About three months after a vicious dog attack left her with severe injuries and took the life of her longtime neighbor, 86-year-old Grover Beach resident Betty Long returned home this week from a San Luis Obispo rehabilitation facility.
Sitting next to the miniature Christmas tree she placed on her end table in the days preceding the Dec. 13 attack that killed 64-year-old David Fear, Long said she is trying to return some sense of normalcy to her life.
“We’ve put everything on hold since Dec. 13,” Long said.
On that December day, Long had just stopped to talk to Fear while walking her little dog, Giminy, outside her house on Nacimiento Avenue when a Belgian Malinois and a German shepherd attacked. One dog mauled Fear, inflicting fatal injuries. Her neighbor of 17 years, whom she had known since he was a teenager, died three days later at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.
The other dog knocked Long to the ground, breaking her shoulder and pelvis.
Both dogs were owned by Alex Geiger, who for a few months had lived a block away from Long. He moved to the neighborhood after taking a job in September as a police officer with the Grover Beach Police Department.
Geiger, 25, resigned from the department Feb. 1, one day before the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed two felony charges of failing to maintain control over a dangerous animal. He is out on $20,000 bail and has not yet entered a plea.
The Belgian Malinois was euthanized the afternoon of the attack. The German shepherd is being held under specific conditions by a private owner outside the county, according to county Animal Services.
On Thursday, Long said she is still recovering from shoulder replacement surgery and her broken pelvis is continuing to heal. She is using a cane while she continues outpatient physical therapy for at least six months.
“I’m making it — it’s just a little more difficult than it used to be,” Long said.
Long said she had known Fear since he was 17 years old, when he was a customer at the bank where she worked in Grover Beach.
“He was the same age as my kids, and it was very easy to consider him as one of my kids, too,” she said.
Over the years, Fear and Long joined each other’s family barbecues and other social gatherings.
“We just had a good old time,” Long said of Fear. “He was just a lot of fun. He liked music, and he had a lot of good stories, too.”
On the afternoon of Dec. 13, Long said she was walking her dog in front of her home. Fear greeted her, and her dog Giminy ran toward Fear to be petted. The two large dogs appeared as Fear bent down to pick up the little dog, she said.
“From out of nowhere, two big dogs come and just lurched out at him,” Long said. “The dogs just started chewing on Dave. And then they turned on me.”
She recalled that one of the dogs knocked her to the ground, where she struck her head.
“I just laid there — I couldn’t do anything,” Long said. “I kept seeing Dave, which was horrible.”
Despite losing her glasses and trying to fend off one of the dogs pulling at her clothes, Long was able to reach for the phone in her jacket pocket and call 911.
“I said, ‘The dogs are eating us. Send two ambulances,’ ” she recalled. “Meanwhile, the dog still had Dave, biting Dave.”
After what “seemed like an eternity,” the dogs ran off and emergency personnel arrived. Her dog managed to escape unharmed.
Long celebrated her 86th birthday while recovering at Mission View Health Center in San Luis Obispo. She told The Tribune she wanted to thank the staff there, as well as her family and area residents who have reached out to show support.
“I just want to thank everybody in the community that stood by me and stepped forward,” she said, adding that she has reunited with old friends and classmates since the attack. “There’s so many good people (in the community).”
Despite her optimism, Long said she thinks every day of the sacrifice her neighbor made to protect her.
“Dave is my angel,” she said. “He went through so much to save me. He sacrificed his life for me. Dave is with me every day.”