Thursday, July 17, 2008

Granny Don't Play

By David Pierce
Pocono Record Writer
July 12, 2008

STROUD TOWNSHIP — This rabid fox was crazy enough to mess with the wrong family.

Avis Blakeslee, 77, was attacked by a rabid fox Monday near her Cherry Valley Road home and came away from the confrontation with multiple bites on her right leg and left arm, severe loss of blood and four days of treatment at Pocono Medical Center.
Rabies in Monroe County

The fox was pinned to the ground by Blakeslee, held there by grandson, Matt Blakeslee, 17, and shot to death by her son, Richard Blakeslee. All this happened after Avis Blakeslee walked out of her white brick farmhouse at about 6:30 p.m. Monday to tend to her petunia garden, growing inside a tractor tire near the road.

"I had been home and eaten dinner and went out to look at the garden," she said Friday from a hospital bed set up in her home. "I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I said, 'Dog,' and it came out and bit me. When I saw it, it was right beside me. But I don't know where it came from."

The fox bit her leg first.

"I tried to shake it off my leg and it bit my arm," Blakeslee recalled. "I pushed it to the ground after it bit my arm and held its jaws shut."

Blakeslee, who takes a blood-thinning medication called Coumadin for a heart condition, began to bleed heavily.

"I'm down on my knees holding its jaw shut," she said. "Finally this one car came. I just kept my hand on the jaw and signalled with my other arm."

Andrea Bittenbender stopped to assist, grabbed a blanket out of her car and threw it over the fox's head. Then Bittenbender ran to a nearby house for help. Grandson Matt, meanwhile, heard Bittenbender's pleas for help and ran out of his house next door, just east of his grandmother's home.

"Matt ran out the door and my husband (Richard) loaded the gun," said the victim's daughter-in-law, Diane Blakeslee.

"I ran in the wood shed and grabbed the sledgehammer," said Matt, glancing over to address his grandmother. "I was ready to beat it, but you were worried I was going to hit you with it."

Matt pressed the hammer end of the sledgehammer against the fox's head, pinning the animal to the ground so his grandmother could let go. Richard Blakeslee arrived moments later and shot the fox with his 12-gauge shotgun. The entire incident lasted just a couple of minutes, Avis Blakeslee estimates.

"Most of the time if the animal becomes positive with rabies they become very docile and find a place to lie down and die," Bentzoni said.

Avis Blakeslee, who has lived in Cherry Valley since she was 10, is as surprised as anyone to be attacked by a fox.

"I had never seen a fox," she said. "I've seen a dead one once."

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