An 80-year-old New Hampshire woman who was attacked by a bobcat is recovering and back to tending to her garden, where the rabid animal left her bloodied over the weekend.
Elsie Dabrowski was cutting the grass around her flowers Sunday night when she said a bobcat suddenly lunged at her and latched onto her face with its teeth and claws. Dabrowski grabbed a sickle and struck the massive cat about five times before her dogs scared it away.
“I was bleeding so profusely. I was so scared,” she told TIME. “I ran in and I took the hand towel and put it under cold water and put it on my face. I came back into the house dripping blood.”
Dabrowski needed about 60 stitches to her face, left arm and back and will require six rabies shots. Still, the resilient and recently retired bookkeeper almost immediately went back to gardening and completing her daily household chores.
“You just have to think that it was a one-time thing and get over it. Just get over it,” she said, adding that she’s not afraid of another attack. “It could’ve been so much worse.”
Dabrowski said she cares for four dogs, a cat, a macaw and a flock of chickens. She retired last spring but has been delivering chicken eggs to a few locals as a side gig.
“Things have to get done,” she said. “I just make myself get up and go.”
The roughly 25-pound bobcat was shot dead by Dabrowski’s son, Gene, after the dogs cornered the animal under the porch. Wildlife officials confirmed it had rabies.
A bobcat that does not have the virus likely would not have attacked, according to Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist at New Hampshire Fish and Game. “Healthy bobcats do not bother humans. They’d rather hide or walk away,” Tate said. “The problem with bobcats is when they take up rabies, they become very aggressive. They are known to attack humans if they have rabies.”
Gene Dabrowski hailed his mother’s strength. “She’s a tough cookie,” he said.