Horrific, then lovely

Sacramento restaurateurs, musicians come together to help a friend, victim of a pit bull attack

Popfest 2011 will be held Friday, January 21, at the Sterling Hotel Grand Ballroom, 1300 H Street; 7 p.m. to midnight; $50 in advance, $60 at the door; all proceeds benefit Poppy Watson, who was mauled by a pit bull in late 2010. Find out more at www.popfest2011.com.

Sterling Hotel

1300 H St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 449-2220

Poppy Watson owns a miniature schnauzer, Pepi, and used to have a pit bull, too. So when she visited a friend’s home the night after Thanksgiving, Watson of course wanted to give some love to his dog, a full-grown male pit.

“He was very well kept, super sweet, a big baby,” recalled Watson, who scratched the dog behind his ears and pulled its hoodie sweater over his head. The dog relished the attention.

But then, she said, something “clicked”—and the pit bull lunged.

“I put my hands up to my face,” Watson remembered, “and I felt his teeth still attached.”

More than a month later, Watson already has undergone two major reconstructive operations to repair her face; the pit bull tore off a third of her nose and ripped open her cheek. One surgical procedure, called the “forehead flap”—often used on skin-cancer patients, which involves using skin from the head to rebuild the nose—could only be done by a UC Davis surgeon that wasn’t covered by Watson’s health insurance.

Enter Sacramento’s Midtown and downtown restaurant and nightlife industry.

The 34-year-old Watson, a sales representative for Wine Warehouse, has been a part of central city restaurants since age 19. She knows everyone, it seems, and everyone—including the top chefs such as Billy Ngo, Randall Selland, Patrick Mulvaney, Adam Pechal, Michael Tuohy and Rick Mahan—knows her, and they are willing to go above and beyond to help with Watson’s medical bills.

And so next week, on January 21, these restaurateurs, along with local bars owners and popular musicians, will throw a major charity event, called Popfest, to raise funds for Watson’s surgery costs. She estimates that she will undergo at least five more procedures in the coming year.

“It’s awesome,” Watson said of this show of support. “A lot of them are close friends, but some aren’t even accounts of mine or people I know.”

Watson’s horrific experience is one of two high-profile Sacramento pit bull attacks in as many months. On December 21, a pit attacked a carriage horse in Old Sac; the horse will recover, but the dog was killed by Sacramento police. The male pit bull that mauled Watson was quarantined for 10 days but then euthanized.

Watson said multiple pit-bull-attack victims have reached out to her since the incident and that her attitude toward the breed has changed, despite the fact that she’s previously welcomed a pit bull into her home.

“I think that they shouldn’t continue to breed them,” she explained. “I don’t see the need for that dog in society.”

“People think, ‘My dog’s different.’ But it just takes one bite.”