A 4-year-old southwest Bakersfield boy with a fondness for Spider-Man has a new super-hero role model today — his own family’s cat. The gray tabby, named Tara, defended the boy against a vicious dog in a startling incident recorded on surveillance video — a one-minute clip that has since gone viral and attracted national media.
Preschooler Jeremy Triantafilo was walking his bike up the family driveway Tuesday afternoon when a neighbor’s dog came up from behind the family’s parked SUV and pounced, biting him on the left calf and overturning both bike and boy.
As the dog, an 8-month-old male Labrador-Chow mix, began dragging Jeremy by the leg down his own driveway, Tara sprang into action. Seemingly out of nowhere, the cat hurled herself at the dog, prompting it to release Jeremy and scurry off. The 6-year-old cat chased the dog out of the yard then bounded back to her young charge’s side.
Jeremy’s mother and grandmother took him to an urgent care center where he received 10 stitches, an antibiotic shot and oral antibiotics.
He also got the rest of the week off from school — and a generous helping of mint-chocolate chip ice cream, before taking an interview Wednesday with ABC Network News Correspondent David Wright.
“A mean dog hurt me. He tried to bite me,” said Jeremy, who didn’t remember much of the actual attack. “The cat saved me. My kitty’s a hero.”
Jeremy’s mother, Erica Triantafilo, was also bitten on her left calf when she chased the dog to its home. She received a tetanus booster shot but did not need stitches.
This was the first time Tara has ever had to defend Jeremy, according to his mom, who was just a few feet away watering a palm when the attack began.
The entire sequence was captured by several of the home’s eight security cameras — installed after neighbors had their car stolen and backyard trespassed upon.
Deaundre Turner, 19, is a former football player for Ridgeview High School who lives two doors away from the Triantafilos.
He brought his young cousins to Jeremy’s last birthday party and said the neighborhood is usually serene.
“It’s a pretty solid place,” Turner said. “It’s usually fairly quiet. We play football every Saturday morning at the park.”
Former area resident Shawn Irish of Irish Painting agreed. He was visiting Wednesday to paint a house nearby.
“That’s pretty cool,” Irish said, when told of Tara’s heroism. “I guess that’s why they worshipped cats back in the day. They knew what they were doing.”
Triantafilo said her former stray is normally — wait for it — a real pussycat.
“My cat, I have no idea where she was prior, honestly through the heat of it, I have no idea where she went after. Full lion safari moment,” said Triantafilo, who also has 2-year-old twin boys, Carson and Connor. They were in the house when the attack occurred.
All three boys treat Tara about the way you’d expect, their mom said.
“My kids are absolutely awful to her. They tug on her tail, they pull on her ears, they try to lift her up and carry her around — which obviously doesn’t work for a 2-year-old quite as well,” said Triantafilo.
“I think they’ve sat on her, they’ve jumped on her and she just looks at them with that annoyed cat look that all cats have and … takes it. She really is the most amazing cat.”
The dog’s owners voluntarily surrendered it to the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center, according to director Julie Johnson.
Bakersfield police spokesman Sgt. Joe Grubbs said the dog will be quarantined for 10 days and subsequently put down.
“They surrendered it, so in essence it’s the city’s dog and it’s not adoptable. For obvious reasons,” Grubbs said. “And that’s really the only alternative.”
Bakersfield Police Department officers responded at 3:54 p.m. Tuesday to reports of a dog bite in the 10700 block of Eagle Vista Drive.
Upon arrival, Grubbs said police officers learned the dog had wandered out of a nearby backyard shortly before biting Jeremy, when its owner opened a gate to put her car away.
Grubbs said the dog’s owners likely will not face charges in the incident.
“It’s not like it was out roaming around,” he said.
The dog’s owners could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Triantafilo said she doesn’t blame them.
“A lot of people have gotten comments about our neighbors, and I want to say I am not blaming, we are not blaming them,” Triantafilo said. “Accidents happen. It was a dog and things happen.”
Sometimes things happen that make a parent a little crazy with worry.
Her husband, Roger Triantafilo, a database machine administrator at Aera Energy in Bakersfield, was at work Tuesday when he got the call no father ever wants to get.
“Whenever you get that call, as a father your heart sinks,” Roger Triantafilo said.
“That was probably one of the most surreal moments of my life, feeling like ‘Oh man, what just happened?’ But they were OK and I’m very thankful that it wasn’t as bad as I had originally anticipated.”
Or, in his son’s words, “It feels better.”
Johnson said the family’s pet — who shares the home with another adoptee, 4-year-old Husky mix Maya — deserves a special treat for her heroics.
“That cat should have fresh fish for the rest of her life after this,” Johnson said.
Her owners have a better idea.
“I’m actually allergic to cats and she likes to try to attempt to sleep on my pillow,” said Erica Triantafilo. “As far as I’m concerned, she can have free access to my pillow for the next year.”