The small dog that caused a big backup in the Fort Pitt Tunnel on Monday earned a nickname: Rain.
"When it rains, people slow down and don't want to go through the tunnels," said David Janusek, executive director of the Western PA Humane Society.
An inbound lane of the tunnel closed around 10:30 a.m. Monday for about 30 minutes while concerned motorists tried to corral the dog, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said.
Alexandra Sabina, 54, of Verona was one such rescuer. While driving inbound, she saw the dog, with its tail tucked and ears back, running toward her along the right side of the tunnel, as other cars swerved to miss it.
"My natural reaction was just to stop and get this dog," she said.
Many stopped to help, but it was Ms. Sabina and a road worker who finally barricaded the dog under her Jetta and coerced it out using a kayak paddle she had in the car. They didn't touch the dog, she said, but "allowed the natural fear of the dog to work for us."
Ms. Sabina took the dog to the Humane Society on Western Avenue on the North Side.
It's unclear how the 11-pound, brown-and-tan chihuahua mix -- which had a collar, but neither tags nor a microchip -- ended up in the tunnel, Mr. Janusek said, but it doesn't appear to have been outside long. He said dogs found on interstates often jumped out of a car that stopped for gas or to change a tire.
To comply with state law, the dog must be quarantined for rabies for 10 days because it bit one of its rescuers, Mr. Janusek said, though the dog has not exhibited outward symptoms. Its owner can retrieve the dog during that time with veterinarian records or photos of the dog.
"The sooner we can get the dog back, the better for the person, and the better for the dog," he said.
After June 12, the dog will be available for adoption at the shelter.
A microchip could have provided immediate information on the dog's owner, Mr. Janusek said. "If the dog would have had a microchip, we could have traced it within seconds," he said. "But unfortunately, it did not."
Lexi Belculfine: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1878 or on Twitter @LexiBelc. First Published June 2, 2014 11:00 AM