Meet Charlie Puccini, the miracle dog. The much-loved family pet is now safely home after a near-death encounter with trains on the Illawarra line.
Charlie escaped from his backyard at Yarrawarrah, in Sydney's south, during a big storm on Wednesday, March 22.
In his terror the King Charles cavalier-cross found himself on the railway tracks between Loftus and Engadine stations where, say Sydney Trains staff, he survived three trains passing over him.
His owner Ann Paynter said Charlie was expected to die but he survived through the efforts of staff at Sydney Trains and Engadine Veterinary Hospital, along with the love of his family and his own will power.
Mrs Paynter was able to piece together his story after talking to rail staff.
"When he was found he had been knocked out by the undercarriage of a train," she said. "It had knocked him flat.
"Apparently, Charlie was sitting on the tracks and stared down the train as it approached. He probably thought it was a car. He often goes to the park and is used to cars stopping for him as he crosses the road.
"The train driver sounded the horn but couldn't stop. The train passed over him and knocked him out.
"Thinking he had killed him, the train driver was devastated and phoned ahead to Engadine station and a Sydney Trains incident commander named Simon set off in his car down the track to find him.
"He saw Charlie knocked out on the sleepers between the rails. He watched as two other trains passed over him.
"It looked like Charlie was dead. At one point, Simon looked up and saw the crows were already circling Charlie.
"As soon as it was safe, Simon approached and saw that Charlie's eyes were open, so he went to his ute got a towel and scooped him up.
"Charlie's leg was badly damaged and his eyes were bulging. Simon rushed him to Engadine Veterinary Hospital."
The staff immediately went to work to save Charlie but they didn't expect him to survive the night.
"We went to the hospital and the veterinary surgeon advised us of his condition and asked us if we wanted to make a decision to have him put down," Mrs Paynter said.
"We met at midday the next day thinking it was kinder to put him down.
"After making the decision, the vet gave him to my daughter Lucy to nurse. She was crying and calling his name and he lifted his head and began licking her arm.
"He responded to her calls and we quickly revised our thinking. We said, 'No, he was meant to be.' So we decided to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
"The kids did a vigil through Saturday and he got better and better and began to eat food."
Charlie, with all his limbs intact, is now recovering at home with the Paynter family, Anne and her children Jake, Lucy and Sophia.
"In six to eight weeks, he should be all systems firing," Mrs Paynter said.
"Everything was in his favour, the train driver, the incident commander, the veterinary surgeon and the kids."
Charlie would have been missed by many more people besides the Paynter family.
Jake Paynter and girlfriend Pierra Bell regularly take him to visit people in aged care homes.
"He loves company," Mrs Paynter said. "He's a company dog. He's loving and kind dog who knows if someone is sad or in need of a pat.
"He's just been the most beautiful little gift to our family."
Charlie's last name is Puccini because he loves a good Italian dinner.