Woman spends Christmas in hospital after being mauled by 2 dogs

by: Jeff Smith Updated:

LENIOR, N.C. - A Lenoir woman will spend Christmas in the hospital after being mauled by two dogs Monday afternoon.

Witnesses said 51-year-old Deborah Vanderbough could easily have been killed by the two animals -- even though she knew the dogs by name and took them on walks nearly every day of the week.

Chelsea Witherspoon heard Deborah Vanderbough scream for help, and looked out her windows to a horrifying sight.

"They had her pinned down, and one was ripping her leg one way. And one was ripping her arm the other way," Witherspoon recalled. "She just kept saying, 'I'm so tired, I can't keep fighting them off.'"

"They mauled her to the point where they completely ripped her pants off, and her arm had flesh all the way down to the bone. They had just ripped her apart," she said.

What's still confusing to witnesses -- and even to police -- is why the dogs attacked.

Neighbors said Vanderbough is dating a man who lived in the neighborhood, and she would take the dogs out for walks in a spacious backyard field several days a week.

Police believe one dog was a boxer-mix; the other a bulldog-mix.

"She just had blood all over her arm. And I saw the dogs face and it had blood all over it," said neighbor Maggie Nelson, who also ran to help.

Several neighbors started running to Vanderbough's aid after they heard her screams, but they had to run more than 200 yards to get to her.

They began shielding her from the dogs and running back to the houses with her, but the dogs kept biting.

"There is no doubt in my mind the dogs would have killed her if we had not heard her screaming. They had her down on the ground and were literally ripping her to pieces," Witherspoon said.

Police said Vanderbough has severe cuts to her arm. She's being treated at CMC in Charlotte.

Residents told Eyewitness News the same dogs bit a different woman a few months ago during a walk. Neighbors said animal control officers took a report but the dogs were allowed to stay.

Maggie Nelson said she'd be terrified if those dogs are released.

"I'd be scared to death," she said. "I would be scared to even walk outside."

Neighbors only knew the dogs' owner as "David." Eyewitness News knocked on his door sevearl times but no one was home.

The dogs were taken to the Caldwell County Animal Shelter by animal control officers. Their fate will be determined sometime next week by the Animal Control Board.