Las Vegas Family Dog Kills Baby on First Birthday

| by Denise A Justin

Little Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan's died Saturday, April 28, just hours after being attacked by his family's Mastiff-mix dog while celebrating his first birthday in Henderson, Nevada, a suburban city in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

Jeremiah spent Friday, April 27, celebrating with his father, grandmother and other family members in their sprawling Henderson home on Navarre Lane, near Arroyo Grande Boulevard.  He and the 120-pound family dog, Onion--said to be a Mastiff-Rhodesian Ridgeback Mix-- had played together all day.

Jeremy unwrapped presents with the docile dog. Jeremiah and Onion were both celebrating birthdays because Onion had just turned 6 years old. They both received toys (Onion got doggy toys that squeak).

Onion became part of the family when he was a pup and assumed the role of an emotional-therapy dog, helping Jeremiah's grandmother keep her spirits up when she was suffering from lung cancer, Jeremiah's father, Christopher Shahan, 29, said.  Onion "was the only thing that ... kept her strong," he told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Little Jeremiah had been around the huge dog since he was born. Onion would "lick his face. He never growls; never snaps at him. I never thought that dog would do anything to my baby."

On that night, Jeremiah was exhausted. "We were just about to put him to bed." It was around 10 p.m., when it happened, said Chris Shahan, who shares custody of Jeremiah with the baby's mother.

Jeremiah's grandmother said she gave the baby a bottle and laid him down in the living room. But Jeremiah wanted to kiss Onion goodnight again.  He crawled over--as he had done many times--and grabbed onto the big dog’s fur to help himself stand up.  His grandmother then leaned over to pick up Jeremiah.

Onion suddenly attacked, latching his jaws around the baby’s head and viciously shaking him back and forth. Jeremiah's grandmother struggled to free the baby from the dog’s mouth but could not get the Mastiff to release him. Shahan said he heard the commotion from upstairs and raced down to try to rescue his son.

"I got the dog off the baby right away," he said. "I tried to save my baby."

Although the entire event only lasted about 30 seconds, Jeremiah’s face was torn completely off and his neck was broken.  In a video interview with the Las Vegas Journal-Review, Chris Esham described how Jeremiahs jaw and chin were crushed and his entire face was ripped to the bone.  He said there were pieces of bone scattered around.  Eshan said tearfully that it was unlikely that Jeremiah could ever have been normal again.

Paramedics responded to the home, and initially Jeremiah was rushed to Siena Campus of-St. Rose Dominican Hospital but he was soon airlifted to the Trauma Unit of  University Medical Center. At around 1:45 a.m. on Saturday morning; the toddler succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

"I feel like I'm in a zombie state," Shahan told reporters on Saturday evening.  “Jeremiah was the best thing I've ever had in my life. He was the best baby. He always smiled, always. He will be missed,” Shahan said softly as he struggled not to cry.

Shahan had no idea why Onion suddenly snapped. The dog had never been aggressive toward anyone and loved Jeremiah, Shahan said.

The family voluntarily relinquished ownership of Onion to animal control officers, who took the dog to the city's animal shelter. The police reported that there were no signs Onion was neglected, and records show there have been no complaints regarding the dog in the past. A police official said the dog is being declared vicious and will be euthanized after a 10-day observation period to determine whether he has rabies.

Eshan said Onion showed no awareness that he had done anything wrong and immediately returned to his normal calm, friendly nature after the attack.  He left with the animal control officers, thinking he was going for a walk, he added.

Shahan had a warning for other families who have dogs and babies. "Always be careful," even if you trust your dog, he said as he choked back tears. "I trusted my dog, and now I don't have a baby or a dog."