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Pet's death prompts warning
Wayne Ellwanger leashed up the family pet, a golden retriever named Joey, on the evening of Friday, Feb. 27 and strolled to Virginia Parks Elementary School. He often took the dog, who belonged to his daughter, Becky Pombo for 10 years, on walks to the school. The 75-year-old Ceres resident enjoyed walking Joey, a most beloved family pet that recently was included in a studio family portrait.

The two walked into the school yard on a black-topped playground where something went terribly wrong.

Three unattended pit bulls came out of nowhere and trotted their way to Ellwanger and the dog. The four dogs greeted each other with a sniffing routine. Ellwanger then heard one of the pitbulls unleash a growl, which signaled the beginning of an adreneline-pumping dog attack that would ultimately lead to the demise of all four animals.

"When that happened, all three attacked," said Ellwanger.

Within minutes the sound of a fierce dog fight flagged the attention of someone on Payne Avenue to the north of the campus. A call to 9-1-1 was placed before Ellwanger was able to get a school janitor to call. In about two minutes the first of Ceres police officers arrived.

Ellwanger was without anything for a weapon.

"I'm not that powerful of a man - I'm 75-years-old - but it was the adrenaline. Right after it started I was able to handle all three of them with two in my left hand by the collars and one in the other hand. Joey got up and went over about 15 feet and stopped and turned around and then I tried to send him home. And of course he wouldn't go."

The dogs re-engaged in their fight as Ellwanger did his best to pull each dog off of mortally wounded Joey.

"That's when they bit my hand, my right leg - bruises up and down it - knocked me down."

At one point Ellwanger was being dragged on his back as he held onto the collars. One slipped out of its collar and went back in for the kill. Joey suffered 108 bite marks.

Police arrived and immediately pepper-sprayed the pitbulls and they took off. The stunned Cerean told officers which house to watch for as the dogs returned home. Animal Control caught the dogs and took them to the Animal Shelter where they were euthanized on Wednesday, March 11.

An investigation revealed that the pitbulls broke loose from the backyard they were contained in.

"The veterinarian said he was just like Swiss cheese," said Ellwanger. "He really was."

A team of veterinarians cared for the dog for the next 10 days, daily consulting with a critical care veterinarian at U.C. Davis.

"The edema continued and he was puffy and after 10 days he got pneumonia and his kidneys wouldn't work and on the tenth day he turned worse and had him put down. He got good care."

Ellwanger plans to sue the dog owner, who lives a block away, for damages. The veterinarian fees alone have topped $18,000.

He contacted the owner of the dogs but feels he's getting the run-around. The woman living at the house claims that her husband owns the dogs but that he recently left her and doesn't know where he is.

Ellwanger doesn't want anyone else to go through what he did.

"It was not the first time that the police had been called there. They had gotten out before."

He claims that the neighbor of the three dogs also has a pit bull that got out twice and attacked Joey.

"I reported this both times."

His concerns were so great that he alerted the principal of Virginia Parks about the possibility of the dogs escaping and hurting her students.

"I told her that there's got to be precautions taken but I didn't know what those precautions are. But these guys are dangerous. Sure enough it happened and I didn't think it was going to happen to me."

Ellwanger said he has no trust of pitbulls. Another neighbor's pitbull got loose and attacked and injuring a pug and killing a Pomeranian belonging to Lori Cook.

"I think people ought to be alerted that there are dogs in the community that are dangerous and that some of the people are training these dogs for that purpose. I know that for fact."

He also recommends that people who walk dogs or take strolls for exercise might arm themselves with something to defend themselves.

"I think mace might be able to do it. I saw how mace works on those three dogs that were there. They backed off. They wanted no part of that."