A brave dog lover broke down in tears when she saw her reflection after a Pitbull bit her nose off in an unprovoked attack – but says she still loves dogs.
Gabrielle Myers, 31, from Indiana, USA, grew up surrounded by animals, from cats and dogs to reptiles and birds.
She lived in and out of foster care until the age of nine – which left her feeling like she could bond with animals more than she could with people.
On June 11, 2017, she went to a house party at a friend’s house expecting it to be like any other night out.
Her friend had two dogs and as she was preparing to leave the party, she went into the bathroom and was greeted by the newer of the two dogs Cane, a two year old American Pitbull Terrier Mix.
As Cane excitedly jumped up to play with Gabrielle, her friend’s older dog Clyde, a five year old American Pitbull Terrier mix, decided he also wanted attention and Gabrielle invited him to jump up and play with her too.
However, instead of jumping up to play with her, Clyde jumped up and bit her in the face.
With no idea why he’d bitten her and not expecting it at all, Gabrielle covered her face with her hands and discovered that her nose had been bitten clean off.
She was taken by ambulance to the White Memorial Hospital in White County, Indiana, and then transferred by helicopter to St Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It wasn’t until she was leaving the hospital after seven days that they allowed her to see her face in a mirror without dressings. Looking at herself, she felt scared and couldn’t speak – unable to recognise herself, she stood and cried.
During her recovery, her mental health took a turn for the worse and she would sit and contemplate taking her own life.
Thankfully, she started going to therapy and on her therapist’s advice started a hair and makeup internship which gave her the confidence and outlet she needed.
Despite her newfound confidence, she admits people still make hurtful comments.
At the start of her recovery process, people told her she “looked disgusting” and asked “why would she come out looking like that” – once she even heard someone saying “if she were in my country, we would stone her”.
She says the question that hurts the most is ‘what’s wrong with your face?’
Gabrielle often takes the opportunity to educate people and replies with “there’s nothing wrong with my face, something happened and you can ask in a different way.”
Now, as a result of her TikTok popularity and ongoing determination to not let her injuries change her life, Gabrielle says she feels more confident because more people know her and her story.
“When Clyde bit me, I put my hands up to my face and circled him to make sure he wouldn’t bite me again,” said Gabrielle.
“My right hand was on my lip and I could feel it pushing up into my nostril and my left hand was covering my nose – I didn’t realise at the time my nose was hanging on because of the support from my hand.
“When I took my hand away, I pulled away what little my nose was hanging on with and it dropped to the floor.
As people started coming in I told them to put my nose on ice and thought I was going to die.
“I was asking people to tell my family that I loved them and was dropping in and out of consciousness.
“When I got to the hospital, the doctors tried to reattach my nose but the surgery failed and they had to remove it again.
“I was left with a large hole where my nose had been.
“They put me into a medically induced coma and I woke up two days later surrounded by my family
“I remember a service dog being bought around the wards and my family asked them to keep the dog away from me.
“Immediately I said I wanted to see the dog and asked for it to be put on my lap.
“I didn’t want to go back home because I had an abusive boyfriend at the time but I knew my dog, Mo, was waiting for me to come back.
“They wouldn’t let me see my face until I was due to go home. They removed the dressings and I went into the bathroom of the hospital and stood there crying.
“I couldn’t even speak, it was so hard to look at myself like that – I didn’t recognise mysel
Following her release from hospital, so far Gabrielle has undergone seven surgeries, each one with a months long recovery time.
Surgeries she’s had include skin grafts from her forehead, cartilage grafts from her ears, tissue expanders and intermittent surgeries just to rearrange previous grafts.
Her next planned surgery involves a rib graft for bone to reconstruct her nose even further.
Despite her experience, she says she still loves Pitbulls and any kind of bully breed dog, she still advocates for them and works with them.
“I’m still very comfortable around dogs and it’s encouraged me to talk with other dog advocates and ask for help when I need it when I’m working – I’ve worked at a dog shelter, I currently work at a pet store and soon I will start a new job as a dog groomer.