A hiker in northern California has her dog and an intrepid motorist to thank for her life, after being attacked by a mountain lion. The attack happened when Erin Wilson and her 50-pound Belgian Malinois went for a walk near Big Bar along the Trinity River, four hours northwest of Sacramento.

According to Captain Patrick Foy of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the mountain lion pounced on the woman from behind, clawing her left shoulder. Hearing her screams, the dog defended its owner. Foy told the Sacramento Bee, “The dog and the lion were in a pretty vicious fight. The mountain lion bit into the dog’s head and wouldn’t let go. So the woman attempted to throw rocks. She tugged at it. She pulled. She even attempted to gouge its eyes out. She couldn’t drive it off the dog.”

In desperation, Foy said, the woman ran back to the highway as the cougar began dragging her pet off the trail. A short while later, the woman managed to flag down Sharon Houston, who lived nearby. Houston told reporters: “I was driving on 299 from the Coast to Weaverville when I saw a woman trying to wave someone down. She was frantic about it.” Houston grabbed a stick and pepper spray from her car and followed the other woman down the trail.

As they approached the two animals, Wilson ran forward wielding a walking stick. Houston explained, “Right at the edge of the trees, I saw the mountain lion had the dog by the throat. She started hitting it with her baton and screaming. She was very determined to stop this mountain lion from attacking her dog so I couldn’t leave her.”

Houston joined the fray. ”I thought, ‘Here we go,’” she said. “So I started hitting it on the head, trying to get it to let go.” When it did let go, it turned on the two women. “(It) swiped at us and bared its teeth,” Houston said. “I opened up my pepper spray and just hosed its face. It was the longest 5 to 10 seconds…I begged, ‘Please work, please work, please work.”

It worked.

The lion released the dog, took one last swipe at the women, and then turned and walked away along the river. The women gathered the dog and drove to the Big Bar ranger station to report the incident and seek treatment. Foy concluded, “I think it’s safe to assume that dog probably saved her life.” And, it seems the two women returned the favor.

Foy explained that Wilson, who sustained injuries on her shoulder and hand, may need to be treated for rabies, while the dog is in the care of a veterinarian and is in serious condition.