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Handler Reunited with Missing Dog Following Arizona Accident

Professional trainer Elicia Calhoun is well-known among the world’s serious agility competitors. The national and world champion is a top performer who has represented the United States for five consecutive years as a World Champion Team member.

Calhoun has proven just how tough she and her dogs are in the agility arena.

On Monday, June 11, 2012, her strength was tested in another way when the vehicle she was driving was involved in an accident near Tucson, Ariz., throwing her six dogs out of the car and into the desert. Calhoun was returning from a competition held in Odessa, Texas.

A group shot of Elicia Calhoun’s dogs as they traveled through the desert.

Three of the dogs suffered serious injuries, but are expected to recover. One dog, a 13-week-old puppy, was killed at the scene, while another was later struck and killed by a passing vehicle.

Last night, as social media announced news of the accident, one of Calhoun’s dogs, Tobie, was still unaccounted for and presumed missing in the desert.

Reports posted on Facebook indicated that Calhoun was hospitalized and treated, but checked herself out in order to spend the night in the desert searching for her missing dog.

This morning, Calhoun and a group of volunteers continued their search for Tobie, a brown and white Border Collie bitch. By mid-morning, news began to appear online that Tobie had been found unharmed. Reports posted in a Facebook group set up to help find Tobie indicated that the dog looked good and was being taken by Calhoun to be checked by a veterinarian.

Elicia Calhoun is reunited on Tuesday with her Border Collie Tobie.

About 4,600 people joined the Facebook group to show their support for Calhoun and her dogs.

When tragedy strikes someone in our community, social media allows dog people to rally support in real time. Volunteers have reportedly collected more than $20,000 on Calhoun’s behalf. Donations have been made online through FundRazr and, according to her Facebook  page, Elicia is also accepting donations to her personal Paypal account.

For those of us who travel to conformation and performance events around the country, we understand all too well how this type of tragedy can happen. It is a credit to our community that the response to Calhoun’s accident has been so swift.

Volunteers on the ground and supporters online have proven once again that when there’s someone in need, dog people are only too willing to pitch in and help.

Written by

  • Larkin Vonalt June 12, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    What a blessing that so many came to Elicia’s aid at this terrible time, a Godsend that she found Tobie and an awful tragedy that she lost Nika and the puppy. Yet it could have been so much worse. Elicia was nearly home from Texas and she fell asleep. How many of us driving to or from shows always push it that little extra? (Or lot extra?) I imagine nearly all of us are guilty of it, I know I am. Next time I feel drowsy, I’m going to think of this awful accident and stop, have a little nap. It’s not worth the risk of losing one’s own life, or the lives of our beloved dogs, just to go a little further.

  • Tracy Yeanish June 12, 2012 at 11:36 PM

    There is an Organization in the Agility Community that loans out Audio books at agility trials and can be returned the next time a library representative of the group “Live to Run Again” is attending an event.
    This Grass Roots effort started when a competitor was traveling with her husband home from an agility trial and the[husband] driver fell asleep and his wife was killed in the crash. Fellow club members developed the Live to Run Campaign in her Memory [Jane Callaghy.] Trail Blazers in PA is the group that thought up and monitors the program.

  • Kathy June 13, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    Such a bittersweet ending. Just a question though – were these dogs traveling in crates?

    • kayla
      kayla June 13, 2012 at 7:23 AM

      thank you for taking the time to contact us. We don’t know if the dogs were crated or not. There was barely anything left of the car after rolling multiple times. It’s amazing to us that anyone survived if you saw the pictures, or that Elicia did not have greater injuries herself. If you have facebook, go to our wall, we have the tv newscast video and on my personal wall, I have pictures from Elicia of what’s left of her car. We’ll let her tell that part of the story once she’s collected herself, out of ER, and ready to talk. Our interest was the strength of our community and the bond between ourselves and our dogs.

      I do think there is something interesting to explore and it has been raised, which is how to secure crates in cars. We’ve seen some great feedback on that, including keeping wire cutters handy. Do you think an article discussing safe transportation, what to do if there’s an accident, dog cpr would be of interest?

      Thank you for being a great part of our community, following our coverage and writing. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

      • Barbara Corbett June 13, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        I would like to see an article of safe transportation. My dogs are (almost) always travel in their crates, but what keeps the crates and the rest of the dog show “stuff” secure in case of an accident. Quick stops on more than one occassion has sent stuff sliding. How do other people handle their cargo?

        • Jo Fain June 13, 2012 at 1:44 PM

          I also have wanted to know how the dogs were traveling. I always have my dogs in crates. They are bolted or secured in some fashion and are the wire kennels. I carry wire cutters in the van in case a dog needs to be cut out of one. I used to have a larger van, where I stacked gear on top of the crates, using bunjee cords to secure. However, I became nervous about all of those things flying forward to the front, so now, the crates are attached to a wooden frame and most everything is stashed between the floor of the vehicle and the underside of that frame. That means the the crates are raised a bit off of the floor. I have often been concerned about having any crates at the far back of the van, in the event that someone would hit me from the rear. So at the present time, I have the two crates right behind the front seat, however, if I take more than two dogs, it will mean that a dog will again be right at the rear of the vehicle. I am very interested in hearing what other people are doing and also, if there have been accidents, how did what you had set up work or did it all fall apart?

        • Jill Porter June 13, 2012 at 6:23 PM

          Hi Barbara –
          a few years ago, I was in a bad accident on the interstate, traveling with 6 dogs and a puppy to a CERF appointment in another town. All but the puppy were in crates. She was in the front seat wtih me. With the impact of the accident, two dogs were thrown onto the interstate, out of crates and out of my truck which had a locked sturdy topper. The other crates were damaged. One dog was caught immediately, one ran 5 miles down the interstate. I can tell you the horror of watching a beloved dog disappear into the distance while I was helpless to follow. I immediately called my Mom to ask for prayer, then called my husband to come get us. My truck was totalled and by some miracle I was able to function well enough to worry about the safety of my dogs.
          By some other miracle, the dog that ran was picked up by a local, and he called the phone number on his collar. He got my husband as he was walking out the door. My husband took the address, came and got me and the dogs, and while they towed my truck I went to get my dog . By this time I was in shock but would not go to the hospital until I new my dog was safe. Other than nails worn down from skidding on the asphalt, he was okay as where the others. They didn’t even show fear of traveling again, which was another miracle.

          Anyway, my point is that even when traveling in sturdy crates, dogs can be thrown loose. We didn’t even roll, but hit the cement barrier over an overpass going about 60 MPH, after hitting black ice on an otherwise clear road. I am not sure there really is a totally safe way to travel with dogs, not without some custom built crate system. It has made me very aware of everything when I DO travel, making sure the dogs have good ID on them, and letting people know where we go.

  • Nancy scales June 13, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    I am so glad that she was found safe. I am very sorry about your accident and the loss of two of your dogs. They are in doggie heaven now sitting with the lord. God speed.

  • Julie Arnold June 13, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    I am so glad Elicia and Toby are reunited! My car is too small to hold crates for all my dogs so each of them wears a harness with tethers to seatbelts or tie downs. I also have a card in the glove box that descibes each dog and has emergency contact info. I hope I never have occasion to test the effectiveness of this. Hope this is helpful.

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