— Long an animal lover, Denver television news anchor Kyle Dyer was doing a story right up her alley — the rescue of a dog from an icy river. But during a live interview with the dog’s owner and the firefighter who rescued the animal, what should have been a feel-good story turned horribly wrong.
Dyer stroked the 85-pound Argentine mastiff named Max on air, but when she leaned in to nuzzle the dog, Max bit her on the face, nearly severing her lips. The shocking incident went out live on air, and video of the attack went viral.
But two surgeries and 90 stitches later, Dyer is on the rebound, and is set to return to her seat at NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver. Speaking in her first national TV interview since the attack, she told Ann Curry on TODAY Tuesday there are plenty of lessons learned, but the key one is the outpouring of love she felt during her recovery.
"I have received so many letters, e-mails, from people just saying, 'We love you, we love you, you're beautiful inside and out, we can't wait to see you back,' " Dyer said. "My family has been wonderful ... it's been very reflective. I just feel a lot of love."
Dyer has been the station's go-to person for animal stories, hosting "Kyle's Kritters," a regular feature spotlighting local zoo animals. So it's not surprising that on Feb. 8, Dyer doted on Max the mastiff as the rescue story unfolded on air. "I thought (Max) really seemed to love my nails and my rubbing," she said.
But when she leaned in at Max, "it was kind of an instantaneous bite and there was a little bark," she told NBC News.
The station quickly cut away from the attack, and Dyer knew pretty quickly her situation was serious. "I just saw all the blood and I did not look in the mirror," she told NBC. "My mouth was kind of opening up, so it was pretty severe."
Dyer had only begun receiving hospital treatment when video of the attack spread like wildfire. Her husband made a frantic run to notify their two daughters at school, fearing they would see the attack before they heard about it from him.
And while Dyer was flooded with get-well wishes, she faced an uphill battle to repair her face. Her upper lip area was ravaged by the bite, and her physician employed some novel methods to reconstruct her face, including sewing her mouth shut.
"It's really fascinating what they did," Dyer told Curry. "They took my upper lip ... took a part of my lower lip and kind of flipped it up, and then they sewed my mouth together."
Dyer still bears the scars from her attack: She's missing the "cupid's bow," the double curve of the upper lip, which may require another surgery. But she's ready to go back on air just the same.
"That could be the next surgery down the road, but that will be six months at the least," she said. "In the meantime, I'll have to work the lip liner really well — I'll get good at that."
Meanwhile, Max escaped a harsh fate as a result of his attack: After being quarantined for 10 days, he's back with his owner. Dyer freely admits she likely made a mistake leaning in on the dog: "Maybe I was too close; maybe he was unsettled." And dog behavior expert Ron Berman agreed that the well-meaning Dyer erred.
"Whether it's conscious or unconscious provocation, she still created the incident by coming too close to the dog's face and created a dangerous situation," Berman told NBC News.
Still, despite the scars, Dyer believes that it's all's well that ends well.
"I just knew it was all going to work out," she told Curry. "I see the dog on TV; he's back with his family, and we're all just healing and moving on."