An Upcountry woman was holding up her 5 1/2-pound Pomeranian puppy, trying to keep it away from a charging pit bull, when she said she was attacked by the pit bull Tuesday afternoon in an Olinda pine forest.
"It started chewing my arms," Kathy Munsen said, recounting the attack that occurred around 5:30 p.m. "It took half my forearm in its mouth. I kept turning in circles because I didn't want it to get my dog. Everywhere I turned, it was pawing at me or trying to bite me."
While her year-old spayed puppy, Bijoux, wasn't injured, Munsen was helped out of the forest by a nurse who happened to be hiking in the area, Munsen said. Police also responded, and she was taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center. She required 20 stitches to her right arm and 10 to 15 stitches on her left arm, she said, and also suffered bruises and scrape marks, including a claw mark down her back.
She was planning to see a plastic surgeon for additional medical treatment.
Munsen said she was speaking publicly about what happened in hopes that it would help raise awareness about the potential dangers of unleashed dogs.
"This is happening too much," she said. "I just think that it needs to change. People need to become more responsible."
Marty Davis, director of field operations for the Maui Humane Society, said Friday that the agency was investigating Munsen's accusations, and talking to witnesses, "so we can take appropriate action."
He said animal control officers began contacting people Thursday, after receiving an anonymous complaint Wednesday, and heard from Munsen on Friday.
"We know where the dog's at," Davis said. "It's tied up and contained properly. There's no threat to society."
When she was attacked, Munsen said she had been hiking with her leashed dog at Waihou Springs State Forest Reserve at the top of Olinda Road.
She said she decided to take her dog to the reserve after reading in The Maui News about a July 2 dog attack that fatally injured another dog at Baldwin Beach Park in Paia.
"I was really moved by that article," Munsen said. "It also made me realize I wouldn't go down there with my dog."
Munsen said she has been hiking for about 15 years in the forest, which has a sign at the entrance saying dogs should be leashed. She said she has seen unleashed dogs in the forest before.
She was nearing the end of the trail when she could see a dog and people in the distance. She said her dog barked once before she turned around to go back to avoid the other dog.
"It came charging up this hill," she said. "It jumped on me. So I was trying to have it not attack my puppy, which is what it wanted. I raised my arms up and held my dog up."
Before the dog reached her, "I was screaming, 'Get your dog, take your dog,' " Munsen said. "There were four or five people around this dog, and nobody did anything. I couldn't believe it. Finally, the woman who owned the dog came and pulled it off me."
The dog was a blue nose pit bull, Munsen said. "It was huge - a big, muscular, powerful dog."
A nurse from Bakersfield, Calif., who happened to be in the forest while vacationing on Maui, helped Munsen, making a tourniquet to stop her bleeding and helping to support her so she was able to walk out of the forest.
"She's like some kind of angel," Munsen said. "During that whole time, I was terrified that the dog would come running back up and try to attack me again. I felt kind of faint. I had been shaking.
"It's absolutely terrifying. You're defenseless," she said.
On Friday morning, Munsen said she was calling the Maui Humane Society to report the attack. At the same time, she said someone from the agency was calling her after being contacted by the pit bull owner.
Munsen declined to identify the dog owner.
"I make no judgment call about that dog," Munsen said. "I just really feel like it's the owner's responsibility to keep the dog leashed. It's not really the dog's fault."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.