Artist, 84, Mauled by 2 Dogs and Has Part of Arm Amputated, Neighbor Injured Fighting Them Off

Penny Duncklee, a beloved local artist in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was attacked just days before her 85th birthday

Penny Duncklee
Photo: Penny Duncklee/FaceBook

Penny Duncklee of New Mexico is recovering in the hospital after a vicious dog attack left her with serious injuries to her arm.

Duncklee, a celebrated local artist in the Las Cruces community who is known for her watercolor paintings, was mauled by two dogs outside of her home on Wednesday. Her family said her right hand up to her elbow had to be amputated as a result of the attack, and she is in stable condition at an El Paso hospital, according to local news outlet Sun-News.

PEOPLE's request for comment from the Las Cruces Police Department was not immediately returned.

Duncklee's neighbor, James Sosa, heard her screaming as the animals — which police believe to be "two pit bull-type dogs" — mauled her. Sosa leapt over the fence to rush to his neighbor's aid, breaking his knee in the process as he fought the dogs off, per local station KVIA.

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"It was just so quick," Sosa told the outlet. "Everything was quick. It had her arm and it was thrashing it around. I just kept telling her, 'Penny, everything's okay.' "

Sosa said he threw a rock at the dogs to scare them away, then made a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding in Duncklee's arm. His wife, Dora, then called 911.

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Although James himself was injured while helping Duncklee, he says he would do it again in a heartbeat: "It's all worth it to save a life. A kneecap ain't nothing."

Longtime friend Linda Lundeen said she couldn't believe the news when she heard about what happened. "I could almost not speak, it was so horrible," she told KFox14.

Lundeen also said that, while hearing about her friend getting attacked was upsetting, she doesn't blame the owners of the animals.

"Even though they haven't bitten anybody you just never know when they might attack, not all dogs, but some dogs will do that," she explained to the outlet.

The Doña Ana Arts Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the arts alive in the community, posted a heartfelt tribute to Duncklee on their Facebook page and encouraged members to take photos of the Las Cruces sunsets — something the artist does often and set out to do before the attack — in her honor as she recovers.

"I know she is very much in the thoughts of our arts community, and we will be helping her in all the ways we can," read the post. "This morning, it occurred to me that one thing we could do for her now is share the sunset shots that she didn't get to take. Here are two I've taken recently, and it would be wonderful if someone actually does have a shot from Wednesday…"

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