'I thought he died' pal says after dog attack

Martin Sheriff shows where grandson Philip was hurt.
Martin Sheriff shows where grandson Philip was hurt.
Posted: February 23, 2010

A WORRIED LITTLE 9-year-old yesterday made a get-well card for his best friend, Philip Sheriff, 10, who is fighting to save his right arm after two pit bulls the boys were walking attacked Philip on Sunday in Frankford.

Standing outside his home on Bridge Street near Glenloch last night, Surgal McQuay, 9, said he wrote to his friend on the card:

"I'm sorry, it wasn't my fault. I tried to help you up and you fell back down."

"I thought he died," Surgal added, quietly.

Yesterday, Philip - whose arm was severely mauled by the dogs - underwent a second surgery at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children to relieve the pain and swelling in his arm.

After the incident, police brought Philip's grandfather, Martin Sheriff, 69, to the hospital, where for the past two days, he has visited - and talked with - Philip as he lay sedated.

"The nurse told me he could hear," said the elder Sheriff, who brought his fiancee with him.

"Grandpa and Grandma are here, they told him.

" 'Don't worry, you'll be OK," said Grandma.

"I was bitter," said the elder Sheriff, a retired teacher and principal, who also worked with the disabled. "I was afraid he was going to lose his life, or his right arm.

"His so-called friends went away with the pit bulls who mangled his arm so badly and left him bleeding.

"A good Samaritan, Brian Winn, saw Philip in the field and put his jacket under his head and was talking to him until the ambulance took him to the hospital," he added.

The young Surgal told police he and Philip were walking the dogs on leashes across the baseball diamond at Whitehall Commons on Wakeling Street near Jackson.

Suddenly, the leash broke as Surgal was trying to restrain the muscle-bound "Brownie," a one-year-old brown male pit bull who weighed at least half as much as the boy, said Detective Bob Conn, of Northeast Detectives.

Brownie took off. Instinctively, Philip chased the dog, even though he was still holding onto the leash of Mamas, a female pit bull, white with brown spots.

"I told him not to run," Surgal told police. "They'll bite you."

"But he kept running," added Surgal, clad in a large plaid overcoat as he stopped playing in the snow outside his house to talk with the Daily News.

The two dogs began fighting with each other, then turned on Philip, Conn said.

The ferocious attack unfolded quickly. "He screamed, 'Help! Help!' " Surgal said, mimicking his pal's high-pitched shrieks.

"I hit the dog," he said. But the dogs wouldn't let go. "Then I said, 'I'll get some help.' "

Surgal said he ran home to get his brother, Devon, 15, the owner of the two dogs. On the baseball field, Devon yelled at Brownie to stop. Conn said "Brownie listens to Devon."

But the female dog ran away.

When Devon took Brownie home, Conn said, "He still had blood on his teeth."

"Brownie was the main dog biting [Philip's] neck, arm, everywhere. Mamas was biting the feet area," said Conn.

The Pennsylvania SPCA and police are looking for the female pit bull. Devon told police he found the stray pit bulls three months ago.

The SPCA removed "Brownie" from the McQuay's home, and its animal care and control team quarantined the dog for the next few weeks. The dog will be tested for rabies and his temperament watched for aggressive behavior, in part, to determine if the dog can be returned to the owner, said Conn.

Brownie "was not overly aggressive as he was led on a leash into the SPCA truck," said Conn.

Apparently the two boys were tired only minutes before the attack. They sat on a nearby homeowner's steps and tied the dogs' leashes to a railing. But another was "going crazy looking out the window." The homeowner told them to leave, said Conn.

"Should 9- or 10-year-old walk pit bulls? Absolutely not," said Conn. 'Not only do they have the strongest jaws, they are some of the strongest dogs around."

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