ESSEX, Md. (WJZ)—For the first time, the father who saved his young son’s life after the family dog mauled the toddler is speaking about the nightmarish ordeal.

Mike Hellgren has his harrowing story.

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While the dog was part pit bull, the dad believes this is not about the breed and rejects calls this should start any new debate in Maryland over pit bulls. He just wants everyone to know his son is going to be OK.

“I’ve cried so much, I don’t think I can cry anymore,” said John Cherny III.

He spoke to WJZ from the same living room in Essex where it unfolded Tuesday.

“All I heard was screaming, and I saw the dog had my son by his face and I ran in here, grabbed the dog and ripped his jaws open. The wound was really, really bad. He was missing half his face, pretty much,” Cherny said. “I had this dog for three years. Me having to kill it just…it broke my heart, too. But it was either him or my son.”

Police removed the lab/pit bull mix in a garbage bag.

“My son being hurt, I did what any father would do in that situation,” he said.

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Cherny says this case should not add fuel to the heated debate over pit bulls in Maryland that ignited after the state’s highest court labeled pits “inherently dangerous,” holding landlords liable for dog bites. The General Assembly just passed a new law holding owners liable, regardless of breed.

“It makes me angry. This is something that could happen to anyone,” Cherny said. “I don’t know where this aggression came from. Maybe she was abused before we got her.”

Cherny says his son has a long road to recovery, but doctors at Johns Hopkins are optimistic.

“The best possible scenario happened. They were able to connect all the nerve tissue in his face,” he said. “I want people to pray for him. Just pray for our family.”

Cherny says he loves dogs but doesn’t plan on getting another one — of any breed — ever again after this.

The injured 2-year-old’s little brother was in the same room at the time of the attack but was unharmed.

The family has asked if anyone has any flowers or stuffed animals–particularly “Toy Story” items–or well wishes, they send them to 14 Barnacle Court in Essex.

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