• After surviving a crash that killed both owners, dog may soon fly home, courtesy of humane society

By Liz Beavers

CNHI News Service

NEW CREEK, W.Va. — When area emergency personnel responded to the scene of a double fatality early on the evening of Aug. 19, they were unaware that there had been a third occupant of the tractor-trailer cab.

Driver Russell Preston Coffman and wife Jane Ellen Coffman of Louisville, Ky., instantly were killed when their eastbound rig veered off the edge of U.S. Route 50 near Laurel Dale and flipped over, coming to a rest on its top on the northern edge of the roadway.

Their little furry traveling companion was able to escape the wreckage seemingly unscathed and fled the grisly scene in fright.

Undoubtedly traumatized by the horrific accident and unable to rouse her family, Socks, the Coffmans’ black and white Chihuahua, was nowhere to be found when emergency crews arrived.

The next day, travelers in the area began to spot a tiny face along the highway.

“We started up the mountain and about halfway up I saw something black moving in the grass,” Kitzmiller resident Juanita James recalled. “I slowed down almost to a stop and then I saw the little dog put her head up.”

James and her husband, Donald, stopped the car in attempt to get a better look.

“Donald started talking to the dog but just then two cars came down the mountain and that scared her.

“She bolted in between the two cars and down the bank she went,” she said.

The Jameses searched for the little dog for awhile, but she had disappeared.

When they returned home they realized why the tiny dog might be out there wandering around by herself.

“My husband said he had just read about a truck wreck in the (newspaper),” she said. “He said, ‘I betcha that dog’s from that wreck.’”

Their curiosity piqued, the couple called Trooper W.R. Garrett, who was the investigating officer for the accident. Garrett had talked to Mrs. Coffman’s sister, Paula Somers of Roswell, N.M., 20 minutes earlier.

According to Joy Fertig of the Mineral County Humane Society, Garrett was able to confirm their hunch.

“When he contacted her sister, one of the first things she wanted to know was where was the dog,” she said.

Fertig said Roswell expressed her desire to give Socks a home because “she was the only thing left that was her sister’s.”

Finding Socks was not so easy, however.

Afraid and alone, the little black Chihuahua wandered about the countryside, managing to stay out of reach but never too far from the spot where she’d last seen her beloved family.

“I personally searched the woods for her for two hours, but to no avail,” Fertig said.

There wasn’t any doubt Socks was out there. Once word about the homeless pup’s plight got around, James’ phone began ringing.

“I must have gotten about 20 calls that people saw it,” she said.

“That little dog was out on her own since the accident,” Keyser resident Ginny O’Connor added. “She was so frightened she wouldn’t let anyone near her.”

New Creek resident Jeri Williams began catching glimpses of Socks around her property, and she and husband Earl left food out in hopes that the petrified pup at least would eat.

“I think it was living in our garage behind the house,” she said.

Wednesday, as the Williamses walked out to their car, Socks appeared and began to edge closer.

“It came down the bank,” Williams said. “I patted my leg and said, ‘Come on, Socks, let’s go,’ and she just trotted right up to me.”

Thursday, a rested Socks contentedly was lying in Donald James’ lap. Although she is very thin and has a few minor scratches, Juanita James said the little dog has been quite happy once they got her to eat.

Despite the hospitality of the James family and the support of the community, Socks still is a long way from what’s left of her family in New Mexico.

The Mineral County Humane Society has decided to come to the little dog’s rescue one more time.

“We’re going to send Socks home,” Fertig said. “She’s been through enough.”

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