It was Saturday when Piper Wood – the founder of Hand in Paw got a phone from her friend, Berni Gutierrez. On the phone, she said when leaving a shopping center in Duarte, California, she met Hector and his Chihuahua – Amy.
Hector had approached Gutierrez and asked for very strange favor: a proper dog license for Amy. What a huge surprise when a homeless man didn’t ask for money or anything for himself. “He said he can’t get his dog licensed because he doesn’t have a home, and animal control and the police keep bothering him and threatening to take his dog away because he doesn’t have a license,” Wood told the reporter.
“My friend said, ‘The dog is really well taken care of,’” Wood added. “‘She’s wearing a dress and she has jewelry on and he paints her nails. And he started crying when he was talking about her.’ And I said, ‘You know what? Let’s help this guy. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.’”
Wood had the answer for Gutierrez’s extreme emotion when she met Hector herself.
“When he talks, it almost sounds like he had a stroke or something — it’s very hard to understand him,” Wood said. “But he’s usually talking about his dog, and his dog makes him so happy that he cries most of the time because he’s so happy. He’s a really kind, kind person.”
Wood promised Hector that she’d try to get a license for Amy, and also get her spayed, microchipped and vaccinated, and fix her dental issues.
Wood also warned Hector that living outside a shopping cart is technically illegal in the U.S., so she decided to get Hector a special doggy stroller where he could keep Amy and also store his belongings.
“I run a dog rescue, so I save dogs, but sometimes there’s a human attached to that dog and you have to help both,” Wood said. “ Sometimes you see homeless people with dogs and it’s like, ‘That dog would be better off somewhere else.’ But he loves that dog so much, and we want to keep them together as best as possible.”
“She gets treated better than most dogs in a home, because he’s with her 24 hours a day,” Wood added. “The dog loves him and he loves his dog — they are each other’s life.”
Wood posted the story of Hector and Amy on Instagram, and asked for donations to buy a dog stroller, good quality dog food and vet care for Amy. And Wood was overwhelmed by people’s response.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Wood said. “I got so emotional. The instant I posted it, I started getting so many responses. Not just money, but people wanting to do whatever they could to help. I was completely blown away and I was crying for a few hours.”
“It’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to change someone’s life, but I had the help of so many people,” she added.
On Wednesday, four days after their first meet, Wood brought Hector and Amy a new doggy stroller, dog food, blankets and several gift cards from donors around the nation.
“It’s just the beginning, but he was just so happy to have a cart to put her in,” Wood said. “He put her in the front with a bunch of blankets, and he was able to put his belongings in the back.” Hector also placed Amy’s dog stuffed toy in the cart next to her.
“I’ll probably be meeting with him again tomorrow to give him some more things,” Wood added. “We’re also going to get her license, and she’s set next week to get spayed and get her dental done.”
Wood also suggest to find Hector a job, which will hopefully get him and Amy off the streets. And Hector seems truly grateful.
“He was crying,” Wood said. “He called me his sister. He said, ‘Thank you, sister. You’re the only family I have.’ So I started crying too. It was really sweet. We all kind of look at people and judge them, but you really have to get to know someone and know their story before you can make that judgement — and he’s a really, really nice person.”
Hector gives his Chihuahua a devoted love and he receives respect and love from worldwide pet lovers.
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