When Miguel and Ada Rojas stepped out into the warmth of a South Florida morning, they had no idea what lay in store for them.
Both nearing 90, the West Miami couple expected a slow, relaxing walk with their 3-year-old Chihuahua, Gucci. Beneath the rustling palms shading their path, cooled by a breeze fresh off the Atlantic, they had no reason to suspect that danger prowled nearby.
But prowl it did, in the form of two stray dogs. There was no escape for the Rojas family once the pair noticed them. The loping trot of the female turned into a full-on sprint as she bore down snarling on tiny Gucci, who was quickly overwhelmed. Ada struggled to separate the two dogs, one large and ferocious, the other small and defenseless, sustaining her own wounds in the attack. But it was too late. Gucci was dead.
When it was all over, Ada would require 100 stitches. Miguel would be hospitalized for a heart attack due to the stress.
It was a brutal tragedy no dog parent should be subjected to.
But the veil of sadness that had descended upon Miguel and Ada was pulled back when Mario Cambo, a man who had seen their story on the news, felt moved to help them.
“I saw the story yesterday and right away I said I needed to do something and I did something because this broke my heart,” Mario said.
He purchased a Chihuahua puppy from Lynn Broderick at We Puppy Paws Kennel of Homestead, Florida, who did her part in soothing the anguish of Miguel and Ada by selling the puppy for half price.
“It just broke my heart,” Lynn said, “and I wanted to do something.”
With the help of the Rojas’s daughter, also named Ada, Mario was able to surprise the grieving family with their newest member and bring bittersweet smiles to faces still streaked with the tears of loss.
Sobs wracked Miguel’s body as he cradled the wide-eyed, floppy-eared pup against his chest. “I am happy,” he said in Spanish. “And sad.”
Ada echoed his sentiment. “We felt Gucci’s death very, very deep. And this dog is going to make us continue to live.”
Watching them together, the pup already relaxing comfortably in her parents’ arms, Ada summed the situation up perfectly.
“They are family,” she said. “They are not animals. They are family.”