Elderly Ono Woman Mauled by Pit Bulls

Marj Lewis,  an 81-year-old life-long Ono resident, was mauled Monday afternoon by a pair of pit bulls after she’d walked to her neighbor’s yard to deliver a phone message to the neighbor from the neighbor’s husband.

Lewis had brought along her small dog, Katie, referred to widely by those who know Lewis as the woman’s “baby”, a dog she’s had since it was a puppy, a gift from her friend, Chic Miller, of Bella Vista Farms.

As Lewis entered the yard, the pit bulls charged and attacked Katie.  When Lewis tried to protect her dog, the pit bulls turned their attack on the 81-year-old woman. The dogs mauled Lewis, who sustained serious injuries, including damage to her face, jaw, arms and back.

An unconfirmed report said that the pitbulls’ owner may have used a crow bar in her attempt to break up her dogs’ attack on Lewis.

Lewis was loaded into a car where she was driven from her remote Ono home to a spot where she was helicoptered to Mercy Medical Center’s emergency room. She was taken into surgery the following day.

According to a Shasta County Sheriff’s Office press release, animal regulation officers responded to the attack at Rector Creek Road in Ono where Lewis was attacked. Officers determined that the two pit bulls posed a threat to public safety, and the dogs were removed from the property.

In the tiny Igo/Ono/Platina community west of Redding, residents are shaken by the attack on Lewis, a beloved woman known for her stooped posture, white hair, wide smile and cheerful disposition. She’s also known for her energy and passion for plants and her love of animals and sleeping outdoors under the stars.

Lewis is a master gardener, and volunteered at the Public Health Department in Anderson to help create a community garden. She’s a regular volunteer at Bella Vista Farms, and has organized and helped at many community activities and organizations, such as the Igo/Ono Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, the Igo/Ono Farmers Market, and the Raney-Katie Fund, that cares for needy animals, named for her dogs, both rescues.

She’s the kind of woman inclined to welcome “flat-lander” newcomers to the Igo/Ono area with a gift of deer-proof plants, complete with suggestions of where exactly in the yard it should be planted.

Within the Igo/Ono/Platina area, emails and phone calls are not just spreading the news of what happened to Marj Lewis, but people are  mobilizing to help. For now, the biggest concern – other than for Lewis’ recovery – is to take turns staying at Lewis’ remote Ono home and caring for Lewis’ gardens, as well as her animals, which includes three donkeys, two goats, four chickens, two cats,  three rescue fawns and two dogs.

Katie, the dog Lewis tried to save from the pit bulls, did not survive.

Chic Miller, owner of Bella Vista Farm, a sanctuary for about 600 rescued and injured animals, said Lewis’ dog, Katie, has the distinction of being the only Bella Vista Farm animal Miller ever gave away, breaking her own long-standing policy. Miller said one of her rescue dogs arrived pregnant and gave birth to one small puppy – Katie. Lewis was so smitten with the little dog that Miller gave it to her after it was weaned.

“I really, truly don’t have words to say how shocked and sad I am, ” Miller said Tuesday night.

“My heart is just wrenching that she’s hurt. The irony is that something so horrific could happen to someone so wonderful, someone who works with animals and cares for them 24/7. She’s my dear, dear friend and I’m devastated.”

Jim Wilson of Igo is active with the area’s Neighborhood Watch organization, and is often the one who emails alerts to the citizens about everything from fires and thefts to lost horses and the annual Christmas parade and tree sale. Tuesday, he sent out the email about Marj Lewis, someone he said has earned  the community’s love and support.

“She has never changed,” Wilson said. “Marj is always ready to help and pitch in and work her tail off.”

Regarding the fate of the pit bulls that attacked Lewis, the dogs were seized by officers immediately under the Food and Agriculture Code 31625. Also, officers determined that the dogs’ actions and behaviors met the criteria of a “Potentially Dangerous/Vicious Dog” as defined in section 31602 and/or section 31603 of the Food and Agriculture Code. Subsequently, the dogs were impounded and are in quarantine pending further investigation.

Meanwhile, in the Igo/Ono area, Miller and others are trying to stay as positive as possible under the circumstances. They’ve heard preliminary reports that the injuries Lewis suffered were severe, and she may be unable to use her hands and arms for some time.

“The thing about Marj is she has a lot of friends who love her,” Miller said. “We will rally around her, and of course we are all hoping for her full recovery. But I’m afraid that it may take a very long time.”


Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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24 Responses

  1. Avatar concernedcatlover says:

    Do pitt bull owners care more about dogs than humans? To say that these dogs only attack if mishandled or abused is perposterous! Pitt bulls have been bred to maim and kill for centuries, it is in their genetics.

    Do Golden Retrievers do this? What about Beagles? Schnauzers? Collies? I think not! Even if it is true that pit bulls can be rendered harmless with the proper training, why take the risk to begin with? Not to mention that these dogs are notorious cat and dog killers, even when socialized. I have seen very well socialized pitt bulls attack and kill strange dogs, cats and children. Socialization doesn't fix the problem!

    I would ask all pit bull defenders if they have a persecution complex or have hidden violence in themselves in their defending of such an obviously dangerous breed! If you truly love pit bulls, then end their suffering by supporting a breed ban. I would also ask, is a child's life worth the risk?

    • Avatar Bullybob says:

      do a google seach on goldern retriever, kills infant, sc. Yes all dogs do attack.. dont be so close minded.

      • Avatar Kathy B says:

        BullyBob – that says it all!

        Yes ALL animals have the ability to attack – geese, chickens, dogs, horses, rabbits, deer, etc. etc. The statistics says it all – there are more pit bull attacks on humans than any other dog – the statistics look at how many of the breed there are vs the attacks – and pit bulls and presario canary dogs (pit bulls on steroids) are the top culprits.

        You obviously have blinders on to defend THE ONLY DOG TO EAT HUMANS. Yes, other dogs do bite, but they do NOT consume their prey – and yes, to the pit bull breed, humans are prey! Look this up, it is scary.

        I am so sorry Marj. These were dogs you KNEW. You are in my prayers and I am also mourning the loss of Katie – I love all my animals like I love my daughter and grandsons. They are my family, as your animals are yours. Know that GOD is taking care of Katie – he does have a special place in heaven for our furry friends.

    • Avatar sheryl says:

      I know marj and can't imagine her or anyone going through something such as she did. I think BULLYBOB should know his facts on pit bulls before defending them. I don't dislike bears, mountain lions, wild pigs ect. But wouldn't own one. As for helping Marj I will help. See everyone at the meeting.

    • Avatar Diane Jessup says:

      Someone who can't spell the word "pit" correctly does not impress me as an expert on the breed nor canine aggression in particular. The fact is, NOTHING is written here about the dog's owners. WHY? These people let their dogs run loose. That's ridiculous. Why must the "hate" be directed at a breed of dog and not at DANGEROUS OWNERSHIP PRACTICES? Recently an older woman was mauled and dragged down the street by some dogs in my community. She lost most of her scalp. The dogs were not pit bulls. I don't think it is important what breed they were – what is important is the thing that the media and those afraid of dogs always miss – DANGEROUS OWNERSHIP PRACTICES.

      I've owned numerous American pit bulls over many years. Never an issue. Never a bite, nip, growl. Are they aggressive with other dogs – yes, some are, so I don't let them run loose! However, my 18 pound terrier has killed several feral cats she found around abandoned barns. Should we ban all terriers?

      Before you grab a pitchfork and start shouting "witch" (or "pit bull!") TRY and do some critical thinking about just what causes these types of HORRIBLE incidents: Making me get rid of MY DOGS does not solve the problem… making these dog owners ACT MORE LIKE ME will. Hum, I guess that makes it an OWNER problem, not a dog problem, doesn't it?

      So sorry for the loss of the precious little dog, and the injury to this wonderful woman…

  2. Avatar Cheryl McMillan says:

    The Igo/Ono Christmas Parade would be a great way to help Ms. Lewis. Maybe this year it could be in her honor and also, a fund raiser. I know that this community will come together to help this sweet lady.

  3. Avatar Dianne Vega says:

    Please everyone keep her in your thoughts and prayers …..horrific ….can't amagine the pain and suffering this poor lady is going through….won't people learn about Pit Bulls….they switch in an instant and it' doesn't matter if your there master friend or foe ……they attack….Blessings

    • Avatar Bullybob says:

      Other dogs do attack and some are goldern retrievers…. Just this spring a goldern retriever mix tore the limbs off an infant in SC. Just do a google search and dont be blinded by you preconcived thoughts.

    • Avatar Diane Jessup says:

      Dianne, it is so easy to spout inaccurate information that makes "haters" feel better. And yes, it does take a bit of effort to actually find out the facts. But I think you will find that critical thinking is rewarding. It certainly does more to solve issues than the constant grabbing up of pitchforks and going forth to "burn the witch" that folks with your mentality prefer to do.

      There are more pit bull incidents right now because they have been a "fad breed" with low quality dog owners for nearly 30 years now. BEFORE THEY BECAME A FAD no one was being "eaten" by pit bulls (that idea is simply ridiculous). Everyone was scared of Dobermans then – saying "their brains swelled" and spewing hate and silly statements about how they "turn on their owners". You don't hear that much anymore, do you? Why? Because they are no longer popular and no longer "sexy news" to the media.

      Did you know that in 1969 so many children were killed and mauled by saint bernards (then a fad breed) that the JAMA had an article calling for THE BANNING OF THE BREED DUE TO THEIR VICIOUCNESS.

      There are two types of people in this world. Those who truly love animals and don't blame THE ANIMAL when they are put into bad situations by humans. And there are those who whine about loving animals but are the first to start pointing fingers and screetching KILL THEM when they scare you – due to the actions OF THEIR OWNERS. Please point your fingers and silly hysterics where it belongs – at owners who keep dangerously unsound dogs of ANY breed and ANYONE who allows their dogs to run loose.

  4. Avatar brad dupre says:

    My wife and I met Marj many years ago. She is a very caring and giving person. She overheard my wife and I discussing what we should do with our dog. We were unable to take care of her at the time. She was an Aussie/Lab cross. Marj came up to us, introduced herself and we both knew that our dog would be going to the best person and place possible. We gladly accepted Marj's offer. We were very fortunate to have met her. She would call us and tell us about how our dog would herd her ducks in the pond, hang out with the donkeys etc.

    We both were truly saddened to read that Marj was attacked trying to protect her little dog. I burn sage for Marj daily and wish her well.


  5. Avatar Dodie Maguire says:

    I am so saddened to hear about Marj. She volunteered at the Mill Street Community Garden and taught children how to grow worms in a bucket. They all loved her. She dug holes for pumpkins and stopped by often to see how the garden was coming along. You could always depend on her. So now it is time for everyone who knows her to give back. She needs us now. Please keep posting information on the support Ono residents have planned so we all can participate.

    Prayers for you, Marj.

    Dodie Maguire

  6. Avatar Trinity Bob says:

    While it is true that any dog can attack, visualize with me for a moment that your child or grandchild or elderly parent is being attacked by a dog.

    Close your eyes and imagine it happening.

    Now, would you rather the attacking dog be a pit bull or some small dog?

    Do you need to use a crowbar repeatedly and hope the dog lets go? Only if it's a pit bull.

    We're all wishing you a complete and speedy recovery, Marj.


  7. Avatar pmarshall says:

    That is so awful what happened to Marj. And to lose her "best friend" is so sad! I do hope Marj Will recover OK. We all know that Pit bulls can be very dangerous. Why anyone has one of them is beyond me. Yes, all animals can bite and be mean, but pit bulls have a strange sor of meanness in them. Mr Bully has an appropriate name.

  8. Avatar Kathleen says:

    We are having a Community Meeting at the Igo School Gym on Saturday, Sept 8th at 12noon. Everyone is welcome. We'll be asking for names of people who want to help and generally brainstorm on the best way to assist her to a full recovery.

  9. Avatar Sue Odell says:

    Mom, Ernie and I just got home from seeing Marj, she is AMAZING! She has such a positive attitude and throws no blame. We plan to be at the meeting to help plan what can be done to assist Marj in her recovery just as she has time and again helped us and others.

  10. Avatar Randy says:

    Blah blah blah Did the lady not know about the pitbulls next door? Did the neighbor just get the pit bulls or did the old lady forget that the pitbulls were next door? Why did the old lady have to bring her little dog? It sounds and smells a little fishy to me!!!

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Gosh, Randy, I'm so glad you came along to point out what we all suspected but were too afraid to point out – this disturbing new trend of old ladies deliberately provoking Pit Bull attacks so they could be sent to the hospital with severe injuries. Yes, I'd been hearing reports of this very thing occurring across the country – elderly women allegedly minding their own business by walking along a road or visiting a friend – when in reality, they intended to have a Pit Bull maul them. It's always important in a case like this to blame the victim first. You know those old ladies – always seeking attention any way they can!

      /End sarcasm.

  11. Avatar Name says:

    Why not name names? Why keep a secret as to who owned the pits?

  12. Avatar KarenC says:

    My husband and I have an RV and have traveled a little over the past few years. We have been up into Canada, and the seven western states, coastal states and a lot of local side trips. In every RV park we have stayed , the proprietors are refusing certain breeds of dogs and the pit bull is the top of the list. Their insurance companies simply will not allow them, and for good reason.

    I have heard that these dogs in Ono have caused trouble before and showed signs of aggression. They should not have been exposed to anyone. It was a bomb waiting to explode.

    I am so sorry for the elderly lady and wish the best for her recovery. I hope in the near future she can accept a new pet given to her by someone who knows her best. Not only does she have to deal with the pain of her mauled body, but she lost her "baby".

  13. Avatar October24 says:

    It's astonishing that anyone would dare to so much as think of labelling these two pit bulls 'potentially' dangerous and vicious. They have already shown what they are. They don't need any more behavior testing, they've already FAILED the test of real life. I hope they will be put down very soon.

  14. Avatar John Callicrate says:

    So sorry to hear about Marge.

    I hope whoever had those dogs, is brought to task (or court),

    and never allowed to have dogs again.

    John Callicrate

  15. Avatar Kathryn says:

    Here is a link to a blog about the Top Ten Worst Breeds, complete with a link to the CDC's dog attack report: http://virtualimpax.com/a_dog_for_the_family/3003