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‘I can do it boy’: Utah mom describes son’s attitude after arm chewed off by dogs

Austin Brown sits on his mother’s lap at their home in Layton on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2019. “He is an ‘I can do it’ boy,” Hope Brown said of her son, whose lower right arm was chewed off by two huskies on March 3. Mark Wetzel, Deseret News

LAYTON — There’s a reason why Austin Brown uses his teeth to do everyday tasks, like opening a package.

That’s because half of his right arm is no longer there.

Austin, who was 3 at the time, was playing in the backyard of his home on March 3 when two huskies from the neighbor’s yard got a hold of his arm from underneath the fence and chewed it off.

Despite his injury, Austin is not letting it get in his way of doing what a 4-year-old does.

“He is an ‘I can do it’ boy,” said his mother, Hope Brown. “He has figured out how to do everything with what we call his little arm.”

Hope Brown, who spoke publicly about the attack for the first time Wednesday, is not able to talk about the details of that day because of pending court cases, but she said she was at work when she got the call. Her husband was at home with Austin and his younger sister.

“I was terrified. I was so scared,” she said. “I was just like in complete shock. Nothing could have ever prepared me for that. You think dog bite, you think bites. You don’t realize like being eaten like that.”

Hope Brown, pictured in her Layton home on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, said she was in “complete shock” when she learned a pair of dogs attacked her son, then 3, chewing off his lower right arm.
Mark Wetzel, Deseret News

Austin spent a week in the hospital. During that time the story went viral. Brown’s social media blew up. Shockingly, hate messages started to pour in including death threats.

“Don’t blame the dogs for you being a terrible mom,” one message read.

Others questioned Austin’s actions that day: “Your son should not have been provoking that husky!”

Brown said she was shocked that “people were attacking us that way. That they were saying such horrible things.”

“It’s just maddening that people would put this on a 3-year-old. This was our sanctuary. This was our home.”

Brown says the attacks even happened in public.

“This guy unfortunately looked at (Austin) and said, ‘Oh you’re that kid, bet you learned your lesson didn’t you?’” she said.

In September, Brown said her now ex-husband, a military veteran, left the family.

“My husband had severe PTSD from this attack that happened. He was never the same afterword,” she said. “He drained the bank accounts, he took our car, and he left, and he hasn’t been back since then.”

The two have since divorced.

That’s why Josh Barnett, a husband and father from Logan, is trying to help the Brown family. He’s befriended the Browns and is now starting an Amazon wish list and a GoFundMe account to help with their Christmas and medical expenses.

“People are just like attacking this poor woman and this poor child,” said Barnett. “People need to understand that children need to be able to play in their own backyard without fear of being attacked by an animal.

The dogs were never put down but were sent to a sanctuary.

Austin still plays like nothing happened. That’s what keeps his mother grounded.

“Austin’s strength is my strength. He is amazing. He can do so much and he is so strong,” she said.