By Derik Hicks
An 8-year-old boy named Roddie Philip Dumas Jr. was fatally mauled by his father’s three pit bulls while innocently playing in his grandmother’s fenced-in yard in Charlotte on April 16, 2004. Tameaka Brown, Roddie’s mom, first learned about it while she was at work and was 7 1/2 months pregnant. The pain that Brown experienced is indescribable, and the void left by the loss of her beloved son remains.
As she grappled with the devastating tragedy, Brown said she couldn’t ignore the staggering statistics surrounding dog bites, attacks and fatalities. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U, S. each year, although the vast majority of incidents go unreported. In 2021, there were 81 fatal dog attacks during 2021, and children account for a high percentage of all bite-related deaths, according to Dogsbite.org,
When Brown was grieving the death of her son, she said it was a “horrific time” in her life. “I didn’t want people to forget this sweet, angel-of-a-boy that I had, named Roddie,” she said. So, during her time of grief, she founded Roddie Jr.’s Watchdog Foundation Inc. (RJWF) — a beacon of hope rising from unimaginable darkness. Unable to bring her son back, Brown found solace in knowing she could honor Roddie’s precious life by playing a vital role in preventing similar tragedies and heartbreaking losses.
RJWF’s mission and objectives
The uninformed might think RJWF is some sort of dog-hating organization, that’s hell-bent on eradicating pit bulls from the face of the earth. That’s far from the truth. RJWF champions responsible dog ownership and advocates for the safety of our youth. “We want to minimize dog bites and fatalities to our youth in the United States,” Brown explained.
By equipping children with the knowledge, skills and empathy needed to interact safely with dogs, RJWF Inc. empowers families to become responsible and compassionate pet owners. Through interactive workshops, engaging resources, and community events, they impart valuable information that promotes positive relationships between humans and dogs. Additionally, their website (roddiewatchdog.org) offers a wealth of resources such as educational materials, articles and videos, that provide a comprehensive guide to responsible dog ownership.
“We are trying to partner with the community to do our due diligence to make sure that we are protecting what’s ours,” said Brown. “By doing your part and following simple rules, you can change the dynamic of life or death. Most dog owners find it hard to believe their beloved pets can inflict harm. But according to RJWF, 80 percent of the bites come from a family pet or a pet that you know. If you’re thinking “not my dog,” you better think again, Brown said. “Your dog might not bite you. But who’s to say it might not bite someone else?”
Darrell Bonapart, a member of RJWF’s board of directors, is a dog owner himself. “This is about education. Enjoy our loving pets. Let’s make sure that we’re getting all the knowledge we need to have to ensure that our children don’t get harmed,” Bonapart said. “Something that might feel worse than death, is being permanently deformed, disabled, disfigured, or traumatized by surviving a dog attack.”
Dog bites can have lasting physical and emotional consequences, even if a fatality does not occur. Brown added, “For those kids that live through it, with permanent disfigurements to their face and bodies, this can be mentally, physically and emotionally damaging.” RJWF provides support to children from infants to 17-year-olds who have sustained injuries inflicted by dog bites. This support includes educational, emotional, physical and financial assistance.
“We’ve partnered with entities like (the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department), Animal Care and Control, Domo, and the Brooklyn Collective,” said Brown. “But we need MORE. We need the backing of our COMMUNITY; the school systems, veterinarian offices, hospitals and trauma centers, insurance companies, etc. We need to be at the hospitals and trauma centers where injured kids are having pediatric plastic surgeries,” she added.
“We’re asking to collaborate with different leaders, institutions and corporations. We want the phones to ring uncontrollably — not because someone was bitten but because they weren’t,” she said.
RJWF is currently looking for pediatric plastic surgeons to help with some pro bono work, Brown said. “We’re far from where we want to be, and we can’t change this dynamic without you. We need resources, corporate sponsorships, visibility and selflessness to support our initiatives. I can’t fathom the thought of another child losing their life because we turned a blind eye, because we weren’t educated.” .
Triumph despite tragedy
With all that Brown endured, it’s surprising she allows Karrington, her 8-year-old daughter, near a dog, much less own one. But Karrington was recently gifted with a Maltese Pomeranian mix named Amina. .
Here are some safety rules Karrington said her mom has taught her:
“You should never put your face in her face. You should never pull her fur, ears, or their tail. You should never yell or shout at them. You should never try to ride on them,” she explained, matter-of-factly.
Roddie Jr.’s Watchdog Foundation is devoted to creating a safer society through educating people on responsible dog ownership. RJWF is forging a path towards a future where dog bites are minimized and the memory of Roddie Jr. is cherished. Brown said, “Our focus is to do something. Don’t just stand by and do nothing. Be the difference. If you do your part, don’t worry about it if someone else is not doing theirs. That’s how change happens.”
Bonapart added, “We want to turn a tragedy into triumph!”