A WOMAN slowly sinking into a peat bog watched in despair as her dogs held at bay a fire crew sent to rescue her.

Rescuers said Linda McDermott was in a "desperate situation" after the dogs prevented her from being hauled from the mud at Waldridge Fell, Chester-le-Street, County Durham.

Mrs McDermott became stuck as she walked her rottweilers. As she struggled to free herself, she began sinking deeper into the mire.

As the mud reached her waist she began screaming for help, but for an hour no one but the dogs heard her cries.

Eventually a passer-by raised the alarm and the fire brigade was called out shortly after 1pm yesterday.

A crew of four firefighters from High Handenhold station arrived and tried to reach a freezing and terrified Mrs McDermott.

But to her horror the two dogs leapt to her defence and rushed at the firefighters.

Faced with two large and angry dogs they could only stand off and shout words of comfort to Mrs McDermott.

For half-an-hour they tried to approach her, but when they got within ten yards the dogs would attack and they were forced to scamper to safety. Even Mrs McDermott could not call off her pets as their protective instinct took over.

She could have perished in the bog if a Durham County Council countryside warden had not come to the rescue with a handful of dog biscuits.

The warden, who is responsible for the upkeep of the fell, a designated area of natural beauty, was able to lure the dogs away from their owner.

Station oficer Peter Hewitson, of Durham Fire Brigade, said: "The situation was becoming desperate until the warden arrived.

"As the lady struggled she was sucked further and further into the mud and she was becoming very cold and weak.

"But as we tried to reach her the dogs - and they were big dogs - were protecting her by running at us.

"We were wondering what to do when the warden saved the day with his dog biscuits. They gave up and followed him.

"We were able to pull her free from the peat bog but by then she couldn't feel her legs and an ambulance was called.The dogs were simply trying to protect their owner but on this occasion were doing more harm than good."

Mrs McDermott was treated by paramedics after firefighters managed to free her using ropes.