IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Bow ! Dog that got BBQ fork in head is OK

Doctors said it was a million-to-one shot: Impaled with a barbecue fork stuck several inches into his brain, a Chihuahua named Smokey ran away and survived on his own for two days before returning and having the fork successfully removed. “They thought he was dead,” said the dog’s owner.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

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.

Michelle Duncum

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 returnSmokey 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. “This is not real. They come in a panic, 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.

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.”