Longview Avenue is a street where young kids often play outside, so, in that sense, Caroline Malia is grateful the grabbed a hold of her leg and not one of a child.
Malia, a 23-year-old student, babysat a 16-month-old girl on the street for the past year and, on Thursday morning, went to see the girl one more time before leaving to finish her last two weeks of school before graduating.
As she was at the door, an animal she initially thought was a large cat approached her on the porch. Without making any movements, she told the animal, "shoo." The moment she said it, the animal bit her leg and would not stop attacking her, Malia said in an interview Thursday night.
Malia doesn't remember everything that happened next as the fox, which she described as vicious and which police said is being tested for rabies, continued biting her on the porch, at the base of the steps and as she was on the ground.
She credits two things with saving her from being injured worse than she was—her sweatpants, which were shredded, and next-door neighbor John S. Hamilton, who heard her calling for help and ran outside.
Hamilton charged at the fox as it was latched to Malia's leg and grabbed the animal's neck, getting it off Malia. His hand slipped on the fox's fur, at which point the animal bit his left hand near the base of his thumb and latched on.
With his free hand, Hamilton pulled the fox off as its teeth were still clamped into his hand. He swung his arm back, throwing the animal hard through the air and into a car. It smashed into the car and slid onto the driveway.
Once Hamilton saw the fox wasn't getting back up, he and Malia ran inside. Hamilton was bleeding heavily from his hand. Kelly Ostberg, who lives in the home where the attack occurred and is the mother of the girl Malia babysat, called 911.
Police responded quickly and shot the fox, which was still alive, three times, they said.
Ostberg accompanied Malia and Hamilton to Morristown Medical Center, where they were treated and received their first rounds of rabies shots.
Concern for the baby
Ostberg had come downstairs to the door while holding her daughter, Emily, and and saw the fox biting Malia. Still holding her daughter, she banged on the door, trying to scare off the animal.
Both Ostberg and Malia said they were thinking about the baby's safety at that point.
"My first thought was, if she opens the door, it's going inside," Malia said.
After police, fire, ambulance, animal control and health officials arrived, Ostberg left her daughter with Hamilton's wife, Kate, while she accompanied Malia and John Hamilton to the hospital.
John Hamilton, who happened to be working from home and some mornings would have already been on a train to New York when the fox attack occurred around 9:10 a.m., said the police and paramedics responded quickly and made the entire process easy.
At the hospital, they gave him two stitches, enough to close the wound slightly, but not all the way, to allow them to ensure there's no infection.
Kate Hamilton said she worries the fox had rabies and there might be other rabid animals in the area.
Malia is athletic, a member of the FDU swim team, but that didn't matter.
"I literally could not fight this thing off," she said.
Malia's hopeful her graduation gown will cover the bite marks, bruises and scratches on her legs, and she already let her new employer know she has to push back the start date of her new public relations job. That day, the day after graduation, she is scheduled to be getting her last rabies shots.