FARMINGTON — Nine-year-old Josiah Teller was standing outside his friend's door across the street from his home in Upper Fruitland when he was tugged to the ground by a white pit bull.

Josiah was whipped like a limp doll on Tuesday before his 10-year-old friend ran from the house. With each hand gripping the dog's jaws, the girl pried its teeth from Josiah's neck. A Navajo Nation animal control officer came for the dog that day.

Josiah is now home from the Northern Navajo Medical Center's emergency room. On Thursday he was resting inside with four silver staples in the back of his scalp and several more down the gash in his neck.

"He is traumatized. Yesterday, he was in a daze, afraid, I think," said Wanona Theberge, his mother. "He cried a lot."

Josiah Teller, 9, stands outside his home in Upper Fruitland on Thursday after being mauled by a neighbor’s pitbull earlier in the week.
Josiah Teller, 9, stands outside his home in Upper Fruitland on Thursday after being mauled by a neighbor's pitbull earlier in the week. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Theberge said the dog's teeth nicked her son's carotid artery. Her son, she said, almost died.

What will it take for the Navajo Nation to begin protecting its residents from loose, violent dogs?" she said. "Does someone have to die?"

The Navajo Nation is 27,000 square miles. Six animal control officers patrol that land, said Kevin Gleason, Navajo Nation wildlife law enforcement and animal control manager. And one patrols from the Shiprock office, he said.

That is not enough to protect the more than 100 reservation communities, he said, "not even close."

Reservation animal control has recorded almost 200 dog bites this year, and so far, he said, that's about the same as most other years.

And those are only the attacks reported. "I think there's a lot that's not reported," he said.

Animal control every month impounds, on average, 175 mostly stray or at-large dogs, he said. Officers for the first six months of this year have impounded 6,270 dogs, he said.

The reservation has laws that dogs must be fenced in or leashed, but its animal control officers cannot consistently enforce them, he said.

Josiah Teller, 9, sstands outside his home in Upper Fruitland on Thursday after being mauled by a neighbor’s pitbull earlier in the week.
Josiah Teller, 9, sstands outside his home in Upper Fruitland on Thursday after being mauled by a neighbor's pitbull earlier in the week. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Now, Theberge is reluctant to let her children play off her property, and her neighbors are too. She said the family across the street will not let their children play outside the head-high wooden fence. Those children who are in the open outside are in danger, she said.

The same day Josiah was bitten, a brown pit bull ran down her husband, she said. As she spoke from her stoop, her family gathered around her, a muscled brown dog trotted down the street.

After the dog left, she walked past where it had been and up to the home where the dog that had bitten her son used to live. She knocked on the door, but a woman who answered the door would not speak to The Daily Times.

Across the street, behind a bowed in chain-link fence, another pit bull barked at Theberge. It didn't stop barking until she walked away.

"This is why we don't even walk in this neighborhood anymore," she said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.