“Wonder dog” found 11 days after crash in foothills

On Saturday, April 14, Lake County resident Laura Powell and her small dog, Disco, were driving from Nice to pick a friend up from a nearby airport. She was heading eastbound on Highway 20 in Colusa County when she lost control of her vehicle and collided with a car traveling in the opposite direction.

According to the accident report from the California Highway Patrol, the left front of her vehicle collided with the left front end of the other, causing both to travel off of the north shoulder of Highway 20. Powell’s vehicle continued in an easterly direction and became airborne as it traveled off of the shoulder. It struck a tree, causing it to spin counter-clockwise and into another tree, before it eventually came to rest in the creek bed to the north of the roadway. The other car overturned on the north shoulder and came to a rest on its wheels, facing west.

When emergency responders arrived, they had to use the jaws of life to pull Powell from her wrecked car. Alive, but suffering from what CHP described as major injuries, she was airlifted to the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, where she was treated for a broken left collarbone, CHP said. The other driver, a 46-year-old Antelope man who suffered only minor injuries, did not have to be transported for treatment.

“I rolled 30 feet down the embankment,” Powell said over the phone on Friday. “There were angels watching over me that day, no doubt… I feel like God still has a plan for me.”

When first responders arrived, Disco was nowhere to be found. Powell said she was panicked about not being able to find the dog. Emergency personnel tried to track Disco down that morning, but couldn’t find him.

“I was the first responder, and the dog wasn’t in the car when I arrived on scene,” said CHP Officer Shane Roach. “We looked, the fire department looked, and we couldn’t find it.”

Roach said that first responders even helped pass out fliers and called around in the days following the crash. While she was in the hospital, a friend of Powell’s – who she described as Disco’s “grandmother” – called all of the animal shelters in the surrounding areas and put up fliers. When she was well enough, Powell returned to the area with a blanket of Disco’s and some food. 

“I was keeping hope, but it was hard,” Powell said. “I know everyone says this, but this dog is like my child. Even right after the accident, that was all I was asking about.”

Eleven days went by, and there was still no sign of Disco.

In the early morning of Wednesday, April 25, Michael Pegis was driving west on Highway 20 near Williams and decided to turn off onto King Road. Pegis, 52, who recently sold his home in the Bay Area, was house hunting, looking to find a home to buy in rural Colusa County. He figured he would take the Leesville Grade into Stonyford, where he had seen a few properties he liked. He had traveled a few miles on Leesville Road when he noticed a pair of ears above the long grass outside of his passenger window. Initially, he thought it might be a fox. 

“I pulled up on it, and I rolled down my window and looked, and it was a little dog,” Pegis said. “…He was out of his element – he wasn’t where he belonged.” 

Pegis whistled and beckoned the dog, who came around to the driver’s door of his car. Pegis cracked the door, and the dog jumped right in and got into his back seat, eating a piece of a French dip sandwich that was sitting on the middle console on the way.

“He was dirty, and he was stinky,” Pegis said, “He looked terrible. He was a scruffy dog. He didn’t have a collar or anything.” 

The dog was intent on staying in the car, and for Pegis, a self-described dog lover, that was just fine – he had recently lost his black lab, and figured he had found himself a new one. Still, he wanted to do the right thing, and headed back down the hill, ultimately arriving at the Colusa County Animal Shelter to see if the dog belonged to anyone.

When he got there, the animal control officer immediately recognized the dog from a poster at the shelter, despite the dirt and grime covering it: It was Disco. A quick wave of a wand over the dog’s back confirmed that, bringing back Powell’s information from a microchip. That’s when Pegis heard Disco’s back story.

“I just was amazed,” Pegis said. 

A short time later, Disco and Powell were reunited, both a little banged up but happy to be together again.

“It’s a crazy story,” said Powell. “He is a wonder dog.”

While he may not have ended up with a new dog, Pegis said he had gotten in touch with Powell, and has ended up with two new friends. ■

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net