Mugsy the dog still lives in Severna Park, Md. Given the eerie events claimed by his owners, it's surprising that Mugsy lives anywhere at all. On Oct. 27, they say, the 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier went to that cold, dread place that Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King have written about—and he has lived to wag the tail.

Mugsy's brush with the beyond began about 3 P.M., when he was hit by a car outside Viola Tiszl's house, where her boyfriend, Glenn Maloney, was taking care of their two children. "I picked Mugsy up," says Maloney, 30, a restaurant worker, "but he died in my arms."

Maloney told the children—Megan, 5, and Kevin, 3—to stay in the house. He carried the body to a corner of the wooded lot, dug a hole he estimates was three feet deep and buried him. "I know a dead dog when I see one," says Maloney. "This one was real dead. He was not breathing. He had no heartbeat."

Later that evening, after Viola got home from her job at a cable TV company, they took the children—including Raymond, 8, Viola's son by her ex-husband—to view the grave. Megan said a prayer. They planned to put a wooden cross on the spot next morning. At 5:30 A.M., 14 hours after Mugsy's interment, Glenn and Viola were awakened by scratching at the door. Glenn went to the door. "I couldn't believe it," he says. What he saw was the not-so-late Mugsy, with his "little tail wagging at 90 mph."

"Mugsy was covered with dirt," says Viola, 27, "and his eyes were bloodshot." Incredibly, he seemed quite chipper otherwise. She attributes Mugsy's survival to his breeding. "Jack Russells are bred to burrow after foxes," she says. "I guess when he woke up in that hole, he just thought it was another old hole and he dug his way out, not knowing it was supposed to be his grave."

For a few days after the night of the living dog, Zeus, Viola's German shepherd, gave Mugsy a wide berth. As for Mugsy himself, he is back chasing squirrels and digging for moles in the backyard.