking the horn.

The dog released his arm and Gillis tried to scramble up.

"I thought it was going to grab my neck," he said. Instead, it bit him just below the neck as he got to his feet.

The dog attacked again, biting and locking on to his left buttocks. He went down again and the dog dragged him.

"I could only use my left hand," Gillis said. "I was swinging my ski pole at it."

A woman appeared from the house and called the dog. It ran off and she put it into the house. Gillis yelled at her, "What are you thinking? Why do you have a dog like that?"

The attack lasted 20 to 25 seconds. Gillis has skid marks on his body, and an X-ray indicated the dog's teeth had hit his bone.

The dog's owner has signed paperwork for the dog to be destroyed.

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