Avoiding death was the only thing going through Joseph Finley's mind when two pit bulls attacked him during his early-morning jog earlier this month.
"I couldn't believe these dogs were attacking me. I couldn't believe this was happening to me," he said from a hospital bed at John H. Stroger Jr., Hospital of Cook County on Tuesday morning. "The only thing in my mind was if this is happening to me, the only thing I can do is survive. So in my mind: survive, survive."
Finley, by all accounts a healthy and strong 62-year-old man, did survive, but just barely. Doctors said he was very rough shape when he was brought in.
"It was a rough go for several days. He was on a breathing machine. He was very sick. He got a lot of blood. I mean, his injury was nearly equivalent to stepping on a landmine," said Dr. Andrew Dennis.
It seems an appropriate description. Doctors knew almost immediately they wouldn't be able to save Finley's left foot, and there was so much damage to soft tissue that it affected his kidneys.
Still, Dennis said Finley has made remarkable progress in the two weeks since the attack. So much so that doctors feel comfortable exchanging Finley's environment from the trauma unit to an area rehabilitation center.
"We always thank God when we get a good result, but I think ... this is an incredibly strong man and he did most of the work," said Dr. Kimberly Joseph.
Finley said he was just about to begin the third lap of his run along Lake Michigan at Rainbow Beach Park when he noticed the dogs. He tried to maneuver around them, he said, but they attacked.
"These were not just regular dogs. No. These dogs attacked in a way of dogs that have been trained to kill," he said, describing how the pair of dogs grabbed each foot and seemed to work in a coordinated effort to take down their victim.
The attack went on for several minutes, he said, describing that the dogs were "yanking and biting and tearing and pulling and gnawing at my body like I was a hamburger."
His ordeal ended when he heard a voice yelling at the dogs to get away. Then there were gunshots and he felt the dogs release their grips. Finley said he doesn't remember anything about a man beating the dogs with a tire thumper.
The owner of the two pit bulls has since been cited but has not had any charges lobbed against him. It's a fact that's infuriating to Finley.
"It's just a fine, but I think there should be criminal charges for this. Yes, 100 percent," he said.
Asked if there was anything he'd like to say to the dogs' owner, a clearly upset Finley thought for a moment and then declined.
"I would -- I really would not care to answer that question at this point," he said.
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