ANTIOCH -- Charlene Wadsworth said she could see the terror in her dog's eyes as its neck was clamped in the jaws of a pit bull Wednesday night.

"I thought, 'Hang in there,'" she said. "'I am trying my best to save your life.'"

Wadsworth and her husband, John Wadsworth, were on a walk with their poodle-terrier mix, Muphin, and their hound, Lepi, near the corner of Minta Lane and Fitzuren Road -- just yards from Little Lu Lu's Christian Preschool -- about 6:30 p.m. when the couple said three pit bulls charged at them from the side of a home.

One pit bull attacked John Wadsworth and Lepi; the other two went after Charlene Wadsworth and Muphin.

Muphin yelped in fear as she was snatched by the ear and then on the back of the neck.

Lepi fought back valiantly, John Wadsworth said, but the pit bull had a firm grasp on the hound and also on his hands.

John Wadsworth, fearing for his and Lepi's safety, pulled out a pocket knife.

"When I saw how much blood was being shed, I knew this was not going to stop on its own," he said. "I pulled out my knife and stabbed."

John Wadsworth injured the pit bull enough for it to let go of him and his dog, and he turned around to see his wife and a stranger still struggling to control the other dogs.

The owner of the pit bulls came running from his house, admonishing his pets just as police and paramedics swooped in, he said.

Charlene and John Wadsworth declined an ambulance ride to the hospital, instead rushing their pets to care.

Muphin underwent an hours-long surgery Wednesday night. She will probably have to have another surgery for the deep puncture wounds and muscle tears she suffered in the attack. Lepi sustained several bite wounds but did not require surgery.

The Wadsworths also suffered bite wounds, and John Wadsworth said the section between his thumb and forefinger was severely torn.

Antioch police said the pit bulls have been put in quarantine. They were not licensed with the city, and the owner could not provide shot records for the dogs.

Police added that they discovered the owner's fence was not high enough to secure the pit bulls, and that was how the dogs escaped when they encountered the Wadsworths.

The city's Animal Services will hold a hearing to determine whether the dogs, once their time in quarantine is up, should be returned to their owner.

The Wadsworths are petitioning to have the animals humanely euthanized, police said, but the owners told police they would fight the Wadsworths' request.

The owners of the pit bulls were not identified by police. Now at home, Lepi and Muphin are doing "OK," according to the Wadsworths. They stay quiet and seem depressed, but husband and wife are simply glad they are alive.

"I am kind of shell shocked," Charlene Wadsworth said. "I never even remotely thought that something like this could happen to me.

"If you have a pet, be responsible. Be aware that dogs are very strong; you have to train them," she said. "People are important here too, and negligence has caused this and has put the dogs in the pound."