7 min read

Railway Workers Can't Believe Who They Find Tied On Top Of Moving Train

"Her little tail was wagging — which was amazing after all she’d been through.”

Michael Ortega and Allen Au, engineers with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, were traveling between Galesburg, Illinois, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, when they received an unexpected call from their dispatcher.

A Good Samaritan had called to report a dog tied to a railcar stopped in the town of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. 

The dispatcher mentioned that the dog had been sighted on a flat car, used for hauling lumber and sheetrock, but when they arrived there was no dog in sight. “We went real slow, almost to the end of the train, and parked at the end was a lumber car,” Au told The Dodo. “I thought, ‘That must be it.’ But as we drove by we didn’t see anything.”

Au hopped off to get a better look, and when he climbed on top of the flat car he spotted a small brown dog trembling by a post. The frail puppy was secured to a steel beam by a foot-long chain, without water and with a pile of rancid kibble out of reach.

Puppy chained to train car in Wisconsin
Allen Au

“They had left food for the dog up on the train, but it had shifted all to one side, so the dog couldn’t get to it,” Au said. “For the majority of the past few days it had been raining up here, so all the food was wet, soaked and looked like mush.”

Au had heard stories of things like this happening, but he had never encountered anything like it in his 13 years working on the railroad. Au called out for Ortega and carefully approached the nervous dog, and carried her back to the cabin of the waiting locomotive.

“Her little tail was wagging,” Ortega told The Dodo. “Which was amazing after all she’d been through.”

Michael Ortega shows off dog on train
Allen Au

The train the puppy had been tied to originated in Willmar, Minnesota, and was going all the way to Kansas City, Missouri. Au was shocked when he realized that the dog had most likely been trapped on the train for two or three days already.

“You can’t just leave a dog on the train; some of those trains go 70 miles an hour,” Au said. “And it wasn’t one of those trains that was sitting in the yard — it was a train that had actually been moving.”

Au and Ortega named the dog Lulu, and gave her all the food they had on hand as well as some water, which she “drank like crazy,” Ortega noted.

Lulu the Puppy eats food after being untied
Allen Au

Seeing what the little dog had been through, Ortega decided right then and there that the abandoned puppy would never know another day of uncertainty, and said to his fellow engineer, “If you don’t adopt her I will.” And he meant it.

"Seeing how she was when we found her — I have pets at home, and I pictured that it was one of them tied to that car — I just couldn’t understand or fathom what she’s gone through," Ortega said. "We had the means to take her in, and she’s just the best little pup, so sweet and loving."

Lulu the dog rescued from a Wisconsin train
Allen Au

During an overnight stopover, Ortega made a very important phone call to his wife, who agreed to meet them the next day and pick up the dog.

The first night Lulu spent at her new home, Ortega and his wife couldn’t take their eyes off her.

“We stayed with her, watching her, like new parents would,” Ortega said. “It was just so sweet, she’s a very good girl.”

Lulu visits the vet with her new family
Michael Ortega

Lulu has quickly adjusted to her new life, as well as her three dog siblings, showing the first hints of a playful, happy side.

“They all play and bring toys to one another, and it’s awesome to watch because that’s how it should be,” Ortega said. “She fits right in. It’s like she came into our home and she’s been there the entire time.”

Lulu the puppy fast asleep in her forever home
Michael Ortega

While chance might have thrown Lulu onto Ortega’s tracks, the family feels like it was meant to be.

“She belongs here with us,” Ortega said. “And we’re very blessed to have her.”