Pingel died eight days after rescuing son from pit bull, on what would have been Daxton’s 10th birthday
WAUSAU, Wisconsin––Heather Pingel, 35, of Bowler, Wisconsin, mauled by a pet pit bull on December 8, 2021 while rescuing her four-year-old son from attack, died eight days later at the Aspirus Wausau Hospital from injuries including amputation of both of her arms and kidney failure brought on by massive physical trauma.
Pingel died around noon, nine days before Christmas, 45 miles west of the home she shared with her family, on what would have been Daxton James Borchardt’s tenth birthday.
Two hundred miles south and a decade earlier, in Walworth, Wisconsin, Daxton Borchardt was on March 6, 2013 pulled from the arms of his babysitter, Susan Iwicki, by two pit bulls she had raised from puppyhood. Daxton was killed; Iwicki, then 30, was severely injured while trying to save him.
Outweighed by “at least 30 pounds”
Shannon Pingel told Wausau Daily Herald reporter Tom Dombeck that her sister Heather, a stay-at-home mother of two, who formerly worked at Schroeder Brothers Potatoes and the Mattoon Veneer Mill in nearby communities, was outweighed by the pit bull who killed her by “at least 30 pounds,” Dombeck wrote.
“The attack happened while Damion and Heather were home,” recounted Dombeck.. Heather’s 5-year-old daughter, Carmen Bernarde, was at school, and the children’s father, Shane Bernarde, was at his brother’s home, Shannon said.
“When Shane returned home that afternoon,” continued Dombeck, “he said Heather was in the bathroom with the door closed. She told him that Damion had fallen down the steps and she didn’t know where he was, according to a police report from the Shawano County Sheriff’s Office. After he located the boy in the living room, Shane returned to the bathroom and found the family’s pit bull attacking Heather.”
“I have no arms & I’m dying”
Said Shannon Pingel, “We don’t know how long she was in there fighting him off. Shane got home to find her lying on the bathroom floor. She said, ‘I have no arms and I’m dying.'”
Added Dombeck, “Shane told officers he grabbed the dog and pulled it outside, grabbed a pistol, and shot the dog, according to the police report. Shane was bitten by the dog as well.
The responding police officers “found Heather on the bathroom floor, struggling to breathe and unable to speak. Damion was sitting in a chair in the living room with a severe injury to his leg, the report said. The dog was dead,” Dombeck said.
The injuries to Damion Bernarde required roughly 70 stitches to close, Shannon Pingel told Dombeck.
“Couldn’t toss the pet aside”
The sequence of events apparently began when Damion fell down the stairs, detonating the pit bull, who attacked Damion but re-directed toward Heather Pingel when she ran to help her son, dragging the pit bull to the bathroom and closing the door.
. “According to the police report,” Dombeck summarized, the fatal attack “was not the first time the family’s dog had shown signs of aggression, but Shannon said Heather had a fondness for animals and couldn’t toss the pet aside.”
Despite online rumors that the pit bull who killed Heather Pingel and injured Damion Pinger and Shane Bernarde might have been rabid, “A local veterinary clinic told police the dog was up to date on its shots and did not have any known health issues,” Dombeck finished.
The rumor about rabies apparently originated because Bernarde shot the pit bull in the head, so that slides of brain tissue could not be examined by fluoroscopy for negri bodies, the bullet-shaped “cinders” left by an active rabies infection.
As after Daxton Borchardt’s death, when Iwicki and parents Jeff and Kim Borchardt were vilified online, social media following Heather Pingel’s death carried frequent filled “blame-the-victim” allegations.
Yet the only thing that Pingel, Iwicki, or the Borchardts could fairly be accused of having done wrong was believing the incessant barrage of pro-pit bull propaganda amplified by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the misleadingly named pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation, the Best Friends Animal Society, the Humane Society of the U.S., and Maddie’s Fund, among a legion of other “humane” organizations still widely trusted by the public, despite having long ago abdicated working for the safety of the hundreds of humans and thousands of other animals per year who are the victims of pit bull attacks.
Record number of Americans killed by pit bulls in 2021, with two weeks left
Heather Pingel was the fortieth pit bull-inflicted fatality in the U.S. in 2021, tying the record set in 2017. Pingel was also the record forty-first pit bull inflicted fatality in the U.S. and Canada combined.
Altogether, dogs have killed 51 persons in the U.S. and Canada thus far in 2021, six behind the 2017 record of 57.
At least 63 and possibly more than 70 pit bulls were involved in the 57 deaths.
Rottweilers have participated in killing four people, three boxers were involved in killing one, Cane corsos and huskies have been involved in killing two people each, seven other breeds have been involved in one fatality each, and the dogs responsible for two fatalities have not been identified.
Two more killed while Heather Pingel was hospitalized
Unfortunately, pit bulls participated in killing two other Americans just during the eight days Heather Pingel was hospitalized.
Lori Martin, 60, of Anchorage, Alaska, visiting family in Cherrydale, South Carolina, on December 9, 2021 was fatally mauled while apparently trying to break up a fight among three boxers and a pit bull, Sumter County sheriff Anthony Davis told media.
Two other dogs in the home did not appear to have been involved.
Duke Little Whirlwind, Sr.
Duke Little Whirlwind, Sr. 58, was found dead on December 12, 2021 in Lame Deer, Montana, on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, the victim of a pit bull attack that relatives and acquaintances alleged to media was inadequately investigated.
Last seen picking up his bicycle from a repair shop at about 11 a.m., Duke Little Whirlwind, Sr. was killed just minutes later.
Said the Bureau of Indian Affairs in a prepared statement released to media on December 16, 2021, at about the same time Heather Pingel died, “On December 12, Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services law enforcement responded to a report of a person being attacked by dogs. When officers located the individual, there were no dogs present.
“No dogs have been located”
“The Rosebud County Sheriff/Coroner also responded,” the statement said. “Following a preliminary autopsy, it was determined the cause of death was an attack by canines, with drugs and alcohol as contributing factors. To date, no dogs have been located or captured. The case remains open and under investigation by law enforcement.”
But Avalee Little Whirlwind, 49, niece of the victim, did not buy that, and neither did 40-year Lame Deer resident Tom MexicanCheyenne.
“My brother George saw him lying there, all of his clothes ripped off, naked,” Avalee Little Whirlwind told Casey Conlon of KTVQ television in Billings, Montana. “He was face down, and those dogs were still running around.”
“They just ran around all night”
Summoned to the scene, Avalee Little Whirlwind reportedly brought a .22 caliber rifle with her to shoot the dogs. A confrontation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs police reportedly ended with Avalee Little Whirlwind in handcuffs, though she was not charged, her rifle confiscated, and the dogs still in the vicinity, led by a female pit bull whom Avalee Little Whirlwind said had recently birthed puppies.
“They just ran around there all night,” Avalee Little Whirlwind alleged.
The next day, Avalee Little Whirlwind told reporters, the dogs’ owners shot four dogs, including the female pit bull, who appeared to have participated in the attack on Duke Little Whirlwind, Sr.
“They say it isn’t their responsibility”
Dog attacks on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation are “a very big problem,” Avalee Little Whirlwind told Conlon. “People walk around with scars on them. There have been near-death experiences.”
Affirmed Tom MexicanCheyenne, “The attacks are reported to law enforcement, but nothing ever gets done. They say it isn’t their responsibility.”
Julia Charging Whirlwind, 49, of the Lower Swift Bear community on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, about 100 miles southeast of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, was in March 2015 killed in a similar broad daylight attack by a free-roaming pack including multiple pit bulls.
The dog attack fatality rate on U.S. Native American reservations, relative to human numbers, is about 100 times that of the U.S. as a whole, and has tripled since 2016, coinciding with an influx of pit bull genetics into the traditionally free-roaming reservation dog population.