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Troopers give tale of pooch on interstate a happy ending

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A fractured leg didn't slow Luke down as he hobbled across a South Charleston parking lot to greet the men who had saved his life one week before.

Luke, a black flat-coated retriever who lives with his owner, Catherine Sheppard, in Dunbar, is lucky to be alive after a terrifying ordeal Feb. 15 on Interstate 64.

Sheppard brought Luke and a special homemade cake to the State Police detachment in South Charleston Friday. She wanted to say thank you to the troopers who pulled an injured Luke from certain peril.

Troopers K.M. Williams and N.S. Stepp met them at the detachment. Trooper S.P. Demaske was off that day.

Sheppard lifted Luke from the cab of her pickup and put him on the ground before retrieving the cake she'd baked and carefully frosted to look like a state trooper's shoulder patch.

With his tail wagging, Luke limped to the troopers, his front right leg shaved up to his side and in a cast covered with a bag and a yin-yang bandana.

"These troopers are just amazing," Sheppard said of the men playing with her dog.

Sheppard was out of town when Luke, who is believed to be between 5 and 7 years old, found his way away from her 17th Street home and wandered about a mile away to the interstate. She'd left Luke and Zoe, her terrier, at home under the care of family members, but the ever-curious Luke wasn't content to sit at home when there was exploring to be done.

Williams, Stepp and Demaske were on duty the night of Feb. 15 when a call came over the scanner of a dog "playing in traffic" on Interstate 64 near Dunbar.

It was dark out but Stepp still managed to spot the nearly all-black Luke pressed up against the concrete median on the westbound side. He radioed back to the others and they came up with a plan to get the dog to safety.

"We formed a three-cruiser wall blocking him in," Williams said.

They turned on their blue lights and blocked off the fast lane to make sure drivers could see them. Williams said he grabbed the dog by his collar and began gently leading him to his cruiser.

It was decided that Williams, who already has five dogs at home, would take Luke home with him until they could get in contact with the owner. Luckily, Luke was wearing his tags with Sheppard's name and phone number.

Luke was soaked from the rain earlier in the evening, so Williams turned up the heat in his cruiser to warm him up. He checked Luke's tag and then called Sheppard. When she didn't answer he left her a voicemail explaining what happened.

Sheppard felt panicked after hearing the message. Then she couldn't get a good signal to call back. So, she borrowed a friend's phone to make the call.

She felt better after getting in touch with the trooper.

"He was willing to do anything he could to help Luke," Sheppard said. "It was amazing, really. It made me feel very comforted to know that someone was taking the time to make sure he was being taken care of."

She contacted her brother, who had been caring for the dog while she was away, to tell him of the ordeal. Then she told him to get in touch with Williams.

As Luke got more comfortable in the cruiser he began to show signs of distress.

"We didn't even realize that he was injured," Williams said. "He was whimpering and licking at his paw."

Suspecting a vehicle had hit Luke, Williams contacted Sheppard again to tell her the dog was hurt and asked her what she wanted him to do. She told him to take Luke to the Animal Emergency Clinic in South Charleston. Her brother met him there.

Veterinarians X-rayed Luke's right front leg and paw and found that the bone had been fractured and splintered. They didn't have the equipment to treat Luke at the clinic but offered to make him comfortable and let him stay overnight.

Williams kept in touch with Sheppard, who returned early last Sunday, and the animal clinic. He wasn't the only one concerned about Luke.

"The guys were texting me, asking 'what happened with that dog?' and dispatch was asking about him," Williams said.

"Everybody calls up to check on him," Sheppard said. "He's going to be good as new."

Luke underwent surgery Wednesday at Cross Lanes Veterinary Hospital where veterinarians repaired the damage with plates and screws. Sheppard said the plates would come off in a few weeks but that Luke was looking at a three-month recovery time.  

She said he behaves as if he isn't injured and still wants to run and play, but has to take it easy.

"He gets to lay around on the bed and get carried up and down the stairs," she said. "Life is good for Lukie.

"He's a lucky dog. Someone was watching out for him."

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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