Shot-putter Jacko Gill, one of New Zealand's best up-and-coming athletes, counts himself lucky that he still has the use of his right eye after being bitten by one of his family's dogs at his Auckland home.
Gill, who turned down the chance to go to last year's London Olympics, spent three days in hospital last week after an attack by Recka, an 11-year-old bitch, as she fought with the Gill family's other dog, Pippi, a 10-year-old Pomeranian-Pekinese cross.
One of Recka's canine teeth fell out after it almost pierced Gill's right tear duct.
Gill, who has just turned 18, said he had learned an important lesson from the incident at his family's Devonport home last Wednesday night, and that was to be careful around hungry dogs when they were eating.
Recka and Pippi were being fed about four hours later than normal and began to fight after a food bowl was knocked off a chair.
"It was quite bad," Gill said, "so I tried to pick one up from the chest and drag it back and I got a bite.
"Luckily it wasn't a locked-jaw-type job, it was a quick snap.
"It was one millimetre away from the tear duct so I could have been partially blind. It was quite serious."
At Middlemore Hospital, Gill underwent surgery to patch up the wounds, including having stitches inserted on the side of his nose.
He is now back home and reflecting on an incident that could have had a different ending.
"It wasn't so much the bite or the injury, it was the three days of staying in hospital and the pain of not knowing what was going to happen to my eye - that was the worst.
"With the adrenaline, the bite didn't hurt at all.
"There are a lot of better ways to break up dog fights than to try to pick one up," he said.
"I don't have any hard feelings towards the dog at all. It was my fault. She is a really lovely dog, and great with kids.
"Two dogs fighting; you don't like to see them fight, so it was kind of brute strength. I just picked one up. It didn't really work."
Recka has lived with the Gill family for about only six months. She used to belong to Gill's half-sister Gwyneth and would have been put down if the Gills hadn't taken her in after Gwyneth moved to Australia.
"He's a big, strong boy but the dog was pretty quick," Gill's father, Walter, said. "It's a good lesson there. It was a shock. There's always another side to animals, particularly at feeding time."
Gill last year won the world junior shot-put title in Barcelona, defending the title he won two years before in Canada. He declined to compete in London, preferring to concentrate on retaining his junior title,
The Gills said they were wary of making too much of the incident in case it cast Recka in a bad light. The incident happened after an unfortunate set of circumstances rather than because of the dog's nature.
Gill is also recovering from a badly sprained left foot, suffered in a competition in Auckland last month, but he remains hopeful of competing in the world championships in Moscow in August.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick