Heather Pingel died eight days after attack

The sister of a Wisconsin woman is calling her a “hero” after she saved her 4-year-old son from an attack by the family’s dog earlier this month. 

Heather Pingel was rushed to Aspirus Wausau Hospital following the Dec. 8 attack at the family’s home in Bowler. She died of injuries suffered eight days later on Dec. 16. 

“I just want people to know she died a hero,” Shannon Pingel said of her sister. “I hate that this happened, but I’m thankful she saved my nephew … she is the best mom. She did everything for her babies.”

Heather Pingel holds her cousin's baby.

Her son, Damion Bernarde, received about 70 stitches to his leg after he was attacked, but is back home from the hospital.

A Shawano County sheriff’s report says when Damion’s father, Shane Bernarde, returned home that afternoon, he found the family’s pit bull attacking Heather in the bathroom, Wausau Daily Herald Media reports.

After locating their son in the living room, Bernarde grabbed the dog, pulled it outside and fatally shot it. The father was bitten as well.

“If you saw Heather you saw the kids too, especially Damion. From the day he was born he was attached to mom’s hip. Such a mommy’s boy. She will always be our hero and will forever be missed,” Shannon said.

Shannon said her sister lost her arms as a result of the attack. There was also lung damage, before subsequent infections to her lungs and kidneys. 

Family members theorize that because the dog was skittish when loud noises happened or when things went by him quickly, the animal likely attacked after Damion fell down some stairs and started crying.

The sheriff’s report said it wasn’t the first time the dog had shown signs of aggression. Shannon said there was only one prior incident at least six years ago, but it was not aggression toward a child. 

“She was worried he would get killed if taken to a shelter. He wasn’t a scary, aggressive animal. We all were around him, which is why this is all so unbelievable,” Shannon said.

The family has a GoFundMe set up to assist with medical bills, funeral costs and raising Heather’s two children.

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