ISLAND PARK, Idaho — In his short four-year life, Duncan Lou Who has beat the odds over and over again.
When he was born, the lovable boxer dog’s rear legs were fused together, and his pelvis was severely deformed.
The veterinarian told his owners, Gary Walters and Amanda Giese, that they had two options: Euthanize Duncan or remove his legs.
“He got out of the amputation surgery and 30 minutes later, he was up walking around,” Walters said. “We let him heal and strapped him to a wheelchair, but he looked at us like we were crazy. He tried to lift it and walk so we ended up taking the wheelchair off and letting him do his thing.”
Duncan has been doing his thing ever since.
He’s appeared on “Today,” “Queen Latifah,” has more than 122,000 Instagram followers and his first trip to the beach was viewed nearly 7 million times on YouTube.
But what happened Friday night is something Duncan and his family won’t soon forget.
Walters, Giese, their two children and three dogs were traveling south on U.S. Highway 20 from Yellowstone National Park to a cabin in Island Park, Idaho.
It was around 11 p.m. and their teenage son, Beast, was driving.
“Right after the Montana/Idaho border, we started coming down the hill, and Beast said he saw a bison just seconds before he hit him,” Walters told East Idaho News.
The impact of hitting the animal was fierce. The Washington family’s truck spun around and slammed into two power poles, nearly missed some transformers, then rolled multiple times before coming to a stop.
Walters asked if everyone was OK, and miraculously, nobody was seriously injured.
The family then started to search for their dogs. One was found immediately. Another was discovered unharmed an hour later wedged underneath the truck. But there was no sign of Duncan.
“I thought Duncan was dead,” Walters said. “I thought he was in the bushes either dead or hurt with a broken leg, broken back, something.”
Emergency and power crews arrived, and once they said the scene was safe, the search for the beloved dog began.
“All the EMTs, all the officers and people who had stopped were all helping me look through all the brush,” Walters says. “We had flashlights and we were looking everywhere. We just couldn’t find him.”
Walters’ truck was destroyed, but a Fremont County EMT loaned him a car so he could take his family to the cabin and return to search for Duncan.
Giese and Walters are the founders of Panda Raws Rescue, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that helps animals with special needs.
Giese shared a message about Duncan on the group’s Facebook page, which has nearly 120,000 followers, and word quickly spread throughout the world that the pup was missing.
“By about 10:30 a.m. (Saturday), we had 30 or 40 people show up to help look,” Walters said. “A guy who had done search and put us all into groups and we started looking.”
The group searched for hours, and when they were unable to find any sign of the dog, Walters said they realized he had likely survived the crash and ran off.
Then, around 3 p.m., Giese received a phone call from a man at a rock quarry three miles away. He had spotted a two-legged dog but didn’t think anything of it.
“He went to get gas and everyone was talking about this two-legged dog,” Walters said. “He looked up (the East Idaho News) story and called Amanda. So we took the whole team and went down to the quarry.”
The group searched for about an hour and a half before Duncan was seen 300 yards from a road. He didn’t respond to the rescue crew until Jade, Giese’s daughter, said, “Do you want a cookie?”
“That’s when he came running,” Walters said.
After worrying and searching for nearly 17 hours, Walters and Giese were reunited with their boy.
“I can’t even explain what it was like because I didn’t think I was ever going to see him again,” Walters said. “We would have stayed a month or two months until we found him dead or alive because he deserves that.”
Despite a few bumps and bruises, Duncan is doing OK. He’s a little timid around people, but Walters believes he’ll be back to normal in no time at all.
“After Duncan was thrown from a car, ran three miles and survived bear and wolf and whatever else could have eaten him, he is absolutely fine,” Walters said.
The family plans to finish their vacation and hopes to return to Yellowstone and east Idaho again one day.
“The gratitude is immense,” Walters says. “I literally wish I could go to every single person and hug them and thank them. Social media gets such a bad rap, but in this case, it helped save his life. He’s a special dog, this is a special community and we are very thankful.”