Chicago man describes near-fatal pit bull attack

January 18, 2012 5:10:10 AM PST
Joseph Finley is still recovering from an attack by two pit bulls as he jogged near Chicago's lakefront.

Finley is speaking for the first time about what happened.

"The only thing in my mind was, if this is really happening to me, the only thing I can do is survive," said Finley. Click here to watch the entire interview

Close to death, Finley was not about to let two pit bulls end his life at 62 years old. It's been over two weeks since the South Shore resident was attacked during his daily jog between 77th and 79th streets.

"All I remember is those dogs coming at me, constantly yanking, biting and tearing, pulling, gnawing at my body like I was a hamburger," said Finley.

Finley says one dog grabbed his left foot, the other his right leg. Finley tried to fight them off with the help of weights he was wearing around his legs, but the attack only became more vicious, knocking him to the ground.

"At that point, I couldn't even feel that leg anymore and I didn't even care about feeling that leg anymore. My main objective is to keep this one over here from biting my neck," he said.

Constantly yelling out for help, Finley says the attack went on for several minutes.

"I felt myself losing consciousness, but I was just determined not to," he said.

Before one last effort to keep the dogs from attacking his neck, Finely saw police lights and then heard four or five gun shots.

"The first two shots, I felt the tug on this leg stop. The next two shots, I felt the tugging on this arm stop," Finley said.

Finley was conscious all the way to Stroger Hospital and then went into shock. With a huge amount of blood loss and damage to muscles and tendons, doctors were not able to save part of his left leg, but they were able to save Finley's life.

"From the get-go, this was somebody who worked hard to recover," said Dr. Kim Joseph-Trauma Surgeon, Stroger Hospital. "I'm very optimistic about his chances of really doing whatever he wants to do."

"I want to be able to walk again and to be able to use my arm again," said Finley.

Finley says he wants to run again, a hobby he took up just 10 years ago. Finley says he also wants to work on erasing the mental image of the attacks. He says he replays it over and over in his head. He will be discharged from Stroger Hospital and transferred to an in-patient rehab facility in the Chicago area.

Trauma surgeons at Stroger say during the first few days of recovery they were not sure if Finley was going to survive. One doctor describes Finley's injures as equivalent to stepping on a landmine. Doctors credit Finley's incredible physical and mental strength for his survival.

Police cited the dogs' owner, 57-year-old Jimmie Johnson, for having unrestrained and unlicensed animals. He is not facing any criminal charges.