Mail carrier Bryan Bloomquist survived a harrowing attack by two pit bulls, with help from neighbors and police who killed the dogs.
The adversarial relationship between mail carriers and dogs is well-known.
But as two pit bulls tore relentlessly into Bryan Bloomquist's arms and legs outside a north Minneapolis house Tuesday, the mail carrier didn't think about clichés. He thought about dying.
"I had no fight left in me at that point," said Bloomquist, a 6-foot 3-inch, 300-pound Iraq war veteran said from his hospital bed Wednesday. "I thought it was over."
It almost was. Bloomquist, 31, of Mounds View, ended up with 41 wounds, which took hours of trauma surgery and stitching to close.
He said the dogs attacked him a good five minutes while neighbors tried beating them back with yard signs, a bat, even a car. Police eventually shot and killed the dogs when they charged officers who arrived at the scene in the 3300 block of Colfax Avenue N.
Minneapolis Animal Care and Control cited the dogs' owner, Otello Pitts, 48, for failure to license the dogs, failure to properly leash them and failure to vaccinate them for rabies, totaling $475 in fines.
Animal Control manager Dan Niziolek said he also could face criminal charges for harm caused by a dog. Records indicate officers have not had contact with the dogs or their owner in the past, Niziolek said.
A phone number for Pitts was not in service. No one answered the door at the house, which had a "Beware of Dog" sign in the window. Blood on a fence across the street showed where the dogs cornered Bloomquist and he slumped against it.
Neighbors say the dogs, each 9 months old, had occasionally run loose in the neighborhood but were not known to be aggressive toward people. Children lived in the house with them.
Bloomquist said he survived because of his size, his instincts and help from the people who heeded his screams.
Bloomquist has been a mail carrier for five years after serving in Iraq in 2003. As he approached the house about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, he knew it had pit bulls, and he could see them standing behind a storm door with a ripped screen. He decided to skip the house.
Silent, horrifying attack
He was giving the yard a wide berth when the dogs pushed the door open and charged him. A woman followed them out and tried unsuccessfully to call the dogs back inside.
As they bit him, Bloomquist tried to fight his way across the street to his postal van. He screamed for help, hoping someone would call 911. At one point, he grabbed one of the dogs by the throat and threw it against the other, knocking them both to the ground.
Bridgett Shepard ran outside and frantically drove her car into the yard, trying to block the dogs from Bloomquist while laying on the horn. But they ran around the car and returned. The dogs, like Bloomquist, were covered in blood.
"It was horrifying," she said. "To see it and to hear it."
The strangest part was how quiet the dogs were, said De'Angelo Boldt, 21, who came running with a baseball bat.
"There was no growling, no barking, only his screams for help," Boldt said.
Bloomquist had made it to the chain-link fence across the street and tried to climb it. But both dogs jumped up and pulled him back down. It was then, he said, that he began to accept that he might be killed.
"I'm sure they would have killed that man," said Lawrence Blackful, 60, who hit the dogs with a yard sign. "They'd go back at him again and again. They just kept coming, and I just kept swinging. That mailman was in real bad shape, I could see he was bleeding everywhere, and he couldn't get off the ground. He was at the dogs' mercy."
Finally, the neighbors' efforts drove the dogs ran back to their front step. Bloomquist, exhausted, cried out for a drink of water.
"Then I heard the gunshots go off," he said. "It was the sweetest sound that I've ever heard. Those dogs got what they deserved."
Carriers trained to be wary
Postal Service spokesman Peter Nowacki said this was the 10th dog incident this year involving Minneapolis carriers, compared to eight this time last year and 16 in all of 2009. Nationwide last year, there were 2,900 dog incidents involving mail carriers.
Nowacki said carriers are trained to recognize signs of a dangerous dog and to avoid houses with them, as Bloomquist did.
"We're talking about a guy who did absolutely everything right," Nowacki said. "That's what's frustrating for everybody...What if it was an 11-year-old girl or a 65-year-old woman bringing in groceries? What then?"
Niziolek said state statutes don't allow the city to enact breed-specific ordinances, such as the pit bull regulations in some other states. But over the past three years, he said, stricter statutes have been in place for owners of dogs that have shown themselves to be dangerous.
"It comes down to the owner being responsible for their dog," he said. "And clearly a larger dog has a greater propensity for harm."
As Bloomquist recovered in the hospital, his wife, Jenni, by his side, blood continued to seep through some of the gauze covering his wounds. Besides the punctures, he had a paw-shaped bruise on his back. He could be released from the hospital in a couple of days.
He said he'll probably stay with the Postal Service, but not likely as a carrier. He's sure of one thing, though:
"Iraq was a piece of cake compared to this."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921