SOUTH SHORE — Willie Riley said he had always wanted to do something heroic, like "run into a fire" and save someone.
On Monday afternoon, the 48-year-old got his chance to play the hero.
Riley was cooking chicken gizzards and watching television in his South Shore home when he said he heard a young girl banging on his door.
The girl told Riley her 3-year-old cousin was being mauled by two pit bulls and needed help.
Riley said he ran across the street to a fire station for help, but nobody answered the door. So he went back and jumped a fence into the backyard of the home in 7300 block of South Kingston Avenue where the boy was being attacked.
"I kept banging and banging and banging," Riley said. "Then I came back over and jumped the fence. Just couldn't wait."
Armed with a wooden stick, Riley went into the house and found the two dogs biting the boy on his face and head.
"I heard where the boy was crying at and saw the dogs pulling him, pulling him both ways," Riley said.
Riley shooed the dogs away with the stick before grabbing the boy by the hand and leading him out of the house. He said the little boy stopped crying as soon as the dogs were off him.
"I said, 'You a strong little boy,'" Riley said.
The boy was taken to Comer Children's Hospital with injuries on his torso, which were considered not life-threatening, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.
Neighbors said the little boy and his siblings were in town from Memphis visiting their aunt, who owns the dogs. The woman was apparently not home Tuesday morning, but neighbors said she lives alone.
Anthony Taylor, who lives two doors down from the woman, said her dogs were named "Peanut Butter" and "Money" and said one of the dogs was pregnant.
Taylor said the pit bulls never attacked anyone before, but he was not surprised at what happened.
"You can't just bring a pit in with kids," he said. "They weren't used to the kids."
Taylor and Riley said the woman, who goes by the name "Change," left the children alone with the dogs while she ran an errand.
An official with animal control stopped by the house Tuesday morning to pick up the dogs but could not get into the house. The official said the dogs would be taken and "observed" to ensure they were safe.
Later Tuesday, the dogs were taken away by animal control.
Riley said the two pit bulls had always been well-behaved but believed they needed to be put down after Monday's attack.
"They taste blood one time, it may be worse next time," he said.
Taylor said the dogs have been known to escape the home before by digging under the backyard fence — but this time "they went too far."
The kids "came here to have fun and now tragedy happens," he said as several children passed back and forth in front of the yard, waiting to watch the dogs removed.
"I know [the owner[ didn't do it intentionally ... but I'm glad they're gone," he added. "My daughter just had a baby today — 7 pounds, 8 ounces. I feel sorry for [the owner], but I gotta take care of myself and the kids on the block."
After the rescue, neighbors called Riley a hero, saying they could not do what he did.
On Tuesday, Riley smiled and bashfully accepted the accolades, saying "it's all good."
"It's the first time I've ever had that type of [recognition]," he said, nodding. "I like it — having a day of fame."