Buddy Owens, a tough Vietnam War combat veteran, put up Christmas decorations again this year on Oklahoma Street in York. Owens, 72 said he loves to bring cheer to others.
“These decorations are for others to share in and make ‘em feel good,” Owens said.
But a year ago, holiday cheer turned to horror. Owens was attacked by dogs when putting up decorations. His left arm was mangled so severely that he spent nine days in the hospital. He endured three surgeries and a skin graft. He still does not have full use of all of his fingers.
“I was right here, figuring out why the lights on this palm tree weren’t working, and the two dogs were on me,” Owens said. “I didn’t know if I would make it.”
But the attack did not stop Buddy Owens, a retired textile worker, from going back out this year to put up lights and other decorations. The attack has spurred him to do it again. He even went back to work as a security guard at a York plant.
“I got hurt, there’s no doubt about it, and it takes me a little longer to do things, but I wanted to make sure these decorations went up,” Owens said. “After what I found out about about people, and how much they cared about me, I figured I had to do it.”
The attack, first reported in The Herald, sparked an outpouring of goodwill toward Owens from the people of York and beyond.
Hundreds of strangers stopped to see Owens and his decorations around Christmas 2016.
York Police Department officers, who helped save him from the dogs, and neighbors who also jumped in, repeatedly came by. York Mayor Eddie Lee came to sit and talk with Owens several times.
The dogs, owned by residents down the street who were cited by the city for leash law violations, were pit bull mixes. Lee proposed a ban on pit bulls in the city of about 8,000, but no laws were changed.
Lee said Owens showed the courage of York residents.
“Buddy Owens is a survivor all his life,” Lee said. “He survived Vietnam, where he heroically fought for his country. He survived an attack by these dogs. And he did it all with a spirit that shows what it means to be a survivor.”
Lee said he keeps Owens’ name on his computer screen to inspire him.
York Police Chief Andy Robinson said his officers were “horrified” by the attack on Owens. Many officers would go by Owens’ home and check on him, and still do, he said.
“The officers truly empathized with him and what he endured,” Robinson said. “They have gone above and beyond what is asked of them, to let Mr. Owens know that they truly care for him, as they do with other citizens. I am fortunate to have caring and compassionate officers, who take their job to heart, and truly care about their fellow man.”
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Owens said he was stunned by the response of the police, the mayor and others who are too many to count or name. His co-workers at the plant collected money for him.
“There were people I knew who reached out, and there were all these people I didn’t know,” Owens said.
Owens said that the spirit of Christmas has gotten larger in his heart.
“I found out that so many people cared for me,” Owens said. “I want to thank them all. Every one of them. Thanks to them all. I learned about people and their hearts. If that isn’t Christmas, I don’t know what is.”