Tributes Paid to 'Hero' Mom Who Lost Arms, Died Protecting Son From Their Pet Dog

A 35-year-old mother of two who suffered fatal injuries while protecting her son from a dog is being remembered as a "hero" by those who knew her, and many others who have been touched by her story.

Heather Pingel, from Bowler in Wisconsin, was attacked by the family pet, a large pit bull that outweighed her by 30 pounds, on Wednesday, December 8. She died on Thursday, December 16.

The attack happened when Pingel was at home with her 4-year-old son, Damion Bernarde. It is believed that the dog first went after the boy, who later required around 70 stitches for a wound on his leg, Wausau Daily Herald reports.

When Pingel's partner, Shane Bernarde, returned home, she was in the bathroom with the dog and the door was closed.

"We don't know how long she was in there fighting him off," Shannon Pingel said of her sister. "Shane got home to find her lying on the bathroom floor. She said, 'I have no arms and I'm dying.'"

Bernarde managed to take the dog outside where he shot it dead, though not before it also bit him.

When they arrived on the scene, paramedics found Heather Pingel on the bathroom floor, struggling to breathe. She was subsequently rushed to Aspirus Wausau Hospital.

According to Bernarde's aunt, Sue Wendlandt, Heather Pingel's "heart stopped due to extreme blood loss," she suffered kidney failure and both of her arms had to be amputated.

Doctors also had to perform surgeries on her stomach, Wendlandt said.

"She is the bravest, strongest mother I know to do that for her child; she risked her life to save him," her sister said. "She is a hero."

The dog had been abused by its previous owners and had behaved aggressively in the past, WSAW reports, but Pingel had "the biggest heart for animals and just couldn't get rid of it."

"The world has lost a very special young woman. Heather, you touched so many lives with your beauty and love, heaven is lucky to have you as their newest angel," Wendlandt wrote in a post on Facebook.

"She was just a wonderful person. So kind and loving," Jennifer Person, Pingel's cousin, said. "She was always there to help people whenever she could. Her kids were everything to her. She loved them so fiercely, as she demonstrated by giving her life so her son would survive."

Her bravery has resonated with people far and wide who have donated money and shared messages of support via Pingel's obituary page.

"I am sending sincere condolences to the family & friends of Heather Ann Pingel. She must have been a very devoted mom and friend to all," reads one such message from a well-wisher in Hawaii.

"I did not know her but her story is so touching and heartbreaking. May her spirit forever live on & God bless her family and friends," another person has written.

A closeup of a pitbull dog
The pit bull had a history of aggression, but Pingel "couldn't get rid of it" because she had “the biggest heart for animals." Sonsedska/iStock