Darnell Mikaere Minarapa-Brown is waiting to see his mates again and getting ready to go back to school.
The brave boy has more than 150 stitches in his face where he was mauled by a pitbull three weeks ago. The attack was so savage that he had six hours' of surgery at Kidz First Children's Hospital to put two metal plates over broken bones in his cheek and nose.
Despite his ordeal, the 7-year-old still feels bad that Caesar, the dog that tore open his face from left cheek to right ear, was euthanised.
"I feel very sorry. He was a nice dog but he was naughty for biting me," Darnell said to his mum, Virginia Minarapa.
Specialists said Darnell could return to Opaheke Primary School in two weeks, starting with short days.
The visible swelling has started to go down but there is internal swelling to his nasal area. "He still has trouble breathing so he needs to be careful," Minarapa said.
The Papakura boy hasn't seen any of his friends yet but short visits from them are planned.
Minarapa said her son thought he was going to die after the attack. The dog came back for a second go as they waited for an ambulance.
Minarapa was going to take Darnell roller skating that day but, after much pleading, she took him to stay at her sister's house to play his favourite wrestling video game.
"He was so excited he jumped out of the truck," Minarapa said.
Darnell ran to the garage to play but within moments squeals of delight turned to screams of terror as he was attacked by Caesar, a 3-year-old pitbull owned by Minarapa's brother-in-law, Henare Carroll.
Hearing the screams, Minarapa ran to the garage to see her son with wounds so deep the bone was exposed. "I saw the damage to his face. From the cheek to his ear was hanging there," Minarapa said.
"He was telling my sister he was okay. She yelled out for someone to grab a towel and ring an ambulance.
"I ran away to cry because I was so scared of what I had just seen."
Minarapa said her sister's quick actions saved Darnell's life.
She took the boy into the house and held a towel to the wounds to stem the bleeding.
Minarapa's sister told her to go outside and calm down because she was upsetting Darnell. "He was busy telling us he loved us and didn't want to die and that made me worse," a tearful Minarapa said.
Then Caesar, who had escaped after the initial attack, returned.
As they were waiting for the ambulance, Caesar came running into the house; Minarapa thought he could smell the blood on the floor.
"If there was carpet in the house he would have got my son because he was breathing heavily and he was gunning for him.
"Because the floors were wooden he was slipping. We could hear the scratching."
Caesar pounced at Darnell again but a woman staying at the house leapt in the way. She was bitten and also required hospital treatment.
The dog was surrendered after the attack and has since been destroyed.
Darnell's injuries have already drawn attention from people and Minarapa has swung into "protective mum" mode.
"I have had to ask people what they are staring at and tell them to ask us what happened rather than just staring at my son."
Darnell's much-loved rugby league with the Papakura Sea Eagles is also off for the season because of the associated risks.
He has nightmares about the attack and will see a psychologist.
Hospital admissions for people with dog-bite injuries average two a day, more than a third of them children with mostly facial injuries.
Minarapa says she supports the Auckland Council crackdown on dogs considered dangerous.
An amnesty for unregistered dogs has been announced where the council will de-sex and microchip dogs, and provide them with a muzzle, for just $25.
Minarapa said it was not enough but it was a start.
She didn't have the answers to the issue but didn't want to see another child injured the way her son was.
"People say they know how you feel because they know someone who was bitten, but it is totally different when it is your child."
Five tips to remember if a dog attacks
1. Fold your arms and tuck them underneath your armpits
2. Stand tall
3. Look at the ground, never look the dog in the eye
4. Keep the dog in front of you
5. Don't run away or make any sudden movements