On June 6, Dagsboro Police Department PFC Tyler Bare’s shift started out like any other work day.
“I had just pulled into Royal Farms to get gas for my unit and I’m listening, and I hear somebody saying, ‘I’m responding from Millsboro’ and another one’s responding saying, ‘I’m coming from Route 54.’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m the closest one,’” recalled Bare.
“It’s just how it changed so quickly… I was just trying to get some gas. You could almost hear the sense of urgency in the dispatcher’s voice that something needed to happen.”
The call in question was to aid a Delaware animal-control officer who was actively being attacked by a dog.
“As I’m pulling up to the driveway there, they were still dispatching it over the radio. My initial thought was that she had the dog under control when I was pulling up, because she was sitting down between two cars, and she had the dog in between her, and she was holding it…
“But then I realized when she let go, the dog had a hold of her and it was still going, shaking the crap out of her,” he said. “I parked my car… I think I yelled at someone to get back… I was just trying to get the dog out in the open, just trying to get it off of her, for that matter.”
At one point, he recalled, a woman who worked at the kennel grabbed a garden hose and was spraying the dog, trying to get it off the victim; however, that didn’t work. Bare then tried football-punting the dog’s rear end — again, to no avail.
“She’s screaming, she’s still screaming,” he recalled. “I punched the dog, trying to get it off, when I realized it wasn’t responding to anything I was doing; it hadn’t responded to anything she had done.”
Bare said that, unbeknownst to him, the victim had taken a shovel to the dog’s head while they were inside the kennel, giving it splits on his head.
“He didn’t stop. This dog was just shaking her like a wet rag,” he said, noting there was nothing left of her pants.
“She apparently had fought this dog inside the kennels for a fair amount of time before she got it outside. She was calling on the radio in that building, and I guess there was a bit of miscommunication… So, she brought the dog outside, where somebody could hear. She actually had the door open to her van, trying to grab stuff out of her van. At one point, she grabbed her radio and shoved it in the dog’s mouth. But that didn’t work.”
Bare said the victim had fought hard to keep the dog down around her lower extremities and away from her face and neck.
“At one point she yelled, ‘Shoot me! Shoot me! Shoot me! Shoot through my leg!’ I remember looking at her and saying, ‘I can’t. I physically can’t. You’re going to have to move your leg.’ Mind you — they’re in between these two cars. There’s a building behind her, a building to my right, and people standing behind me looking. I was screaming, they were screaming.”
Not long after that, the victim was able to grab her knee and pull it toward her, prompting the dog to let go and try to move on to another part of her body.
“When she pulled her knee and her leg went down to the side of the head, I was able to euthanize it with one shot over top of her leg,” Bare said. “The dog didn’t immediately fall. It stood there, still had a hold of her leg… looked toward the building, then dropped her leg and fell to the ground.”
Bare said he had wanted to move the victim out from between the two cars, but soon realized the amount of damage the dog had wreaked, and kept her where she was.
“She stayed right there and leaned up against me,” he said. “The dog, at one point, leaned back up, did a little kick — and that was it.”
Bare praised emergency medical services personnel — specifically Frank Bunting, Justin Cassell and Amy Sudwell, who arrived at the scene quickly.
“I got on my radio to call EMS — unbeknownst to me, they were pulling up behind my back, Frankford’s EMS and the county paramedics,” he said. “We got her on the stretcher, put her on the ambulance, and then I stayed there…. initially called the helicopter, but the medics got there quick. They high-tailed it to Beebe, and she was there for quite a few hours getting treated — over 100 stitches.”
Bare stayed on scene after the victim was transported, to make sure the dog had been properly euthanized.
“I didn’t want it sitting there suffering.”
Bare said he has always had an affinity for dogs, having grown up with them.
“I’ll tell you, I treat every dog I go up to you — I just had one the other week — as if it were my own,” he said. “This was one of the biggest dogs I have ever seen in my life. Growing up and having dogs when I was a kid… There was something, about it — the dog’s eyes were all black. It was crazy. There was no stopping that dog.”
After the incident, Bare said he was thanked by the owner of the kennel and other onlookers.
“One woman came over to me after and just wrapped me up in a hug.”
The victim herself, said Bare, is doing well.
“We keep in touch now and then. She’s back to work, I believe.”
Bare said he has not received any training specifically on how to deal with extremely aggressive animals, as usually it is animal-control that is called in when officers have a problem. The actions he took that day were a mixture of instinct and crisis-response mode, he said.
“In situations like that… I don’t know. I just wasn’t going to sit there and let that dog kill her. I wasn’t going to have it. Just hearing her scream… I wasn’t gonna let that happen. I could take any sort of [response] he came back [with]. I don’t care. As long as she was OK and wasn’t hurting anymore.”
When asked if he ever feared for his safety during the ordeal, Bare simply said, ‘No.’
“That dog could do whatever it wanted to me. I wouldn’t have cared, but I probably would’ve handled the same way,” he said. “I don’t know — you see somebody in trouble like that… I’m always trying to help people. Seeing someone scream like that and bawling her eyes out after they fought this dog for so long, trying to keep it away from their throat…”
The incident was subsequently turned over to animal-control, and Bare had an interview with Delaware State Police and wrote a detailed report of what had happened for his own departmental reporting requirements.
“It was heroic and showed valor … that he would enter into that dangerous situation without regard for his own safety,” said Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey, who nominated Bare for the Joshua M. Freeman Valor Award.
Toomey also nominated Bare for the American Police Hall of Fame’s Silver Star, which he went on to receive on June 6 for his actions.
“I didn’t do it for any award, that’s for sure,” said Bare.
Bare, who grew up in Sussex County and graduated from Indian River High School in 2005, stays active as a local police officer.
He teaches the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program, designed to teach kids about gun safety, and is heavily involved with the local schools and daycare.
“Some of the kids don’t have someone to look up to,” he said.
Bare, who has been with the Dagsboro Police Department for three years, served an eight-year contract in the U.S. Marine Corps, in which he enlisted in October 2004 and completed his service in 2012.
He served in Quantico, Va., and in Okinawa, Japan, with almost an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, during which he was on the lead mine-roller vehicle. In the Marine Corps, Bare served as an MP, leaving as a sergeant.
“Chief, Sgt. [Harry] Litton and myself are all military,” he said of his fellow Dagsboro officers, “so you have that brotherhood. We nag on each other all the time, but we all have respect for each other. That’s why I like working for a small police department: you have that ‘esprit de corps’ it’s called — the spirit of the unit. It’s how we operate well as a unit, and the town residents here are amazing.”
Bare joined the police force and remains active in the fire service, with the goal of continuing his service to the community.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be in the military, I wanted to serve the country. I found this is a way of serving the community,” he said. “Smaller level, of course. I’m all about helping people. Keeping people informed, if you will.”