Charlie’s still a good dog.
That’s what Sonny “Tex” Gilligan said days after Charlie — his 120-pound Rottweiler mix — accidentally shot him.
Gilligan, 74, a Doña Ana County resident, said that Charlie and his two other dogs — Scooter and Cowboy — went with him to hunt for jackrabbits in the desert west of Las Cruces on Thursday, Oct. 25.
Gilligan was in the driver’s seat of his parked pickup truck, along with the dogs, when he was shot.
“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 said. “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, severe injuries.
Gilligan said he initially thought someone from outside the vehicle had shot him, but soon realized the shot came from his own gun.
“I was very fortunate I could get to my phone,” Gilligan said. “The DASO (Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office) first-responders saved my life. If they waited 10 more minutes I would’ve died. I lost so much blood. I know I actually passed to the other side just before getting to the hospital but they were able to revive me through CPR and bring me back. I have so much appreciation to the doctors and first-responders who saved my life.”
Gilligan’s 911 call came in at 12:33 p.m. He told dispatchers he was at the railroad tracks near the intersection of County Roads B4 and B5.
Sheriff’s deputies, Border Patrol agents and New Mexico State Police went to the scene and found Gilligan next to his truck with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was transported via helicopter to University Medical Center in El Paso.
Gilligan underwent several surgeries, and, though he’s in critical condition, he should recover. He said he’s being transferred to a rehabilitation center in Las Cruces on Wednesday.
Gilligan said Charlie, Scooter and Cowboy were sent to “jail” — the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley — after the shooting.
“Poor Charlie, he’s a good dog,” Gilligan said. “The sheriff’s department said the only one they had trouble with was Cowboy. The other two were friendly. Charlie is the boss, but he’s gentle.”
Gilligan joked that his son was able to “bond out” the dogs.
“It was an accident, although they tease me, asking me if he did it on purpose,” Gilligan said. “Truth is, (Charlie’s) a big, loving dog and would never hurt anybody on purpose.”
Gilligan’s son, Mark Gilligan, said he wasn’t surprised to hear one of the dogs accidentally shot his father.
“They’re kind of rowdy. They’re pretty rambunctious and full of energy,” Mark said. “That’s why the owners gave them up. My dad has four acres of land so they can run free. So, it didn’t surprise me at all. When they see a cow or other animals they want to jump in the front.”
Gilligan said he still loves all his dogs. He said he rescued them all as puppies.
“They’re all rescue dogs. Charlie was advertised as a free puppy in El Paso,” Gilligan said. “I got one of them at a flea market for $20 and adopted one.”