A Hidden Danger
STAFF SGT. JEFFREY JOEL RIGGS
83rd U.S. Army Reserve Regional Training Center
U.S. Army Reserves
Fort Knox, Kentucky
I arrived at Fort Rucker, Alabama, after an uneventful eight-hour drive from Fort Knox, Kentucky, ready to start my six-week TDY adventure. I noticed my brother was calling me as I pulled up to the hotel and decided to take his call before I checked in to my room. His worried voice came over the phone.
“Something has happened,” he said. “Athena is fine, but Stacy is having emergency surgery and will more than likely be losing fingers on her right hand. I don’t have all the details, but I just wanted to let you know what was going on.”
What in the world had happened? Let me start from the beginning.
Last May I decided to get a dog. After an extensive internet search, I found a family in Louisville, Kentucky, that was getting rid of their 8-month-old female German shepherd and I fell in love with her. I decided to give her a fresh start in a new home and a new name, Athena. Over the next few months, we were inseparable. I only went places if I could bring Athena along. She was the new focus in my life.
So you can understand my concern when I found out I would be heading to Fort Rucker for six weeks to attend the Ground Safety Officer Course at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center. I immediately created a list of people I thought could take Athena for the duration of the course. I approached my brother and asked him to think about it. Athena got along well with him and his family, so I knew it would be a perfect fit. It took him a couple of weeks to think about it, but he finally came around and agreed to care for her. He was going to be out of town the week I needed to drop off Athena, but my sister-in-law, Stacy, and niece, Meghan, would be there to take her.
I planned out everything perfectly. I would drive to Indianapolis and stay the night on Friday so Stacy and Meghan could see my routine with Athena. I’d also be able to answer any questions they might have. After feeling everything was set with Athena, I headed back to Fort Knox to finish packing and get a good night’s rest before my drive to Fort Rucker on Sunday. It seemed like everything was going as planned until I got that phone call from my brother.
Athena is a good-sized German shepherd, weighing in at 72 pounds. She spends a lot of time at the dog park on Fort Knox and loves to play with other dogs. While Stacy worked in the garden, she decided to attach Athena to the tie-out cable I left in their backyard. While they were outside, one of the neighbors let their dogs into their fenced yard and Athena became hyper, thinking she found some new friends. Stacy, not wanting Athena to hurt herself with all her excitement, decided to put Athena inside. Somehow, Stacy got tangled in the tie-out cable and at the exact moment she grabbed it to step out, Athena ran, which caused the cable to tighten.
The force was so severe that all of the skin on Stacy’s fingers above the first joint was pulled off. She immediately ran into the house screaming, looking for something to use to wrap up her hand, as there was a good amount of blood coming from her wounds. My niece dialed 911, and the paramedics were quickly on the scene to rush Stacy to the hospital.
Upon arriving at the emergency room, the attending physician assessed her condition and immediately notified the on-call hand surgeon. The surgeon arrived within 30 minutes and started prepping Stacy for the operating room. He tried for several hours to reattach her skin but was only successful with her middle finger. All of her other fingers were amputated at the first joint and sutured. While Stacy is healing physically, this ordeal has taken a significant toll on her.
I have used social media to get Stacy’s story out to let people know of the danger they may unknowingly have in their backyards. There are many Soldiers in my unit that use tie-out cables at their homes. I can only hope that with awareness and warnings that people are cautious when using these cables to prevent another tragedy from occurring.
Editor’s note: The names of those involved in this mishap have been changed to protect their privacy.