The Truth About Gus

Amber Banner

 

 

 

 

 

To everyone involved with and following the "Gus" case. I am Amber Rickles, owner of “Dogs By Nature”, LLC. Up until now you may have thought you were speaking to me, but you were not.

I solely own and operate my business. I do not have employees as suggested in statements. I run this business out of my home that sits on 5 acres.  I had to claim what I do as a “business” starting this year because it had expanded to that point.  By law, it was considered a “hobby” before this year. I do this business because I dearly love my clients and their dogs. I have never advertised until this year. I expanded from 5 clients to 98 in five years just by word of mouth. To learn more about me, please go to my website, lettingdogsbedogs.com

I was asked to stay silent by my lawyers until all of this was resolved in court. I have decided to write this, however, so that everyone can read the truth, all together and in one place. What I am going to write has already been documented in court, so you can see the proof for yourself. I am repeating in this letter how all of this came to be, including my relation with Jenny and Gus and the attack that took place on February 7th of this year. 

Keep in mind Jenny and Gus are the only 2 I have ever met. I have never met or even seen Sue, Dana, or anyone else who claims to know what happened from the Gus side. I saw Manda Boone once when she rode with Jenny to pick up Apollo (the first dog I boarded for Jenny) and then in court, but I’ve never actually “met” her. She was there to “represent” Jenny. She asked me some questions, but because she wasn’t a legal representative (ie, not an attorney), I do not believe she was quoted in the court docket. I am not familiar with how that part of the system works. I am learning as I go with this. 

Why Jenny did not have a lawyer at that time to represent Gus was her decision. She had time to get one. That is something you will have to ask her personally.

For my side, Lilly and Charla are very long time friends and past coworkers of mine who came to my defense when I was not allowed to speak or respond. Their statements are based on what they remember when all of this first happened. They were the first people I spoke to outside of my family when I was in the hospital following the attack. Others have chosen to defend me because they believe I am being wronged. Minda (the Director of Montgomery County Animal Shelter where Gus is being held) has chosen to speak about Gus's behavior in the shelter, and her account of his behavior confirms that he is very aggressive. Please note, I have not seen Gus since the attack.

Sometime in early January 2013, Jenny contacted me, saying she got my name and number from her poop scooping company which I have used in the past. She explained to me that she was starting a Pit Bull rescue and was looking for places that would be willing to board a few she took in. She said she was full at her house. She also said she was a trainer, and that she would be in charge of their training and rehabilitation while with they were with me if I decided to work with her. We talked for a while on the phone.

I explained to her that I typically give a discounted rate of $10 a day to rescues because I had to charge for the space they were taking. I was under contract at that time with another rescue to hold 5 spots a month for their dogs, so I explained to her that I wouldn’t be able to take more than one at a time. I also told her that, due to being very busy during holidays, she would have to board them elsewhere during those times so that I would have room for my clients' dogs. She said she understood.

 She went on to tell me about a foster she had named Apollo that she needed to put somewhere. I agreed to take him for free since this was the first time we were working together. If for some reason it wasn’t a good fit for either of us no one was out anything. Plus it was a slow time so I didn’t mind helping.  Apollo came the following week and stayed for about 10-14 days. (I don’t remember exact dates with him.) He was a great dog. He seemed ok with my dogs and didn’t really seem to have any prey drive whatsoever. She picked him up a time or two for adoptions and then decided she was going to keep him at her house to make room for another one she had coming named Lady. 

I agreed to take Lady, again for free. The night before she was going to bring Lady, she said she acquired another pittie named Gus and he also needed somewhere to go.  He was currently at the vet being neutered and vetted. I agreed to take him as well, but she had to pay for him since he was unexpected and I had really only agreed to do one at a time. She agreed. 

She brought Lady and Gus on the evening of January 28th. I had a client picking up their dogs, so I asked her to wait to bring her 2 out. After my clients left, Jenny brought me to her car, where Gus was leashed to the seat belt in the front seat and Lady was leashed the same way in the 3rd row seat. She had stated they had never met so she tied them up for the ride. I agreed it was probably a good idea. Gus seemed scared and shy but he had just come from the vet so I didn’t think anything of it. Lady was quiet but happy and much more alert than Gus. She said Lady came from someone who found her on the road and could not keep her. 

I had told Jenny at that time that 2 of my other fosters were removed a week before because they ganged up on another dog and almost killed it. She asked what happened to them. I told her that their rescue group opted to euthanize them because they didn’t want the liability of them actually killing a dog.

 At this point, I will interject an explanation of why I had a taser in the first place, since  I have seen a lot of questions and speculations. Here is the TRUTH. That fight between the foster dogs I just mentioned was the worst I had ever had to break up. I am by myself aside from my 4yr old son during the day. So after that fight, my husband was concerned about me being alone if another fight were to break out. We went over every precaution to take and reinforced all of our gates. We also talked about defense for me and the other dogs. He was adamant that I get a taser. A taser wouldn’t permanently injure a dog; it would just stop them long enough to pull everyone apart and separate them. I was hesitant but after reviewing my options, I agreed.

 After talking a little longer, we brought Lady in and got her all set up in her kennel.  She seemed very happy. Jenny always brought bedding, toys, food and usually one of her shirts to leave with the dogs. Jenny always set their kennels up before she left. After setting up Lady’s “spot”, she loved on her and got her settled in.

She then went to bring in Gus. Gus was a bit more timid but willing to follow us inside. I held his leash while Jenny got the kennel set up. Not wanting to overwhelm him, I just petted him slowly while we waited. I noticed at that time that he seemed very focused on the other dogs. As always, Jenny set up the bed, toys, food and one of her shirts. She loved on Gus a little then put him in the kennel. We talked a little about when she would return. She wasn’t sure of the next adoption event date at that time. 

For the first 4 days, Lady really came into her own wanting to run and play. She was a real sweetheart. Gus was also coming into his own but in a different way. I noticed him constantly watching the other dogs. It was not like Lady's “play interest” but more like he was “studying” them. It made me a bit uncomfortable, so I started letting him out when I had all of the other dogs put up. 

He also began barking and lunging at the front of his kennel when dogs walked by. So I decided to move him into a plastic crate instead of the wire one he was in. I have found that plastic crate doors are a little more reliable for dogs that try to get out. I also moved the crate away from other dogs across the room. I would cover the door to try and lessen his barking and lunging.  

I tested my thoughts on dog aggression with my own dog who has trained with me for 7yrs. He is my Cesar’s “Daddy” if you will. I put Gus in one yard and I let my dog out in a different yard. The 2 yards have a walk way between them so they were not nose to nose. The second Gus saw my dog, he ran and hit my fence so hard that he bent the wire. He proceeded to bark and pull at the fencing with his teeth. 

I tried getting his attention, but he was way too focused on my dog, so I put my dog up. It took Gus a while before he calmed down enough to stop running the fence looking for my dog, so that I felt comfortable going in the yard with him to bring him inside. I waited until he acknowledged I was at the gate. I brought him to the door of the dog room, but he started getting worked up again because he could hear the dogs inside.

I decided it would be best to just take him back to the yard and allow him more time to calm down. I then decided to go in and get some treats. Gus LOVES treats. I walked around with him a little while in the yard giving him treats and talking to him. When he finally calmed down, he actually seemed happy for the first time. I thought to myself, "Great! Treats are the key with him!!" I leashed him and gave him treats as we walked into the dog room. I noticed he was tense, but he followed me in fine. He kenneled as I was giving him treats, and after that he was good. 

That next day, Sunday February 3rd, I wanted to test how responsive he was with the treats during his aggression. I set up the same scenario as the day before with him and my dog. He had the same reaction - hitting and pulling at the fence. I tried calling him and shook the box of treats but I didn’t get a response. He remained focused on my dog in the other yard. 

I decided to end the session and went inside to call Jenny. Since she didn’t answer, I sent her a text explaining that I was not comfortable keeping Gus here with his escalating level of dog aggression. I explained to her that I had him going out alone, and that I had even changed the crate he was staying in for added security. She finally responded with, “Can I have a couple days to find an alternative place for him?” I said that I would give her until the end of the day on Monday, February 4th, to pick him up.

Please note - Jenny never asked to come observe him! She never even seemed surprised at the information I had given her. She never said he played with other dogs at Sue’s house and she never said he was afraid of crates! 

By Wednesday, February 6th, I still had not heard from her. I tried calling but she still did not answer. Again, I sent her a text asking when she was getting Gus. No response. I finally sent the message that if he was not gone by Friday the 8th, I was going to be forced to take him back to the vet he was at before he came to me. 

On Thursday, February 7th, around 7:40am, I went to get Gus from outside and bring him inside to put him in his kennel. While he was loading up, one of his left front toes (which was not previously injured as suggested by some) got squeezed by the kennel door. I reached down with my left hand to help him get his toe out. After getting his toe out he bit onto my left wrist and would not release it.

I kicked him in hopes of getting him off my wrist. He let go only to jump up for my neck. Since I jerked my head back, he ended up latching onto my left breast. His two front feet were on my stomach as he shook vigorously trying to pull me down. With him still attached to me, I somehow got him backed up into my laundry area that connects to the house from the garage. During this struggle he ripped off that part of the jacket and I quickly shut him in the laundry area.

I then became fearful that my four year old son might open the door if he heard the commotion and thought it was mommy trying to get in. I decided to get a leash to try and catch him as he came out the door. Before I could get to a leash, he busted through the doors and turned to attack a dog that was in a kennel, “Stryker”. He latched onto the dog’s nose through the kennel door and was trying to pull him through. I grabbed my taser from the laundry area to get him off of the dog.

The moment he released Stryker, he turned around and latched onto my right arm, violently shaking and trying to pull my arm off. I felt my arm break. I tried tasing him again to get him to let go of me, but he would not release.

The only thoughts going through my head were that I needed to stay on my feet because if I fell he would kill me, and to stay as quiet as possible so that my son would not wander in wondering what was happening. I let him thrash and pull on my broken arm without fighting him. I made my arm “dead” hoping he would think he killed the "prey” and let go but it didn’t work. 

During this struggle, I happened to look up out the window and see my neighbors across the street. I realized my only option for survival was to drag him still attached vigorously thrashing me out of my garage where I could yell for help. My neighbors heard me screaming, and they ran and jumped my fence to find him attacking me. All three of the men proceeded to punch him repeatedly in the head to get him to release me. The dog was not responding to this so one of the men ended up sticking his own hand around the dogs mouth so that Gus would bite his own cheeks.

Once Gus released my arm, the men pulled me away and into the front yard. This whole event was approximately 20 horrifying minutes. 911 was called by one of the men. I went inside to get my son and my phone. I came back outside and collapsed. I called my husband to come home and directed the other guys to call my mom and sister. 

I was taken to Memorial Herman Trauma center downtown. The Woodlands hospital had directed the EMT’s to do so. I tried calling Jenny numerous times from the ambulance. I left messages and sent her texts. Once I was stable, I tried again to call Jenny but got no answer. 

I got to the hospital around 9 am. I finally sent a picture, one of the ones you all have seen, to Jenny around 1:30. She called back immediately, and her words were (and I quote): “Where is Gus?”  I was shocked. I said I didn’t know, but for her to call my sister since she was at my house. 

I was in the hospital 7 days and had 3 surgeries. Jenny never contacted me once to check on me while I was there. In the end, the two broken bones in my right arm received one plate and four pins to fix the bone, and approximately 50 stitches to close the wound. Left arm received multiple punctures resulting in 8 stitches, and my left breast required 6 stitches to close.  

Let me also add that when I was in the hospital, I was trying to contact Jenny to pick up Lady from my house. On top of everything, I was trying to get all the dogs moved out because I was not there to take care of them. My sister was familiar with my client dogs, but I didn’t want her to be responsible for the fosters. The other rescue responded promptly and removed their dogs. 

I never heard from Jenny about Lady. If she, and the others, were so concerned that I abused dogs why didn’t she rush over to get Lady? Also I want to point out that not once did Jenny ask what happened, or why Gus attacked me. NOT ONCE! She had no idea what happened until the day of court, which was held at the end of February. 

After court is when she and the others started accusing me of abusing Gus. I stand firm that I was defending myself from a dog that was trying to KILL me. He was not on defense. He was in kill mode. It took 3 grown men beating him to get him off me.  I don’t know how long it took for him to settle back down, since I was gone in the ambulance by then. I don’t know why his foot getting caught set him off. It’s not like it was injured or was caught for more than 2-3 seconds.

The last communication I had with Jenny was a text she sent me reading, “Hi sweetie. I hope you are feeling better. I see you deposited the $300 I gave you for Gus and I will need that back.”  Again I was shocked. My husband sent her a response back explaining that I had no health insurance, and that we needed to concentrate on medical bills, not giving her back the $300 for the dog that mauled his wife. He told her not to contact me again. She said she deserved that money back because Gus didn’t stay the whole month.

 Now why do I want him humanely euthanized? I feel placing Gus in isolation where he will be in a run or even an “outside sanctuary” yard is cruel. It's just a nicer jail. I feel that euthanizing him is the right thing to do because he is mentally not right. The money that would be spent on his “sanctuary” would be better used on ADOPTABLE dogs needing medical attention. Or perhaps take that money to help the shelters and local rescues.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, not all can be saved.

Some animals cannot be safely handled, and accidents happen. I believe an accident was waiting to happen with Gus. I am, in a way “ok”, (for lack of a better phrase) that he mauled me, and was not in a home that God forbid had kids or someone less skilled to handle his mauling.  Dogs like Gus don’t choose how they react, they just react. When it’s deadly force, I am not ok with a sanctuary. Accidents happen there too. I am not ok with a dog that tried killing me being placed somewhere that he will be given the opportunity to hurt someone else. I understand the difference between a defensive bite and an all out attack.

Unless you have been in my shoes, which is being mauled by a dog over half your body weight while being afraid to make noise so that your child doesn’t walk in and see, then you have no right to judge. You can’t judge someone on how to defend their life unless you have been in that same situation.

 As for The Lexus Project, it seems you have done some good things. If you feel laws need to be changed for the betterment of the dogs that are mislabeled then go for it.  But Gus is not mislabeled. I wish you were not lied to in order to get you involved. Gus is not the right dog to use for advancements in your cause. I know you probably don’t care at this point because you have invested so much already. I just wish you would pick a dog that really needs help, not Gus.

- Amber

Note from the Webmaster: . Amber who has had financial difficulties due to astronomical medical bills, time lost from work, and a business trashed by all character assassinations from Gus supporters.  If you would like to help, please consider donating something to  Amber's YouCaring Fundraiser