Dog tied to train tracks saved by engineer, needs new home


Banjo is never far from Jo Marie Upegui's side. Upegui, a veterinary technician with the Riverside County Department of Animal Services shelter in Thousand Palms, is caring for the 10-month-old poodle-terrier mix.

"He's just a sweet dog that wants to be loved," Upegui said.

Banjo was left to die a week ago. According to shelter officials, the dog's previous owner tied him to a train track in Mecca and walked away as a train was approaching. The train was approaching down the track when the engineer spotted something on it and pulled the emergency brake.

"The train stops and he realizes, of course, there's a little fluffy dog right there tied to the tracks," said John Welsh of animal services.

When the 78-year-old dog owner was questioned, he told Union Pacific Railroad authorities that the family no longer wanted the dog.

The dog owner was not charged with animal cruelty because he showed signs of mental confusion. He was released to his family.

The dog was turned over to the shelter and given a name to honor his rescuer. Banjo is a name for railroad signs because they're shaped in the form of a banjo.

The dog has a new name and hopefully will soon have a new home.

"I would prefer to be someone who can treat him gently and give him the kind of love he needs right now, because he's been through so much," Upegui said.

Anyone interested in adopting Banjo is asked to contact the shelter at

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