On Nov. 10, Kate O’Keefe took her miniature schnauzer, Wolfgang ("Wolfy"), for a walk in her Bay View neighborhood – a daily ritual she enjoyed immensely. At roughly 4:30 p.m. – when it was still light out – she noticed a bright green "muscle car" parked on Clement Avenue.
The car pulled up next to O’Keefe and her dog, and two people – a Latino man and a woman in their late teens or early 20s – got out of the car. O’Keefe got an uneasy feeling.
"They circled me and asked me where I was going," says O’Keefe. "Wolfy was barking, going crazy."
The couple stood in front of O'Keefe so she couldn't walk past them. O'Keefe asked them where they were going. The man then leaned down next to the dog, and O’Keefe thought he was either going to try to pet or grab the dog. Instead, he asked, "Why is he so aggressive?" and without an answer, forcefully punched O’Keefe in the mouth.
O’Keefe, who knew she was badly hurt and bleeding, grabbed her dog and ran down the street. The man chased her for a few yards before O’Keefe ran into the street. Although she was in shock, she believes she started pounding on the window of a stopped car.
The driver, Abbie Chiconas also from Bay View, offered to drive O’Keefe to the hospital, but she insisted on going home. She knew her partner, Bill Rouleau, would not be there because after the dog walk she had planned to meet him and friends at Lake Park Bistro for dinner.
"I was in such a state of shock, I just kept thinking, 'What am I going to do with my dog'," she says.
Chiconas called the police, and O'Keefe drove herself to the hospital where she was told she had a fractured maxilla – which is the upper jaw bone – and her four front teeth were knocked in.
"It was actually good that my teeth were knocked in and not out because they did not lose blood or nerve supply, and I was able to keep them," says O’Keefe.
She did, however, have her jaw wired shut for six weeks. Doctors removed the wires on Dec. 22, but to this day, her diet is still limited to soft foods.
"I was so excited to have a cheeseburger," says O’Keefe. "I had to cut it up into six little pieces and eat it like a squirrel, but it was great to eat something other than soup or smoothies."
O’Keefe says the support she received from neighbors, family and friends has been incredible. Her and Rouleau’s refrigerator and freezer is stocked with food and numerous local healers offered her free sessions for light therapy (which heals bones) and acupuncture.
Others planned a fundraising event, "Bay View Barks Back," to support O’Keefe. Per O’Keefe’s request, all of the money collected will be donated to Urban Underground and Project Ujima -- both organizations support victims of violence and violence prevention.
The event takes place on Thursday, Jan. 19 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Urban, 2301 S. Logan Ave. The event includes DJs, a raffle featuring $6,000 in prices including a new bike from Ben’s Cycle, pizza from Classic Slice and desserts from Custom Cakes.
"It wouldn’t be an event with me if it didn’t include cake," says O’Keefe, who plans multiple community events a year including Peep Show and Dog Day Afternoon.
Raffle tickets can be purchased from Monday, Jan. 16 through Thursday, Jan. 19 at Mac's Pet Depot, D14, Hairy's Hair Bar, RushMor Records, Puddler's Hall and Lovely Salon & Spa. Tickets are also available for purchase at Urban during the party.
There are seven categories of raffle prizes including dog pampering, pamper yourself, health and wellness, night on the town, family-friendly and bar and restaurant. There’s also a "dude package."
"It has turned into a much bigger event than I’ve ever done," says O’Keefe.
Through everything that's happened in the past two months, O'Keefe has remained resilient thanks to numerous forms of therapy, support from others and her own fortitude. O’Keefe plans to work through her physical and emotional healing while she continues to work, live and play in her Bay View neighborhood.
"I am so lucky to have tremendous support from so many people," says O'Keefe. "This is my neighborhood, and I am so lucky to live in such a cohesive community. Nothing can change that."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.