After a previous close call, Tony Desisto carried his gun whenever he took his puppy outside, concerned the neighborhood pit bull might return.
By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It wasn't the first time the neighbor's pit bull had charged Tony Desisto's puppy. That's why he happened to have a 9mm Springfield XD pistol with him when, on Sunday night, the pit bull returned.
“I was out in the yard with Obi and my girlfriend was up on the porch when the pit bull came running over. He stopped at the end of the driveway, and she yelled every command she could think of – no, leave, go. The dog just stood there for about 10 seconds, then he charged,” said Desisto.
It was just enough time for Desisto to get the puppy close to him, as he'd been told to do during a puppy-training session at Petco.
The pit bull grabbed the 14-week-old beagle by the neck. Desisto, still holding his puppy on a short leash, pulled out his pistol and fired a warning shot over the pit bull's head.
“I was trying to scare him, but it didn't phase him at all. So I fired three more shots at the dog,” said Desisto. “The first two didn't do anything, but after the third one he let go and sort of limped over there.”
Desisto pointed toward a patch of grass in his yard where some dried blood was being swarmed by flies.
“I was trying not to hit Obi, or myself. Everything was happening right at my feet. But Obi was freaking out, and I could see he was bleeding. I've had my hunting license for three years, and this was the first time I've actually ever shot at anything,” Desisto said.
“After the third shot the dog kind of scampered into the yard. I feel bad about it; I killed someone's pet. But I felt like we did everything we could to prevent it. Obi didn't have a chance against a 70-pound pit bull, Desisto said.”
Desisto's girlfriend called police after the shooting. Some of the neighbors on surrounding streets yesterday said they heard the commotion, but figured it was fireworks.
“I was kind of surprised none of my neighbors came outside. By the time the police arrived, the pit bull was dead. It didn't have any tags on, so actually, the police had to go knocking on doors. They weren't certain where it belonged,” Desisto said.
Desisto's puppy suffered bite marks on the top of its neck and on its throat, and is being treated with antibiotics.
Desisto's first encounter with the pit bull happened May 5, not long after he first brought the puppy home.
“Obi and I were in the yard and I guess the pit bull heard the jingling of his collar and came running over. He went right after the puppy, but I was able to scoop him up with one hand. Then the dog went after me. Since then, I've been carrying the gun,” Desisto said. “I've seen him loose a few times, but I'm not really sure what happened Sunday.”
He said he has not had contact with the pit bull's owner, whose name was not released by police.
Other neighbors in the area said they were sympathetic to both Desisto and the pit bull's owner, saying that the loss of a pet is always difficult. But this particular pit bull occasionally got loose and at times, seemed menacing. The dog was isolated and did not seem to get regular exercise, said one neighbor, who did not want to be identified.
“It's a shame. They never walked the dog,” said the neighbor. “But please don't quote me on that; I have to live here, too.”
Derry Animal Control Officer Marlene Bishop said she had not prior complaints on the pit bull, except for a prior barking complaint.
“Not all pit bulls are bad. We're trying to get away from that idea, that they're bad. They do have a powerful bite, that is the biggest problem – when you wrangle with a pit bull someone's gonna get hurt,” Bishop said.
She noted that she had just locked up a pit bull yesterday morning, who had bitten a woman on the back of the leg, and released another pit bull who was under a 10-day quarantine after biting another dog.
“I was not on duty Sunday, but in this case, I'm not sure it was a matter of negligence as much as it was a matter of lack of training. You have to train all dogs, especially a dog like that,” Bishop said.
Desisto said Obi is his first puppy –currently in training as a hunting dog. His last dog was a pit bull-dalmatian mix.
“That dog was an aggressive dog. He was a shelter dog. I knew he didn't like other dogs, or people. So he never left the house except on a leash, and we never took him to the dog park. He lived to be 14, and he was a good dog, but he couldn't be trusted,” Desisto said.
“So I do know something about pit bulls. That's why I decided to start keeping my gun with me. I'm just thankful it was me with Obi, and not my girlfriend or my downstairs neighbor, who has a small dog too. And I'm glad I didn't have my 8-month-old in my other arm, like I do sometimes,”Desisto said. “I don't know what I would've done then.”