A PERTH model finds it tough to look in the mirror and feels like her dreams have been crushed after her face was “ripped up” in a horrific dog attack during a camping trip in WA’s South West.
Suzel Mackintosh, who lives in London, recalled the terrifying moment a friend’s Staffordshire-pitbull cross savagely locked on to her face and started shaking her “like I was an animal it was trying to kill”.
The 23-year-old animal lover was camping near Pemberton with about 10 mates on New Year’s Eve when soon after the midnight countdown she went to a friend’s car to get her bag and patted his dog, which she had been playing with the day before.
Without warning or provocation, the dog lurched at her face, with the brutal attack itself over in seconds. But almost six months later, Suzel is still living with the physical and mental scars and likely will be for the rest of her life.
“I was just in complete shock, I froze … I’ve never seen an animal’s eyes turn like that. It just sat there, changed and then just went for me,” Suzel said.
“When it let go I fell backwards and my instant reaction was to feel my face and I could feel the holes and could feel part of my nose was hanging off.
“I ran to another friend’s car and looked straight in the mirror and then I was like, ‘Oh my God, no one’s ever going to love me again’.”
Suzel’s friends used a first aid kit to wrap up her bloody face, but the group was about an hour away from mobile reception. It was nearly two hours before she reached the nearest hospital. Her face was then stitched up and she underwent basic plastic surgery, but now the former Leeming schoolgirl is trying to save for a second round of reconstructive surgery.
Suzel said the attack left her looking like The Joker, and nerve damage had paralysed one side of her upper lip, meaning she couldn’t smile properly.
“This has changed my life completely. I have to look in the mirror all the time and see scars on my face,” she said. “Modelling was a big dream and one that I was working towards, and now I feel it’s just been completely shattered because of this.”
Suzel is still hoping she can make her mark on the modelling world, but knows her face will never be the same regardless of how much surgery she has.
“I still want to try, maybe I can make scars look kind of cool,” she said. “It’s just made it a lot harder to do, because my lip just doesn’t go up and it looks really funny.
“The main thing is I just want my face to go back to normal so I can smile properly. But I know it’s not going to go back to the way it was. It’s more improving it rather than fixing it.”
Suzel has also had to contend with cruel taunting about her looks from online trolls. “They don’t know the full story … and it makes me feel really insecure,” she said.
But she said what has disappointed her most is the lack of remorse or any offer of support from the dog’s owner. “He didn’t even really say sorry, he sent me a message saying I feel bad for what’s happened, but please know my dog is not vicious … and then removed me from his Facebook,” Suzel said, adding she has not heard from him since.
Suzel also admits to descending into a dark place of depression during her ordeal — even contemplating “not being around any more” — but she wouldn’t have been able to get through it without her family and friends. The financial toll has also hit hard, with mounting medical bills not covered by Medicare, being out of work for three months and losing her apartment in London.
She said she still suffers anxiety, with flashbacks of the attack randomly hitting her, and is frightened to be around big dogs. She realises all the insecurities she had before pale in comparison with what she faces now.