Jacqueline Durand’s face was nearly erased two days before Christmas and one day before her 22nd birthday. It happened when a dog sitting job in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, went terribly wrong.
The instant after Durand opened the front door of Justin and Ashley Bishop’s home, the dogs were not like the “lovely” dogs that she said she had met once before. The dogs dragged her from the front door to the living room. Lucy, a German Shepard mix, and Bender, a boxer and pitbull mix, pinned her down, tore off her nose, ears, lips and cheeks to the bone.
“I thought I was going to die,” she told CBS News.
Thirty-seven minutes passed from the time police arrived to when first responders felt safe going into the house. Police body camera footage shows the dogs holding first responders at bay, leaving Durand agonizing for help.
A medic eventually rescued Durand and ran out with her. She was rushed to Medical City Plano hospital in grave condition, having lost almost 30% of her blood.
When asked why it took 37 minutes to rescue Durand when police could have shot the dogs, Coppell Police Department told CBS News that first responders “were only able to see Jacqueline Durand’s legs and were not immediately aware of the extent of her injuries” as they tried to contain the dogs.
It was pure luck that she was rescued alive. When the dogs rushed her, the door was left open, triggering a security alarm at the Bishops’ home. The couple told police they got the dogs from rescue organizations and hadn’t had any problems with the dogs.
“I have three kids. One is 3 years old. No history of violence. None,” Justin Bishop said to police.
But a sign on their front door that warns about sleeping babies and “crazy dogs” is one indicator of negligence, according to a lawsuit filed by Durand’s lawyer Chip Brooker.
“The warning on the front door to me, I think, suggests that the Bishops knew that both of these dogs had acted aggressively to people arriving at the front door,” Brooker told CBS News.
Brooker said an examination of the dogs, completed by an expert hired by his team after the attack, shows “that the dogs were dangerous and had vicious propensities.”
“We suspect the Bishops knew that. We suspect everybody who came across these dogs, particularly Lucy, knew that,” Brooker said.
The Bishops said they were “heartbroken” in a statement to CBS News, but turned down an interview request.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic incident involving Ms. Durand,” the statement said. “We know that she was severely injured, and are devastated by what she and her family are going through. We would never knowingly put anyone in harm’s way, and were shocked by what happened at our home. Due to pending litigation we have been advised not to give any interviews, however, we want Ms. Durand and her family to know that we fervently pray for her recovery daily.”
Durand was in emergency surgery for seven hours before her parents, John and Shirley Durand, heard from one of the doctors.
“It was clear that he was saying she’s in for a fight for survival. And as we later found out, she had to be resuscitated on the trauma table,” John Durand told CBS News.
Their daughter had been resuscitated multiple times and was put in a medically induced coma for a week, Shirley Durand added.
“I was just glad to see her alive,” she told CBS News. “Her whole face was totally bandaged.”
John Durand told his daughter “she was a miracle.”
CBS News met Durand when she had already been in the hospital for seven weeks. Doctors had grafted skin from her buttocks and forehead to start the process of rebuilding her face.
“I feel like I didn’t ask for this. So, I think that it’s time to show who I am now, and I can’t be scared of it,” she said, revealing her face.
She was released from the hospital a week later, receiving applause from her doctors and nurses. Outside of her house, the first responders who saved her life gave her a champion’s welcome. Her boyfriend, 24-year-old Nathan, who stood by her side, was there, too.
Durand wants to be seen not as a victim, but as an example. That’s perhaps why she didn’t hide her scarred body, which shows the more than 800 bites she endured.
“I want dog owners to know their animals and be able to communicate with their sitters how they are,” she said. “Honestly, I’m speechless. After every meet and greet I had, I always felt the same with those other dogs and they don’t change their attitude from the time that I met them to the time that I go there for the first time.”
In physical therapy, her mouth is stretched one millimeter at a time so that she can eat more. She still faces countless surgeries.
“It’s not fun to think about and I also think about how amazing the doctors are,” she said. “And so I’m putting it in their hands to help me.”
Even after the brutal attack, there’s a place still in her heart for dogs. Durand was a dog-sitter for seven years and still dreams of working with animals, possibly as a dog trainer. Her parents have no doubts about her future.
“She has all she has her senses now,” Shirley Durand said. “She can walk, she can talk, she can smell, she can hear, and she can see. She’s going to be fine.”
“The sky’s the limit with her attitude, her survival instincts, her hope,” John Durand said.
In addition to the love from her family is that from Nathan, who Durand has dated for three years. He just recovered from cancer, and Durand often drove him to and stayed with him during his treatments.
“I’m so grateful that I get the same opportunity to show the same level of love and care that she showed me during that time,” he said. “I’m glad I get to be there for her.”
David Begnaud is the lead national correspondent for “CBS Mornings” based in New York City.