Gilligan, 74, was sitting in the driver's seat of his pickup with his three dogs -- Charlie, Cowboy and Scooby -- while hunting for jackrabbits west of Las Cruces, KRQE reported. His rifle was in the back seat of the vehicle when the dog's paw got stuck in the gun, the television station reported.
"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 told the Sun News. "It was a freak accident but it's true, that's what happened."
The bullet went through the seat and Gilligan was shot in the back, the Sun-News reported. The bullet shattered Gilligan's collarbone, punctured a lung and broke a few ribs, the newspaper reported.
"I was very fortunate I could get to my phone," Gilligan told the Sun News. "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."
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Gilligan was taken to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where he remained in intensive care for several days before being moved to a different room.
"He is lucky he is alive," Gilligan's son, Mark Gilligan, told the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Even though Charlie could have killed him, the elder Gilligan said he has forgiven his longtime pet.
"He spoils his dogs, you know. He calls them his boys," Mark Gilligan told KRQE. He's very fond of his animals."
The three dogs were sent the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley after the shooting, the Sun News reported.
"Poor Charlie, he's a good dog," Sonny Gilligan told the newspaper. "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, the Sun News reported.