Garbage man rescues new best friend from trash

What started out as a normal day on the job for Muncie, Ind., Sanitary District employee Mike Upchurch quickly turned into anything but normal.

Shelly and Mike Upchurch, and Garby, a puppy Mike found in a garbage bag. (Photo credit: Patti Blake/The Star Press)

Wednesday morning around 11:30 a.m. Upchurch was in the middle of his normal routine, collecting trash along East Main Street, when he heard something odd coming from a blue garbage bag.

“It was a terrible sound,” Upchurch remembers, hoping beyond hope that he was only imagining it.

Then the bag started to move; something was inside. Startled, Upchurch pulled the garbage bag open and made the discovery of a lifetime — a small puppy was struggling inside.

“I got him out of the bag, and I was kind of in shock,” Upchurch tells “I couldn’t believe it.”

The little puppy was shaking in Upchurch’s arms, so the trash collector hopped in the cab of the truck and cranked the heat. Back at sanitation headquarters, Upchurch gave the little pup a warm bath and rounded up a fluffy blanket.

“I’ve never, ever come across anything like this,” Upchurch remarked.

Muncie Animal Shelter Director Phil Peckinpaugh says if Upchurch hadn’t intervened, it is likely the 6-week-old pup wouldn’t have made it.

“The sanitary official just heard it by accident — heard the dog making little barking or squealing or crying type noises,” Peckinpaugh said.

“The owner told us that she believed the puppy had Parvo, and that was not the case,” Peckinpaugh explains. And while this puppy was luckily found alive, the woman admitted to throwing others away in the past, believing they were dead. “The previous litter before this litter of puppies was also discarded in the trash can,” Peckinpaugh says.

Peckinpaugh has since filed cruelty and neglect charges against the woman; her name has not yet been released.

Despite the pup’s sad beginnings, his story has a happy ending. Less than 12 hours after finding the scruffy pup in the trash, garbage man Mike Upchurch and his wife decided to adopt him. Upchurch has since named him, quite fittingly, Garby.

“He’s running around and checking everything out,” Upchurch said of Garby. “He’s already head of the household.”

Muncie residents have also shown their gratitude to Upchurch, one leaving a note on a green garbage tote:

“From fellow dog lovers… Thank you Muncie Sanitation and Mike Upchurch! You are appreciated!”