Girl, 2, seriously injured when dog mauls face
IN A split second, two-year-old Ella Fowler went from happily playing with a friend's dog at a family dinner, to bleeding profusely from serious facial injuries.
For an unknown reason, the red kelpie went from playful to attack mode on Saturday, biting the Warwick toddler's face as she played in her grandfather's backyard in Harwood, New South Wales.
Ella's parents Mark and Leticia Fowler said it was a terrifying moment no one expected.
"We were having a barbecue at the back of Mark's father's place and a friend of Mark's was there and his dog," Leticia said.
"Ella had contact with the red kelpie before and they had played together before.
"Maybe she startled him or something, he just snapped and was the right height for her face to be right there."
Leticia admits she went into meltdown mode and said she was grateful her husband, a teacher at Warwick High School, took control.
"Mark kind of went into teacher mode, he handled everything really well," Leticia said.
"I was hopeless - that 10 minutes waiting for the ambulance will forever be the longest of my life, not knowing if she would be OK."
Ella was left with a large gash on her forehead and serious injuries to her nose.
"Her nose and lip were all split open and one side of her nose and septum had been ripped out," Leticia said.
"They had to take a bit from her top lip and put in her nose."
The Fowlers said until the ambulance arrived they were worried they would lose their daughter but said Ella was in the best hands from the very beginning.
"The ambos were fantastic, the Maclean Hospital was awesome, the Westpac helicopter and the Gold Coast University Hospital - we can't say enough about them," Mark said.
"Thank God we live in Australia - less than two hours after it happened, we were at the Gold Coast seeing some of the best surgeons in the country."
The couple said a wave of relief rushed over them to see their daughter after her operation.
"The best thing was when she came out of surgery and wheeled her back and they had done such an amazing job we thought they were magicians," Mark said.
"It was unbelievable. She was like a different kid to the one that had just gone in there."
The two-year-old kelpie that bit Ella has been voluntarily put down and the Fowlers said they were also concerned about its owner, who was devastated by the incident.
"He is absolutely shattered to know this has happened and just wanted to know Ella was OK," Leticia said.
"It must be really hard for him, too because that is his pet. It was just one of those freak things.
"But it is a warning to parents, watch your kids around any pets - this one didn't have a violent nature, they had been playing perfectly well," Mark said.
Ella's older siblings, Elyza, Rhys and Liam were also relieved to see their little sister quickly return to her fearless, bubbly self.
Mark and Leticia said the outpouring of support from the community had been a huge comfort.
"People have been so amazing - at school kids have made me cupcakes. That made me cry," Mark said.
Ella is expected to make a full recovery, but Mark and Leticia said she may need plastic surgery on her nose as she gets older.