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A finger, but it feels like more

Published January 5, 2007

Rose Manzella speaks to media Thursday, two days after she was mauled by two dogs when she tried to protect her own dog from them.
[Times photo: Lance Aram Rothstein]
Pit bulls
Should pit bullterriers be outlawed?
Yes, they are a naturally dangerous breed.
No, owners and breeders make dogs vicious.
Any dog can be dangerous; it should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Beneath the shock and pain and OxyContin, instinct took control. Rose Manzella had lost something, and no measure of logic could persuade her to let it go.

"I want my finger back," she said Thursday, waving her bandaged hands. "I don't care what they say."

Two dogs mauled Manzella on Tuesday. She is 42, single, small and intense, with arteries that run like rivulets down her well-toned arms.

She was walking her chow chow, Scooby-Doo, along the country road near her home in northwestern Pasco County when the dogs attacked. Authorities said they were pit bullterriers. They came after Scooby-Doo first, and when Manzella stepped in they came after her.

"Get away!" she yelled, pointing.

One dog bit her right middle finger, sheared it off at the middle joint, dropped it in the grass.

The assault intensified. The dogs knocked her to the ground, biting her hands. She screamed.

"Help! Help!"

Rick Moore, an off-duty lieutenant for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, heard the commotion and ran out of his house. He beat the dogs down with an umbrella. He called 911. He found Manzella's finger and put it in a plastic bag.

Rescuers took her first to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, then to the hand-surgery center at Lake Butler Hospital north of Gainesville. Doctors treated more than 60 puncture wounds on her hands, but they told her the finger was too damaged to reattach.

"They wanted to throw it out," she recalled. "And I insisted they not throw it out."

She was back home now, with tan gauze covering both hands. Hair-washing and leg-shaving were out of the question. Doorknob-turning was a mountainous challenge. She had to bite the wrapper off an energy bar before she could eat it. She kept thinking about the finger.

The human body longs to be whole. The urge transcends rational thought. Manzella believed her finger was still at the hospital in Lake Butler, being tested for disease.

She wanted to go get it. She didn't know what she would do with it if she had it. Preserve it somehow. Hold tight to a filament of hope.

Sometime after 1 p.m., she went back to where it happened, this time without Scooby-Doo, who was not badly injured. The sky was gray-white and the breeze was soft. A nearby metal gate still bore her bloodstains.

The dogs had been captured and taken to a county shelter. They will probably be killed if no one claims them. No one has.

Manzella couldn't stop talking about finding their owners. She would have demands.


Jail time?


"They should come up with a finger for me."

Thomas Lake can be reached at or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

Tip line

Whose dogs are they?

The dogs that attacked Rose Manzella on Kelly Road in Shady Hills on Tuesday are awaiting their fate at the county shelter in Land O'Lakes. One is white with brown patches on his head; one is black with a white patch on her throat. Anyone with information about who owns them is asked to call Pasco County Animal Services at 727 834-3216. Callers may remain anonymous.

[Last modified January 5, 2007, 00:24:11]

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