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Dog rescued from train tracks so popular, shelter's website crashes

April 11, 2013|By Kate Mather
  • Banjo the dog prepares for his close-up on KMIR News 6's "adopt a pet" segment this week.
Banjo the dog prepares for his close-up on KMIR News 6's "adopt… (Riverside County Animal…)

Officials at Riverside County Animal Services had a hunch the story of Banjo the dog would get some attention. But this?

So many people turned to the department's website looking for information on the fluffy poodle-terrier mix rescued from train tracks that the site went down Wednesday afternoon -- and still isn't up and running.

"Banjo's causing some serious technical issues," spokesman John Welsh said.

Interest in the dog exploded after the department revealed Tuesday he was rescued this month when a 78-year-old man apparently tied him to some train tracks in the Mecca area.

A train engineer spotted the dog and man walking away from the area, and used an emergency brake to stop in time.

"Riverside County -- there's a lot of weird stuff that happens in our neck of the woods. Alligators in backyards, stuff like that," Welsh said. "You never know what's going to resonate with folks. But I told my boss, 'Prepare for the onslaught.' "

International media outlets picked up the story. A Colorado man called wanting to donate to the shelter. And hundreds of people from across the country -- New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New York -- have asked whether they could bring Banjo home.

Welsh said more than 200 people have emailed about adopting Banjo, and he and his staff plan to narrow down the list of potential owners to 10 finalists.

The candidates will be interviewed, logistical questions will be asked (For those out of state: "Will you pay for the dog's flight?") and the department will try to find the best new home for the pup.

Welsh said they hope to have a decision by next week.

The department also has received an onslaught of questions about the man who allegedly tied Banjo to the tracks.

He was initially arrested by the Union Pacific agent, but was released to his family with a warning because he appeared "senile," officials said, and "didn't fully understand what he had done."

The man told the agent his family didn't want the dog and he didn't know what to do, officials said.

"He's not an evil person. He's a man who needs to be cared for by his family," Welsh said. "We have all this passion and interest in this little dog, but let's not forget we have to have that same level of compassion for people that need to be cared for by their families."

As far as Banjo is concerned, Welsh said the puppy is doing well. He spends his nights at the home of a veterinary technician, where he gets to play with other dogs.

"He's got a lot of energy," Welsh said, and "runs a little sideways."

But he's shy when you first meet him, Welsh said. When Welsh arrived at the shelter this week to take Banjo to a TV station's for its "adopt a pet" segment, it took the dog about 10 minutes to walk up to him.

Welsh eventually scooped the pup up, and put him in the car. Banjo sat in Welsh's lap on the way to his close-up, even peeking up to peer out the window.

"He was totally relaxed and calm," Welsh said.

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Twitter: @katemather | Google+
kate.mather@latimes.com

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