Michelle Ransom-Hughes is the creator of Oh My Dog, a podcast focusing on relationships between dogs and their people.
Michelle Ransom-Hughes is the creator of Oh My Dog, a podcast focusing on relationships between dogs and their people. Voren1

Man's best friend wins over bite victim

A two-year-old girl is riding her tricycle in a suburban backyard when a Doberman bites her head so hard its teeth puncture her brain.

Kate Forsyth's four-year-old sister is nearby and her mother is also there - folding washing.

They are in the backyard of a Sydney vet hospital, also the family home, where Kate's father works.

The dog, brought to the hospital to be put down, has been given a stay of execution by Kate's father.

He is a vet who often rehabilitates problem mutts.

But Kate's mum is terrified of this dog and has chained it up.

A single squeaky wheel on Kate's toy seems to madden the dog.

It lunges when Kate passes by, takes her head in its mouth, and its teeth tear through the small child's scalp.

"So the canines of the lower jaw went straight through the back of my head and into the brain,” Kate says.

"And the teeth of the upper jaw went straight through the corner of my eye and into the brain.

"I also had half my ear torn off and the soft kind of skull was torn and rent.

"My mother had to snap the dog's jaws open to get it to release me.”

Her mother, a nurse, wraps her daughter's profusely bleeding head in cloth nappies.

It is 1979 and mobile phones will take decades to become household items.

Kate's mum rushes to the highway with the girl in her arms.

A man stops and drives them to Royal North Shore Hospital.

He faints when the nurse in emergency unwraps the nappies and reveals Kate's injuries.

What is firstly remarkable is that Kate, now a bestselling author in her early 50s, survives the dog attack after about six weeks in a coma.

But what is even more remarkable is that for only three years out of Kate's life she has been without a dog in her home.

She tells her story of turning fear for the animals into love to Michelle Ransom-Hughes.

Michelle is the creator of Oh My Dog, a podcast focusing on relationships between dogs and their people.

An experienced radio producer, Michelle says she first noticed these friendships a few years ago.

"I began paying attention to these big love stories that were going on everywhere I looked,” she says.

"I've made a new podcast, to get up close to this beautiful thing that exists without a shared language and makes so many of us happy.”

Kate Forsyth and Lola.
Kate Forsyth and Lola.

The second episode of the podcast is about Kate, a self-titled "dog evangelist” and her dog, Lola, a rhodesian ridgeback.

Michelle says she harbours a fear of the breed but Kate scoffs at the idea.

"My sister and I, well, we used to dress the dogs up,” Kate says. "I want you to imagine a very large rhodesian ridgeback with a tutu on, and a crown or a halo of flowers drooping over one ear.”

Kate says if people paid more attention to dogs, we might learn better behaviours.

"I say to my children sometimes, 'If you listened and watched as closely as dogs do, you too would be always be able to be aware of how people around you are thinking and feeling',” she says.

"Intuition is really just trained instincts.

"But we can train ourselves to be more compassionate to other people.

"Watching how they move through the world, how they express their thoughts and feelings non-verbally, it only makes us better people.”

Kate does not remember the attack or her fear, but it took her mother much time to convince the terrified toddler to trust the animals again.

Skilful storytelling, and sound production from Brisbane musician Seja Vogel bring alive not only the savage attack but a hospital room where a child flitters between living and dead.

Coming episodes of the podcast include Leesa and Bubba, inseparable after living on Brisbane streets together, and Ballarat musician Mick who rescues Frankie the cocker spaniel from a puppy farm.

In turn she helps him recover from hearing loss.

Search for Oh My Dog in the Apple Podcasts app, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

More information at ohmydogpodcast.com. Letea Cavander is a freelance journalist. Get in touch via Facebook at Letea Cavander Journalist or Instagram @leteacavander