TODAY   |  September 09, 2010

He died in crash, but dog survived

Jill Rappaport shares the story of one loyal pooch who survived the accident that killed his owner, leaving the dog to find his own way back home.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: This morning on TODAY'S PETS , Bodhi makes it home. Our resident animal advocate Jill Rappaport is here with the story of the bond between a young man and his dog even through the worst tragedy. Good morning to you, Jill .

JILL RAPPAPORT reporting: Oh, hi, Meredith . This is really a bittersweet story because John Everhart was on his way home after spending a wonderful summer as a camp counselor. Sadly, he never made it, but against all odds, his beloved dog did.

Unidentified Man: He was always laughing and a very outgoing kid.

RAPPAPORT: John Chauncey Everhart was known for his outgoing personality, his infectious sense of humor, And as his cousin put it, he was cool without trying. He was an honor student at University of Virginia , working towards a double major in economics and history.

Man: He liked to do well in the classroom, liked to do well whatever he did.

RAPPAPORT: John loved fishing, he was a movie buff and a music fanatic. Bob Dylan was a favorite. But most of all, John loved Bodhi .

Unidentified Woman #1: He was just so enamored with his dog. They were really companions for life.

RAPPAPORT: What did Bodhi do for your son?

Man: Got him up in the morning. He'd walk Bodhi early in the morning , you know, around the campus. And he's, 'Oh, Bodhi 's a chick magnet.'

RAPPAPORT: John adopted Bodhi a year ago from Almost Home Pet Adoption Center in Virginia . And there was no mistaking their irreplaceable bond.

Man: They were very close. The dog slept on the bed with John .

RAPPAPORT: But tragically, on August 15th , they became separated forever. John was on his way home to Bethesda , Maryland , from Vermont , where he was working as a senior counselor at Camp Wachusett . He was traveling with a camp friend and, of course, his best friend Bodhi . But on a curve, John lost control of his car and was killed instantly.

Man: Just that abrupt, you know, that ending, never to move forward, that's been very difficult. And that's when I, you know, start crying.

RAPPAPORT: Miraculously, 18-year-old Elliot Day , John 's passenger, survived the crash. But Bodhi had disappeared.

Unidentified Police Officer: Everybody was looking for Bodhi . I gave my word that we would do everything in our power to try to find the dog.

RAPPAPORT: Now this is where the accident occurred on that rainy afternoon in August on Route 80 in Paterson , New Jersey . An eyewitness saw Bodhi literally ejected from the automobile. He darted across this busy highway during rush hour. And miraculously, he was found five days later in the woods with only a slight abrasion above his right eye.

Police Officer: It's a miracle dog. The dog is lucky to be alive.

RAPPAPORT: And lucky to be back home with John 's family in Maryland .

Unidentified Woman #2: He went straight down the hall and flopped on the floor in John 's room.

RAPPAPORT: The bittersweet return of John 's beloved dog is only intensified by this special watercolor of Bodhi that Jay had planned to give to his son for his 21st birthday. It was finished the day John was killed. John would have loved it.

Man: Oh, yeah, he would have liked it.

RAPPAPORT: And is he giving you any comfort on some sort of level?

Man: Gets me out of bed in the morning. That's always a good thing.

RAPPAPORT: Yeah. Well, look at you.

Woman #2: A little light sort of at the end of a very dark tunnel. Incredibly sad, but yet here's Bodhi .

Man: Something worked out in this tragedy, gives us a bit of solace. But it's very bittersweet because it's impossible to be with Bodhi and not think about John .