(Phoenix, AZ) – This past Valentine’s Day, hot-air balloon pilot and owner of Equinox Balloons, Jason Elkins, took two couples out for a day of ballooning in the desert. What started as a romantic afternoon turned into a day Elkins won’t soon forget.

“Out of the corner of my eye I noticed what looked like a little white dog, kind of running through the hayfield,” recalled Elkins to CBS 5. The little dog followed the balloon, and upon landing, Elkins had a feeling something was wrong. “This poor little dog was following us. He was coming over to us. He was limping up the road.”

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Elkins retrieved the dog with the intent to take him to an animal shelter. He wasn’t aware at the time just how injured the dog was, since as he recalled, the dog seemed grateful to be with him after he placed him in a vehicle to leave. “We were leaving out of there and…as I looked in the [rearview] mirror I saw this little white head sticking up over the backseat and he looked so happy – happy to be where he was – and it broke my heart.”

He decided to take the dog to a veterinarian instead of the animal shelter as he had originally intended. It was at that time Elkins learned the dog had been abused—someone shot him with a .22-caliber gun.

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It’s unknown if the dog was left for dead in the desert or if he escaped his abuser(s), but the vet indicated the dog had sustained so much trauma, it was recommended he receive a week or two of rest and love before any surgery should take place to remove the bullet.

Elkins couldn’t bear to part with the little guy and has since adopted him into the family, giving him the name Chase. “I decided to go with the name Chase and it’s symbolic because in hot-air ballooning we always have a chase crew. It’s your support team,” explained Elkins, who added little Chase would accompany him on balloon rides as soon as he recovers.

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-Ashley Quadros, Good Day Sacramento