They say a dog is man’s best friend.
That may be true — until the dog pulls the trigger.
Sonny “Tex” Gilligan, 74, was in the driver’s seat of his parked pickup, along with his dogs, when he was shot on Oct. 25. The suspected culprit? A Lab-Rottweiler mix named Charlie.
“Charlie got his foot in the trigger of the gun and I leaned forward and he slipped off the seat and caught the trigger — and it shot,” Gilligan told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “It was a freak accident but it’s true, that’s what happened.”
The shotgun — in the backseat of the pickup, along with Charlie — fired through Gilligan’s front driver’s seat. The bullet went through Gilligan’s back, breaking a few ribs and shattering his collar bone, and caused other injuries, according to the Las Cruces newspaper.
Gilligan was out hunting rabbits west of Las Cruces last week with his three dogs — Charlie, Scooter and Cowboy — Gilligan’s son, Mark, said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The New Mexican as he drove to an El Paso hospital to visit his dad.
“He is lucky he is alive,” Gilligan said of his father.
Mark Gilligan said his dad is “doing a lot better” at University Medical Center, where he also is being treated for a punctured lung, but is now out of intensive care. Sonny Gilligan has already undergone several surgeries and is expected to recover.
Mark Gilligan, 45, downplayed details of the incident, preferring to laud numerous sheriff’s deputies who aided his father at the remote site about 14 miles from town.
“The Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office is the real hero here — without them, he was dead,” said Gilligan. “He’s dead if the sheriffs don’t make the right move and stop the bleeding,” Gilligan said.
His father was still lucid upon arriving at the hospital but then lost consciousness, Gilligan said.
Though unfortunate, the accident has left his father with no cause for canine consternation, Gilligan observed.
“He loves his dogs,” Gilligan said, “and he takes them out hunting.”
As for Charlie and the other dogs, they ended up in the dog pound for a time.
“I had to bust them out of jail,” said Mark Gilligan.