On Dec. 6, Aaron Beaty was one of several bystanders to arrive on the scene of a two-car crash on Highway 97 near Sunriver. Approaching one of the vehicles, Beaty saw a small dog and a man, both badly hurt.
"The dog was straddling the door, two legs on one side and two legs on the other, and the gentleman's head was lying near or on the dog," Beaty said. "He [the dog] had been on his lap, definitely. It was a darn good thing he was on the lap because the other side of the car was completely crushed."
Knowing paramedics were on their way, Beaty's concern moved to the dog.
"I think I said, 'Can I take your dog to the vet? I promise I'll take care of him. I promise I'll make sure he's OK, or do everything I can do'... something along those lines, and he said yes," Beaty told the Source Weekly Monday.
"Can I take your dog to the vet? I promise I'll take care of him. I promise I'll make sure he's OK, or do everything I can do'...and he said yes..."It was scary. At the time I didn't know that he wasn't going to make it." — AARON BEATY
Permission granted, Beaty headed to the Sunriver Veterinary Clinic, telling the staff that he'd pay for any vet bills the dog might incur. The Chihuahua mixed breed, named Little Big Man, had suffered two broken legs, a fractured pelvis, several broken ribs and puncture wounds. Veterinarians stabilized Little Big Man, while also figuring out his name and his home vet, and moved him to a veterinary hospital.
Back on Highway 97, Little Big Man's human lived only a few minutes after the dog's departure.
"It was scary," Beaty said. "At the time I didn't know that he wasn't going to make it."
Oregon State Police say at about 10:15 am on Dec. 6, 55- year-old Shannon Ray Rogers of Goldendale, Wash. was traveling northbound on Hwy. 97 near Sunriver when his Nissan minivan hit the back of the Toyota pickup that Brian Harris, 56, of Bend, was driving. Police say the truck veered off the road and hit a tree. The van also hit a tree. Police say Harris died at the scene.
Officials are investigating speed and alcohol as factors in the crash. On Dec. 13, OSP released a request for information from the public about the crash, stating that Rogers was "believed to have been driving in a reckless manner prior to the crash." Rogers was listed in good condition at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend as of Tuesday.
Little Big Man eventually made his way to the Animal Emergency Center of Central Oregon, and then to Brookswood Animal Hospital, where Harris had had close ties with the staff. Kristin Jackson, who works as a receptionist, knows Little Big Man well, having taken care of him on numerous occasions when Harris had work or other obligations.
"He was my little buddy," Jackson said, "which I'm glad, because then when Brian was gone, he had somebody he kinda knew."
Jackson says in April, Harris adopted Little Big Man from Redmond's Brightside Animal Center, which had received Little Big Man as part of a shipment of rescued animals from California. Jackson and Harris developed a connection when Brookswood staff helped Harris look for Little Big Man, who ran away for five days shortly after his adoption. From there, Jackson became the dog's de facto dog sitter at the clinic, taking care of Little Big Man when Harris went to doctor's appointments.
"It's pretty awful. I really was a friend of Brian, I considered him my friend. So for me it was just really hard to lose somebody like that and then to have to worry about if his dog's going to be OK, and financially be able to give him the surgeries he needs and stuff. It was really awful," Jackson related.
"I feel very fortunate that Aaron was there and took the dog," Jackson says, "because I think it could have ended up very differently had he not taken it."
Beaty says so far, the three local vet clinics—and other supporters—have stepped in to help cover the costs of recovery for Little Big Man. In addition, he's now in a new home.
Ron Pugh, a retired Central Oregonian, got permission from Harris' family to adopt Little Big Man, taking him home Dec. 15. Little Big Man still has casts on his legs and a road to recovery, but he's stable.
"It was all kind of perfect how it played out," Jackson said. "I mean, as perfect as that situation can be."