Early one cold January morning last year, Martiniano Gutierrez, was walking his Chihuahua Goofy in a park in Santa Ana. Suddenly, a black German Shepherd mix charged out of the predawn darkness and attacked the smaller dog.
Martiniano did not see the shepherd until it was too late. He managed to pull the dog off Goofy – but not before it had inflicted serious wounds on the smaller dog’s chest and abdomen and he himself had been bitten.
A 68-year-old man from Puebla, Mex., Martiniano had been living in his car for a year and a half and was not working. Goofy means everything to him. “He is my only family. He is my son. He is the other half of my soul,” Martiniano told Ligia Veloz, staff members at Tustin Santa Ana Veterinary Hospital where he took his dog for treatment. “Even though he was in pain from the attack, he still gave me kisses. Goofy may depend on me for nourishment but my soul depends on him.”
Goofy was calm, even though he was bleeding from his severe wounds. “He’s such a good boy,” Ligia, a receptionist and technical assistant at the hospital said. “That’s why we all fell in love with him.“ Dr. Laura Weatherford repaired Goofy surgically and the dog was released to Martiniano that evening. “We knew he would do better with his dad,” Ligia said. “We saw him the next day and when he came in to be checked over several weeks.”
Martiniano did not have money to pay the bill. The hospital steered him to Angel Fund, which provided $500, a sum matched by the hospital. Those funds made the surgery and treatment possible and Goofy and his owner are grateful both to the hospital and Angel Fund.
The Mexican native has lived in the United States for 37 years and is now a U.S. citizen. He worked for years as a tire man in a garage owned by his brother. But the brother died a few years ago. Martiniano worked in the same garage for his nephew – but his pay was cut back and he had to live in the tire shop. He sought work elsewhere but was unable to find another job because of his age and the fact that he has difficulty walking and standing for long periods of time.
Today he lives on a Social Security disability check. But he no longer is living in his car. He now owns an RV, purchased a year ago through a state program that friends told him about. It provides much more room and he and Goofy are more comfortable in it.
Martiniano recognized the dog that attacked Goofy. He had stayed overnight near the Santa Ana park frequently and knew the house where the shepherd lived. So he went there after his dog was injured and told the owners what had happened. They refused to help and seemed to blame the event on Goofy and his master.
Ligia acted as interpreter in an interview with Martiniano, who speaks little English. She said that her hospital helps him as much as possible. “We have clients who donate bed and food and we always contact him because we know that he appreciates it. And we love Goofy.”
Martiniano and Goofy plan to continue living in the RV because of money issues. But there is not enough income to pay for a space in an RV park so they will continue to park on the street at night.
But they are happy together. And Goofy is “really good,” Ligia said. “He’s always got his tail wagging. And he’s always looking for his dad. He’s just a happy guy.”