A YOUNG man has been hailed a hero after he rescued his two-year-old neighbour from a vicious dog attack.
The family of Reece O'Leary was today keeping a bedside vigil as he battled to recover from the attack by his own pet.
The dog, a husky, ripped off the boy's clothes and threw the toddler into the air several times in a terrifying attack in the family's back garden.
Reece's mother Mags, father Ernst, and sister Rhiann (5) were at his bedside at Cork University Hospital.
Neighbour Jonathan Curtin (21) has been hailed as a hero by residents in Carew Park, Limerick, after he beat the dog off the boy using a shovel.
Mr Curtin said: "He was throwing the child up into the air; the child was like a rag doll to the dog. The woman was holding on to the child and the dog was holding on to the child as well.
"The woman was trying to pull the child and the dog was pulling the child in the opposite way. I went in with the shovel and stopped it. I hit the dog . . . he backed off for a few seconds, he went for him again, but I hit him."
Mr Curtin said the dog tried to attack the boy another three times.
"I went in not really thinking about the danger. I was just trying to get the child safe."
Gardai also praised Mr Curtin's quick reaction.
"If he hadn't jumped in when he did, the child could have died," said one garda.
Mr Curtin's parents Eileen and Michael said they were very proud of their son.
Mrs Curtin described the incident, saying: "They were covered in muck. The child had no clothes on him, he tore all the clothes completely off of him."
Mrs Curtin added: "I heard (Mags) screaming and the child (screaming). God help us, she was after screaming so much she was gone hoarse, she wasn't able -- the fight was gone out of her. When she got the child he (the dog) ran around to her to get the child again."
Reece was transferred from hospital in Limerick to Cork at 8.30am yesterday and was being treated for injuries to his head, back, arms, knees and upper thigh.
Gardai contacted Clare ISPCA dog warden Frank Coote.
Mr Coote said: "My information was that a dog had gone wild and had attacked a child.
"The dog had calmed by the time I arrived. I put a lead and a muzzle on him and took him to the pound in Ennis."
The dog warden transported the animal back to the Limerick dog pound yesterday where it is due to be destroyed.