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Joe Lewis and Jackson

Joe Lewis and Jackson are seen in this provided photo.

HAMILTON – Family and friends of a Hamilton man shot Saturday morning are hoping to raise enough money to replace the dog killed in his arms and to help with upcoming living expenses.

They all know that Joe Lewis may well owe his life to a pit bull he called Jackson.

“Anyone that knew Jackson knew that he was literally Joe’s best friend,” said Lewis’ brother, Mike.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the 29-year-old Joe Lewis had just come home after a night working at the Rainbow Bar. Shortly after he arrived at the apartment house on Hamilton’s Second Street, he picked up his dog and carried it outside.

After having a toe removed, Jackson had a cast on one leg and wasn’t getting around very well on his own.

Earlier that night, Lewis had an odd altercation with his neighbor, Monte Hanson, at the Rainbow Bar. Court records said Hanson ordered a “red beer” and became angry after Lewis used Clamato juice instead of tomato juice in the drink.

Hanson was apparently upset over the change because it was contrary to his religion, Judaism, to drink Clamato juice. Court records said he told a neighbor later that he was going to retaliate and kill Lewis.

Lewis’ brother said Jackson was still in Joe’s arms when bullets began to fly behind the apartment house.

Jackson was hit in the head by the first shot, Mike Lewis said. If the dog had not been there, the bullet likely would have struck Joe Lewis in the head.

Mike Lewis is certain that Jackson saved his brother’s life.

The second shot hit Joe Lewis in the ribs and exited out his back. Fortunately, it didn’t hit any vital organs.

“He’s doing all right now,” Mike Lewis said. “He’s just in a lot of pain is all. He’s staying strong. He’s out of the hospital.”

Lewis said his brother is really missing his best friend.

“He’s pretty broken up about his dog,” Lewis said. “Anyone who knows him knows he’s not your average animal guy. He takes his animals very, very seriously.”

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With the help of family and friends, Mike Lewis has started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise enough money to buy his brother a new dog and help meet some of the living expenses coming his way.

Joe Lewis cuts wood and tends bar for a living.

“He won’t be able to do either of those for some time,” Mike Lewis said. “We would like to raise about $12,000 to cover the price of his rent and bills for 12 weeks, as well as get him a new pit bull."

“Jackson was a purebred red-nose pit,” he said. “Those dogs are not easy to come by.”

People had donated a little more than $1,000 during the first day of the fundraising campaign.

Lewis said he had a hard time convincing his brother that it was all right to let people help.

“Joe hasn’t asked for any of this,” Lewis said. “In fact, he’s pretty reluctant about it all. He’s the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off of his back and never ask for anything in return. It’s been hard on him to allow us to push him down and tell him he has to take it.”

The brothers are Hamilton High School graduates and well known in the community.

“Our family and friends have pulled together and are helping out in any way they can,” he said. “We really appreciate all the support from people.”

People interested in donating can visit gofundme.com/u822q6x.

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