Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal

Banjo, a 10-month-old terrier mix who was rescued by a train engineer after being tied to train tracks, has become quite the superstar since his touching story surfaced earlier this week.

"It's probably one of the worst things I've seen," said Union Pacific Special Agent Sal Pina, who untied Banjo from the tracks. Photo Credit: Riverside County Animal Services
After a bath, Banjo is now ready for adoption. Photo Credit: Riverside County Animal Services

In fact, so many people visited the Riverside County Animal Services website on Wednesday, that their database crashed, according to spokesman John Welsh.

After an elderly man tied the pooch to railroad tracks in Mecca, a Southern California desert town, Banjo was fortunately rescued by an “eagle-eyed engineer,” according to animal control officials. The train operator hit the emergency brakes and the lucky dog was saved.

“It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve seen,” said Union Pacific Special Agent Sal Pina, who untied Banjo from the tracks and coincidentally cares for the same breed of dog.

The dog’s guardian was detained but will not be charged with a crime because he may have dementia, according to authorities. He reportedly appeared to be extremely confused as he was nearly run over by the train himself, and didn’t fully understand what he had done. The 78-year-old man was later released to his family after telling investigators he no longer wanted the dog but didn’t know what to do with him.

Welsh added that Animal Services has been criticized for not seeking animal-cruelty charges against the man.

“Please note that a Union Pacific special agent with more than 20 years of law-enforcement experience thoroughly interviewed the man,” Welsh wrote. “The man is almost 80 years old. The special agent said he believed the man to be senile. The man spoke gibberish. The man could easily be demonstrating signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. We do not know for sure. But the special agent was going to be in touch with adult protective services to make sure that the man’s family was going to be held accountable.”

After the incredibly close call, an animal services officer immediately brought Banjo—named after old traffic signals found on some rail lines—to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms where the dog was examined and is said to be very healthy and friendly.

Despite his multiple TV appearances, Banjo has somewhat of a timid temperament and veterinary technician Jo Marie Upegui is currently fostering the dog to work on his shyness and help keep the dog comfortable around other people and animals.

“He’s just a sweet dog that wants to be loved,” Upegui said.

Hundreds of adoption offers from across the country have poured in, and Banjo is expected to have a new home by Monday.

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