Conductor stops train in time to save dog tied to tracks

A train engineer is being hailed a hero after his quick actions saved the life of a small dog that had been tied to the train tracks by his senile owner.

A quick-thinking train operator saved Banjo from certain death. (Photo credit: Riverside County Department of Animal services)

While the incident took place April 2, details about the lucky rescue are only just beginning to emerge.

The Union Pacific line train operator was making a routine run near Mecca in Riverside, Calif., when he saw Banjo, a 10-month-old PoodleTerrier mix, tied to the tracks up ahead. With only a fraction of a second to react, the engineer threw the emergency brakes, hoping the dog’s life would be spared.

The barreling train stopped mere yards away from the shaking pup, and the engineer hurriedly contacted emergency services. Union Pacific Special Agent Sal Pina, who untied the very frightened Banjo from the tracks and arrested Banjo’s confused owner, is still shaken by the whole experience. Like Banjo, Agent Pina’s own dog is a Poodle-Terrier mix.

“It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve seen,” Agent Pina tells the New York Daily News. “I’ve never seen something like this.”

Banjo’s 78-year-old owner, whose name has not been released, is believed to be suffering from dementia and will not be charged with animal cruelty. Though he was allegedly speaking in gibberish, the man did manage to tell authorities he did not want the puppy and did not know what else to do, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“[He] didn’t fully understand what he had done,” Agent Pina explains.

The Riverside County Department of Animal Services shelter, who is now caring for Banjo, says that while the incident was indeed horrifying, they hope the man who tied the little dog to the train tracks is able to get help, too.

“We believe that people in need should also receive the care and attention that they need from their loved ones,” the shelter said in a statement released to KESQ News.

Banjo has been examined at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus and is now looking for a new home. CBS News reports that the interest from people looking to adopt Banjo has been so overwhelming the extra internet traffic has crashed the Riverside County Department of Animal Services website.

Riverside County Animal Services Senior Public Information Officer John Welsh says the office has been inundated with phone calls from all over the country and everyone always asks about Banjo. He is happy to offer an update on how the little guy is doing.

“Banjo is currently being fostered by our veterinary technician, Jo Marie Upegui,” Welsh says. “She takes him home each night to help work on his shyness and to keep the dog familiar with other people and animals.”

“She reports that he loves her other dogs,” he adds.

Anyone interested in adopting Banjo is asked to send an inquiry email to shelterinfo@rivocha.org. Welsh says they hope to soon have the pool of potential adopters narrowed down to ten, and place Banjo in a loving home by early next week.

Sources: New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, KESQ News, CBS News