A man savaged by a pitbull dog while trying to rescue his wife from a car crash is at home nursing 18 stitches.

Merv Hilliam, 73, says the pitbull "bit a huge chunk on my right leg near my ankle" as he and neighbour Hugh Rose were trying to pull his 71-year-old wife Linda from the wreck of their car on Tangowahine Valley Rd, north of Dargaville, last Saturday.

"It's no good when you are minding your own business and you get attacked by a mad dog," Hilliam told the Herald on Sunday.

The dog, since put down, had rushed out of a rural property after Hilliam drove the family's Honda into a ditch.


Hilliam had called Rose for help as he had the nearest tractor, and the attack happened while they were trying to get to a concussed Linda.

"It must have run past Hugh to get to me," Hilliam said. "I think it must've thought I was tastier than the little fellow. Anyhow, I kicked it off me and Hugh ran after it, yelling at it.

"By the time I walked from the dog owner's house to the opposite side of the road, my shoe was full of blood, but you know, I am tough."

Rose backs that up. "He left a blood trail a good 135m to the neighbours."

Linda Hilliam suffered whiplash.

Merv Hilliam's brother is controversial Dargaville shipwreck hunter and author Noel Hilliam.