A United States Army veteran heroically saved the life of a young girl — with the help of a Christmas lawn decoration — after she was viciously attacked by a pit bull over the weekend.
Leonard Miller was in the right place at the right time when his 13-year-old neighbor came running to his door on Sunday afternoon, desperately asking him to help rescue her younger sister from a dog that lived in the siblings’ house, IndeOnline reports.
“I run to the door, and she says, ‘The dog has got ahold of my sister and he won’t let go,’” Miller, 88, recalled to the outlet, noting that he was in the kitchen when he heard the girl frantically knocking and screaming for help.
Without thinking, Miller instantly headed next door with the girl — but soon realized he should have brought a weapon with him to defend himself against the vicious dog.
“I run right with her up there, not thinking I should have a weapon,” he explained. “So all I saw was a nutcracker up there.”
With nothing else in his possession to protect himself, Miller grabbed the approximately three-foot Nutcracker Christmas decoration that was propped on the lawn outside of his neighbor’s Stark County, Ohio home.
What happened next was a blur of panic, desperation and quick action as the veteran attempted to intervene on the brutal attack with the nutcracker.
“I went inside and that dog had that little girl down on the floor. Just growling, just shaking her,” Miller recalled to IndeOnline. “He had her arm and was shaking her like a dog would grab a wild animal and shake it, kill it.”
“I hit the dog in the head three or four times, and it wouldn’t let loose,” he added.
When that didn’t work, Miller, who served as a combat medic in Korea, knew he had to get a little more aggressive with the canine so he began to hit it on its back a few more times.
Finally, the dog released its grip on the 10-year-old girl. The sisters immediately ran out of the house as Miller slowly backed away from the animal and followed the girls, all while authoritatively telling the pit bull, “No! No! No!”
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Surprisingly, the dog did not fight back and allowed Miller to escape the residence — at one point, even seemingly showing signs of remorse with his head down, according to the veteran.
“He didn’t growl at me. I thought that was unusual!” he pointed out.
Miller then met the girls at his own home, where he assisted the 10-year-old and called an ambulance for her.
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At this time, the girl’s condition remains unknown, but Stark County officials told IndeOnline that she suffered severe injuries to her left arm.
Meanwhile, the pit bull remained at the Perry Township home overnight, but was surrendered by the owner to the Stark County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The girl’s mother reportedly told officers that the dog belonged to a man who was living in the home, according to IndeOnline.
Major C.J. Stantz with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the outlet that the pit bull was deemed vicious after their visit to the owner’s home on Monday. Perry Police Chief Mike Pomesky also said that the attack was unprovoked.
Officers followed the Ohio Revised Code, which states that a “vicious dog” is considered to be a dog that has killed or caused serious injury to a person without provocation. Authorities are unable to take the dog from the owner or residence; only owners have the option to surrender the dog.
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“As a police officer, we can recommend,” Stantz told IndeOnline. “We can strongly recommend to the homeowner and give them some scenarios. Ultimately, it’s the property owner’s decision what they do with the dog … We can’t violate their rights.”
Pomesky and a spokesperson for the Stark County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
In the wake of the incident, Miller, who still uses the treadmill and lifts weights to stay in shape, said he feels grateful to have been in the right place when the young girl needed him.
“I’m glad I was here to help,” he told IndeOnline, adding that the 10-year-old reminded him of his own children when they used to play in the front yard. “I don’t know what would have happened.”