COLUMBUS, GA -- A 5-pound pet poodle fought off a rabid fox to protect its owner.

''I felt something and saw the fox about to jump on my leg,'' Joyce Maloof said. ''When I looked down, all I could see was teeth. That poor little dog saved my life.''

The attack occurred about lunchtime Friday as Maloof and Champ walked through their front yard along Standing Boy Drive in Green Island Hills.

''I screamed and jumped,'' Maloof said, ''and Champ took off flying around the back of the house. And the fox took off after my little dog.''

Maloof and two men who were working in her yard found Champ and the critter fighting under her car in the carport. The men fought the fox with shovels. At one point, the fox lunged at one of the men as he worked to rescue Champ.

''You don't want to tangle with one of those rabid foxes,'' Maloof said. ''They'll jump on you, and you can't get them off. It scared me to death.''

Champ was bleeding from the mouth when Maloof picked him up to hug him. She raised the 11-year-old white miniature poodle from a puppy small enough to fit inside a shirt pocket.

Champ remained quarantined Monday. He had a rabies vaccine about a month ago. The veterinarian gave him a booster Friday and has been treating him with antibiotics. Maloof is hopeful Champ will come home soon.

''He's just spoiled rotten,'' Maloof said. ''Every step I take, he's right there.''

The men killed the fox, which was picked up by the Columbus Health Department. A state laboratory confirmed Monday the fox was rabid, marking the 10th rabid animal found in Columbus this season, said Ed Saidla, Muscogee County environmental health director.

''It was a fairly large fox and very healthy,'' Saidla said. ''Thankfully, the family poodle had had rabies shots and was current and was not really injured from fighting the fox.''

The health department will begin distributing notices today warning neighbors of the rabid fox, Saidla said.

''I think this is the most rabies cases we have had in Columbus in 15 years at this point in the year,'' Saidla said.

Maloof said several neighbors have reported fox spottings recently. One neighbor had traps in her yard to catch the varmints.

Harris and Marion counties have each had confirmed cases of rabid foxes this summer as well, Saidla said.

Residents are advised:

Not to pick up or handle any stray dog or cat or any wild animal.

Report any animal bites to city animal control or the local health department.

Report any animals that are behaving strangely or aggressively.

Inform children about the potential danger posed by stray and wild animals and urge them not to pet or touch them.

Have all pet dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies.

If bitten or scratched by an animal, wash and rinse the wound thoroughly for several minutes, apply a disinfectant, seek medical attention at once and report the bite.