BEND, Ore. (AP) — The new year has been very, very good to a 12-year-old Lhasa apso named Jazzi and her owners, Bob and Kathy Dent of Bend.
On New Year's Eve, shortly after Bob Dent let Jazzi out into the backyard of the couple's southeast Bend home, the dog bolted in response to fireworks overhead. The Dents searched without success until daybreak. A few hours later, however, a neighbor arrived at the Dents' house with Jazzi and an unbelievable tale of the dog's eventful night.
Jazzi somehow ended up on a railroad trestle crossing Brosterhous Road about half a mile from the Dents' home. Starting around midnight, four different train crews from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad spotted a tiny white dog lying between the tracks just before they rolled over it, assuming it must be dead.
But Jazzi was alive.
Around 9 a.m., a train crew led by conductor Chris Myron and engineer Erik Carey pulled into the BNSF rail yard in Bend. The train, 80 cars long and bound for Pasco, Wash., from Barstow, Calif., was scheduled for a crew shift change. Members of the crew that had been driving the train through the night were planning to head to a local hotel for a few hours of sleep, according to BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.
Instead of going to the hotel, the crew took a detour out to the Brosterhous Road trestle to check on the dog they'd seen on the tracks coming into town. Myron climbed up on to the trestle and made his way toward Jazzi. The dog wasn't moving. But when Myron touched her, she began wagging her tail and was soon licking his face.
"The crew was shocked that the dog was alive," Melonas said. "They were gratified. They've indicated they couldn't have had a better start to the new year."
Using the address on Jazzi's collar, the train crew headed over to the Dents' home. Bob Dent had left a short time earlier, and Kathy was sleeping deeply, having spent most of the night looking for Jazzi, but the crew found a neighbor willing to return the dog to its owners.
When she woke up and met the neighbor who had her dog, Kathy Dent said she was amazed by the story she heard, but disappointed she hadn't had an opportunity to meet the men who'd rescued Jazzi. Only an hour or so later, Myron turned up outside the Dents' home, carrying a new doggie dish, toys and treats for Jazzi.
"He came to the door and said, 'My name's Chris.' I said, 'Chris the conductor?' He said, 'Yes,' and I just gave him the hugest hug," Kathy Dent said.
Bob Dent said Myron told him he thought he'd seen Jazzi's head move just before she disappeared beneath the train and wanted to come back to get a closer look on the off chance the dog was still alive.
A freight train has a clearance of around 10 inches, Myron told the Dents, just enough room for Jazzi to lie down flat on the ties as the four, mile-long trains passed over.
Myron did not return a call seeking comment, and the Dents said he seemed a bit shy about being recognized for the dog rescue. He turned down the couple's attempts to give him a reward, the Dents said, but agreed to let them treat him to dinner the next time he's in Bend.
"'When that dog licked my face, that was reward enough. You folks got your dog back. That's enough for me,'" Bob Dent recalled him saying.
Jazzi appears little worse for wear from the ordeal, though she seems to have lost much of her hearing, Bob Dent said.
Melonas said the story of Jazzi has been making the rounds among people who work for the railroad, but it's not the first time an animal has beaten the odds to survive an encounter with a train.
About 10 years ago, a BNSF train struck a great horned owl north of Madras, Melonas said. The conductor found the battered bird lying on the steps of the locomotive and stuffed it in a sack to be disposed when the train arrived at its destination.
Seven hours later, as the conductor was picking up garbage in the locomotive, he noticed the sack moving. Despite a mangled beak and a broken wing, "Hooty the Owl," as the bird became known, was still alive. After five months at a wildlife rehabilitation center, Hooty was released back into the Deschutes River Canyon.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.