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Monday, December 7, 2009

Impaled in freak accident, Smokey the Chi Hua Hua, survived for days before it was removed

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Michelle Duncum / Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital
Smokey the Chihuahua ran away and hid after he got a barbecue fork lodged several inches into his skull.
Here he is shown at the animal hospital shortly before veterinarians successfully removed it.

By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 9:39 a.m. ET July 17, 2009
They stuck a fork in little Smokey. It wasn’t on purpose.

The July 4 barbecue out in London, Ky., was
over and they were just trying to feed the Chihuahua pup a
few scraps when the prongs popped off the barbecue
fork and hit the poor little fellow in the head.

One of the prongs found a soft spot and sank right
in — three inches deep. A one-in-a-million shot,
said the vet; maybe one-in-a-trillion.

As Hughie Wagers, Smokey’s lanky owner, explained
it on TODAY Friday, it was all because of the bigger
dogs that were also eager for some juicy scraps.
Wagers apparently wasn’t on the scene at the time,
but his sister told him what happened.

Dog gone
“My sister was raking off food for the bigger dogs,” Wagers told
Matt Lauer as Smokey, oblivious to all the fuss, slept on
his lap, a little scar on his head the only sign of his status
as a miracle pooch. “She was raking it off a plate to ’em.
Smokey, he came out of the house — she was shooing
the big dogs off. She had the fork in her hand, and somehow,
it just popped right off the handle, and she looked around
and it hit Smokey in the head. And when it hit him, he run off.”

Other accounts of the incident say that Smokey also yelped,
which would be an understandable thing for a dog — or any
other critter — to do. And then he headed for the hills, the fork
sticking out of his head like a weird antenna. Everybody at
the barbecue called and looked for him, but the 12-week-old pup’s
instincts took him deep into the brush where nobody could find him.

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Michelle Duncum / Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital
Staff at Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital had never seen
anything like the fork stuck in Smokey's head.
They kept looking for two more days, and by
then, with that fork stuck in him, they thought he was done.

“They thought he was dead,” Wagers confirmed
in an easy country drawl. “Then I happened to
pop up and they told me about it. It so happened
we walked on the porch and Smokey was coming
out of the hills up the driveway.”

Remarkable return
Smokey seemed to be in reasonably good
shape, considering the fork in his head and
all — although he did tend to walk in circles.
He even had something to eat while Wagers and
his family were trying to figure out what to do.

“I got him and took him in the house,” Wagers said,
picking up the narrative. “They didn’t know what to
do with him, so I thought may as well take him
to Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital.”

The veterinary clinic is run by Dr. Keaton Smith,
who started working for a vet 25 years ago when
he was 15. When his staff saw the pup, they called him to take a look.

“They told me there was a dog with a fork in his head,” said Smith, who joined Wagers and Smokey for the interview with Lauer.

"When I came in I about
passed out,” Smith continued.
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as you can imagine, and we were
closing for the day.”

The vet explained that puppies, like human infants,
have soft spots in their heads. Had Smokey been an
adult dog, the fork probably would have bounced off
with no more damage than a cut. But the sharp tine
found the soft spot and sank right in. The second
tine ended up snug against the right side of
Smokey’s sad-eyed little head.

Unforking Smokey
Smith’s first thought was to euthanize the poor little guy. But then
he thought about how he already had survived two days with the fork
in his head. Dogs’ circulatory systems are very good at sealing off
cuts and minimizing bleeding, and he decided there might be a chance
of saving Smokey.

“I said, ‘He survived two days. Let’s take some X-rays anyway.’ We started there,” he said.

A bit more to the right, and the tine would have caused serious brain damage. But it happened to hit a less vital part of the
Chihuahua’s little brain.

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Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital
This X-ray shows the barbecue fork lodged several inches into Smokey’s brain.

Smith anesthetized Smokey, shaved around the fork, and pulled. The tine came out easily and cleanly, with just a drop or two of blood. Smith stitched up the wound, and brought Smokey out of anesthesia.

“He did wake up weird,” Smith told Lauer. At first, the pup walked in circles to its right and was disoriented. But in a couple of days, the dog reset its internal compass and, other than a droopy right eyelid, seems to be doing as well as a forked Chihuahua could possibly do. In fact, because Smokey’s still a pup, Smith expects that his brain will totally recover.

Smokey stretched a little and rearranged himself more comfortably on Wagers’ lap, but never did wake up during his three minutes of TODAY fame.

Quipped Smith: “He’s definitely a lap potato.”

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