07/30/2009 at 12:52 PM EDT
It was a shocking image that caused a stir throughout the Internet and on TV: the photo of a teeny little Chihuahua named Smokey with a massive barbecue fork sticking out of the center of his head. Almost a month after the freak accident, the 4-month-old pooch is recovering at home with his owner, Hughie Wagers, following surgery to remove the fork from his brain.
"He's doing great," Wagers (right, with Smokey) tells PEOPLE Pets. "He's recovering good. He's doing real good now."
Smokey's amazing story began on July 4, when the happy Chihuahua was playing at a family gathering. Wagers, who lives in Manchester, Ky., says his sister Vicki Brumley was feeding some of her bigger dogs with the fork when the unthinkable happened. "Somehow the barbecue fork popped off the handle and hit Smokey on the head -- then he ran off into the woods for two days," Wager recalls.
When he finally found the dog, Wagers took him to Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital, where veterinarians performed emergency surgery. "They say it's a miracle he ever lived because it went right through his brain," he says.
Home for a few weeks now, Wagers says the Smokey's behavior was noticeably different at first. "He was going around and around in circles, but now he's going straight," explains Wager, who adds that the dog's mobility has improved and that the pup frequently sleeps in bed with him and his wife.
Though his right eye droops slightly, doctors say that Smokey will make a full recovery. And one thing is certain: "Nothing like that will happen [again]," says Wagers. See more amazing pet stories on PEOPLE Pets:Kitten Abandoned in Mailbox Is Delivered to New HomeA Siamese Cat's Wheel Ordeal