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Stevens Point dogs recover after school bus accident

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 8:06 AM CDT
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PORTAGE COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) - If you have driven in Stevens Point, the sight of three golden retrievers hanging out of the back of a white pickup truck topper might be familiar. Riggs, Gunnar and Champ go everywhere with their owner, Jim Gruba, but a crash put their daily car rides on hold.

Jim Gruba has lived in Stevens Point for 25 years. Every day, he takes his dogs for a walk or car ride. They are also known for being therapy dogs. Jim has taken them to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools and even the VA Clinic in Waupaca.

But, on April 19, those daily adventures turned for the worst when all three were following him around his property while cleaning birdhouses.

“Everything was bad all at once. They were waiting and waiting, trying to go and they zipped across and that bus was there,” he said.

Gunnar and Riggs darted across after getting the ‘OK’ from Jim. But, he didn’t see the school bus that was approaching at the same time.

“I was devasted, I no way thought they were going to live,” he explained. “The bus driver was traumatized too and it was in no way her fault.”

The bus caught Riggs by the rear end, while Gunnar was hit in the torso. Jim took Gunnar and Riggs to a vet in Wausau, where they were able to be stabilized, but then had to take them down to Madison.

Gunnar ended up having internal bleeding and bruising, but that ended up healing itself. Meanwhile, Riggs was left with a compound fracture on one back leg and tendon damage on the other. He said he was worried about the quality of life for Riggs, but was reassured after doctors told him the success rate.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, Gunnar and Riggs are home and recovering. Gunnar is improving fast, while Riggs still has to rest.

“I’ve never had kids and they’re my babies and they make a lot of people in Point really happy, and riding around for a couple of weeks with nothing in the back of my truck, it was pretty boring,” he explained.

But now, two out of the three are able to return to something a little more familiar, visiting one class at the Tomorrow River Community Charter School in Amherst.

“We are super excited because we haven’t seen them in a long time and we were super sad, or at least I was when they got into the accident,” Amarah Tompkins said.

“It feels really good seeing them,” Nova O’Brien said.

They also made the dogs a ‘get well soon’ banner when they first heard about the news.

“They are just so joyful with the dogs and the laughter they create with the dogs is just so sincere, laughter only a child can make and they just love them,” their class teacher, Emma Karnowski said.

Riggs isn’t able to go on car rides just yet, as he still has a few more weeks of healing to go through. However, his doctors said he’s been a trooper and with the way he’s bouncing back, he should be hanging his head out the back of the truck in no time.

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