Note: View video of Lucky the dog here.
All a distraught and panicky Darlene Broome knew May 14 just after dawn is, she had a husband in an ambulance ahead of her car, headed for the emergency room at Rock Hill's Piedmont Medical Center.
She had driven - fast - from their Lancaster home, about 30 miles, when she stopped at a red light at the corner of Cherry Road and Constitution Boulevard, about a mile from the hospital.
"My mind was on my husband but I heard something, a whine, a sound, from under the hood of my car," Darlene recalled. "I pulled onto Constitution and still heard it, loud, so I pulled into the median."
Frantic, with a husband with chest pains, Darlene pulled open the hood of the car and the whine now sounded louder and more like crying, even screams.
"Oh, my gosh, I must have screamed myself: There were these two eyes and a little pile of black fur looking up at me," she said. "It was right there in the back of the engine. Stuck and hurt."
What was attached to those eyes, what had ridden those 30 miles on top of the hot transmission stuck under the air cleaner box, was a tiny dog.
Now Darlene was really frantic. She had a husband in the emergency room and a whimpering dog in her engine compartment.
Her dog at home is a dachshund, so this whimpering dog wasn't even hers. She waved her arms for someone to stop and help.
And finally, stop a few did.
First one guy in a car, then two guys in white trucks. No names exchanged, just men trying to help a lady in distress as men are supposed to do.
Darlene stood there in the road, her heart at the hospital with her husband, her arms finally done flapping, her eyes staring at these strangers wrestling with bolts and nuts and screws to save a dog that was not hers.
"It was like it had to be a dream," Darlene recalled. "How could all this happen at once?"
All this happened in a few minutes. The puppy was pulled free.
"I was so worried about my husband that the one guy said he would keep the dog and take care of it, and I took off for the hospital," Darlene said.
The guys parted ways too, a few handshakes all around because that is what working men do, and all went to work.
Carl Broome, Darlene's husband, ended up OK at the hospital, and the couple came home later that evening.
Darlene went inside a while, then came back outside to find four more puppies.
"Just like the one in the car, so obviously somebody had abandoned them near our house and that's how the first puppy got in there in the first place," Darlene said. "And one of them had climbed in up under the car, maybe to find someplace warm."
The Broomes and Darlene's parents kept the puppies in a kennel behind their home until Lancaster County animal control officers could show up to take the four pups to the shelter.
Darlene had no idea who the men were who helped her 30 miles away in Rock Hill. She had no names, nothing. So she wrote a letter to the editor to The Herald, thanking those people who helped her and the puppy, which she has dubbed "Lucky."
"Those people were just great," Darlene said. "They helped me and the puppy. All I knew was the white trucks."
Turns out, the white trucks belonged to the York County Natural Gas Authority.
"She was waving her arms for somebody to pull over, so what you do is pull over," remembered Sam Tate, one of the men who stopped to help. "I look inside there where the motor is, and all you could see is this little dog, stuck."
Tate had no tools, so he called his buddy from the gas company, Dennis Willoughby, who rushed by on his way to work with a screwdriver and a couple of other tools.
Willoughby's was the second white truck that showed up in that median to help the frantic lady with the waving arms and the husband in the hospital, to find a puppy in the engine compartment of her car.
"Just those two eyes looking up at us, stuck in there," said Willoughby. "Furry. Hot. Burned. We were there to help the lady, but we found out it was the dog needed helping.
"She left, and the other guy who got there first and actually took the air cleaner off said he would take care of the dog."
'It was hot in there'
The first guy who had stopped was Matt Baxley, a mechanic by trade, who used Willoughby's tools to take off the air breather assembly and a couple of other parts.
Baxley lifted the dog from the hot transmission. Not even a dog yet, really. A puppy, a furball, with its stomach burned from the hot steel of the motor.
"It was hot in there," said Baxley, who works on engines all day every day and knows how hot motors get. "The lady was holding her arms out, waving for help, so I stopped.
"Somebody needs help, you help."
And Baxley didn't stop helping there in the median of Constitution Boulevard. He took the puppy to Palmetto Veterinary Medicine, where it was treated for the burned stomach.
"When I found her, she was roughed up some, but she just needed somebody to look out for her," Baxley said. "I found out she's about 6 weeks old. A lab, maybe a mix with chow."
The guy who owns the auto repair shop next door to where Baxley works, Allan McClellan, had a 22-year-old daughter who was looking for a puppy.
So now - 13 days after Darlene Broome thought she had a knocking engine that turned out to be a burned dog - Lindsey McClellan has a new puppy she is calling "Cami."
And Lancaster's Carl Broome - the guy in the ambulance - drove to Rock Hill Wednesday to thank Matt Baxley in person for helping his wife and to see the puppy he and Darlene know as "Lucky."
"I'm fine now, but Matt and all of them who helped Darlene, what can I say other than thanks?" Carl Broome said. "People still stop to help in life. That's what this is all about."
And it is also about a puppy named Lucky, now Cami, who survived 30 miles in a hot engine compartment before finding a home with a lady named Lindsey McClellan.
But only because Baxley the mechanic, and Tate and Willoughby the gas company guys, took the time to help a stranger.
"The puppy found a good, loving home," said Baxley. "That puppy, she sure is lucky."
Andrew Dys | 803-329-4065 | firstname.lastname@example.org