MUNCIE (The Star Press) - It was anything but your routine trash route for Mike Upchurch.
The Muncie Sanitary District employee was riding on the trash truck along East Main Street Wednesday morning when he heard a whimpering noise coming from a blue trash bag.
His fears were confirmed when he saw a head moving around in the bag.
That's when Upchurch discovered a live puppy had been tossed into a trash Toter like a piece of garbage.
"I got him out of the bag, and I was kind of in shock," Upchurch said. "I couldn't believe it."
Upchurch took the puppy into the truck's cab and said he turned the heat on full blast before running the dog under warm water and wrapping it in a jacket at the Muncie Sanitary District's facility.
The Muncie man said he would've stopped at nothing to help the 6-week-old puppy, which was shaking and had "nasty funk all over him."
"I've never, ever come across anything like this," Upchurch said.
The woman allegedly responsible for tossing the puppy, meanwhile, has been cited and faces the possibility of criminal charges, city officials said.
Phil Peckinpaugh, director of the Muncie Animal Shelter, said the owner of the dog - whose name was not available Wednesday evening - told him she thought the dog was dead when she placed it in a trash bag and into her Toter.
She was wrong.
"The sanitary official just heard it by accident - heard the dog making little barking or squealing or crying type noises," Peckinpaugh said. "The owner told us that she believed the puppy had PARVO, and that was not the case."
The puppy was taken to the Westview Animal Clinic, where it was found to be suffering from starvation and from low blood sugar, and not from PARVO, a highly-contagious and at-times deadly virus strand found in dogs. Peckinpaugh said the puppy was recovering well at the clinic after getting a meal and some fluids.
"This is an extremely lucky puppy because it's just amazing that (Upchurch) actually heard that over the loud truck and all the other traffic," Peckinpaugh said. "It's extremely lucky that it wasn't put into the truck and put into the compactor."
The dog discovered Wednesday also wasn't the first puppy the woman had thrown away in recent days, Peckinpaugh said.
"We were only able to find this alive puppy, but she admitted to throwing others away - maybe two or three," Peckinpaugh said. "The previous litter before this litter of puppies was also discarded in the trash can."
Peckinpaugh said the owner of the puppy has been cited through Muncie City Court, and the city will pursue possible criminal charges of animal cruelty and neglect against the woman. Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold said Wednesday evening he'll carefully review the case once the file crosses his desk.
"It's definitely something that somebody needs to look into," Arnold said.
Despite the sad nature of the puppy's discovery, the story does appear to have a happy ending.
Less than 12 hours after finding the dog covered in garbage and nearly starving to death, Upchurch officially adopted the puppy Wednesday evening and appropriately named him "Garby."
He said Garby was doing well in its first few minutes at his new home.
"He's running around and checking everything out," Upchurch said. "He's already head of the household."
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