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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 16:52 GMT
Hero dog dies in pitbull horror
An Antrim family have said they owe their lives to their pet labrador that died trying to protect them from being savaged by another dog.

Cole, a pet labrador
Cole survived the attack in which his father, Troy, died
Sean and Deirdre Doherty escaped with only minor injuries after an horrific attack by a pitbull-type dog in Randalstown Forest Park.

The large dog attacked the couple, who live at the Folly, as they took a stroll with their two children, four

pet labradors and an exchange student.

Deirdre said it attacked their largest pet, Cole, first.

"His leg was being chewed, I was on top of him trying to pull the leg free. My husband had the dog from behind, the children were beating the dog with leads," she said.

"Eventually, Cole passed out with pain and the dog turned on me. It had me by the arm and flipped my whole body over. Luckily, I had a big padded coat on so the coat took the brunt of it.

"We screamed at the kids to run and my husband wrangled the dog off me."

Deirdre Doherty
It beggars belief that somebody would let a dog run loose in a forest regularly used by families
Deirdre Doherty

Her husband, Sean, explained that the dog then ran towards the children, Ben, 10, Lauren, 13 and a Marcela, an 18-year-old Argentinean student staying with them.

Sean said when their four-year-old labrador, Troy, saw Ben was in danger, it dived to his aid.

"My son is only 10, he was at the back, his dog was beside him. Troy turned when he heard me screaming and realised he was about to jump on Ben, he was right on Ben's heels.

"The minute he saw Ben was in danger, he saved him. Troy sacrificed himself to save the kids," he told the BBC News Website.

The large dog continued to fight with Troy until police arrived and shot the dog.

Wound to man's leg
Sean Doherty sustained leg wounds in the attack

But the much-loved family pet, the father of Cole, later died from his injuries.

"We are just devastated by Troy's death," said Sean.

"He always gave hugs, put his head on your chest.

"We have cuts and bruises from the attack. This other dog was let off to kill. You could see it in his eyes.

"But the children are okay. We are so thankful to Troy for saving our lives."

Deirdre said there was no sign of a dog owner, and no collar on the pitbull.

"It just beggars belief that somebody would let a dog like this run loose in a forest that is regularly used by families," she said. "We can't believe we are still in one piece."

Antrim Borough Council has passed on their sympathy to the family.

The council's dog warden, Bernadette Burns, said anyone facing attack from a dangerous dog "should stand still and do not run".

"Keep your hands reasonably high as moving parts tend to be the first to be bitten.

"Shout 'No' at the dog as this may delay the attack. Avoid direct eye contact and, if the dog starts to come towards you, try to distract it with something you may be carrying," she said.

"If you find your pet under attack, try not to interfere unless you are experienced in the handling of dogs."

Ms Burns added: "Do not try to pull your dog away as the attacker will hold on tighter, instead carry a thick stick which should be put in the dogs mouth to break the hold.

"Make sure you have a mobile phone close to hand and if an attack should occur, call the local PSNI or dog warden immediately."

The family describes what happened in the attack

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