A Lucky Dog's Family Has Its Day

Amid tragedy, a happy reunion  

A sad story that ends well serves to demonstrate how certain dogs have a talent for playing a starring role in their people’s lives.


So it is with Chile, the “cliff-diving, coyote-fighting stroke survivor,” as his family calls him. Chile is a lucky dog who seems to have defied death literally and figuratively.


Longtime Corrales resident Patricia Cervantes thought her dog had died around Christmastime. It came as a devastating blow after the breakup of her 13-year relationship. Her boyfriend Daniel had moved out in September and taken the dog with him—a pedigreed yellow Lab they had gotten together as a puppy, now old and ailing.

“I wanted shared custody,” Cervantes recalls. She kept asking to see the dog, saying her teenage daughters Genia and Teresa missed him, as did his dog-brother Chorizo. But Daniel refused. “He probably thought it was best for me” to move on, she thinks. Eventually he told her the dog had died.

Patty Cervantes, center, with daughters Genia, left, and Teresa,

was able to reunite with their long lost dog Chile at the
Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center in Albuquerque.

At the end of March, Cervantes got hit with a fresh loss: Daniel himself had died in early February. Reeling from this news more than a month old, she started hunting for information. A neighbor told her that Animal Control had taken away the man’s dogs. “Dogs?” she asked, knowing that Daniel had gotten a companion for Chile.


Both she and her sister, Ida Cordova, sprung into action. Cordova quizzed Albuquerque Animal Control, but learned only that the dogs had been adopted. She tried persuading them to let her sister see Chile, “just to have something happy come in her life, because she couldn’t see Daniel again.” Then Cervantes herself called, saying the dog should never have been adopted out, since he was registered with the Village of Corrales and had veterinary records proving he was theirs.


Finally she learned that Chile, who had multiple health problems, had been taken to the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center in Albuquerque. Cervantes called the hospital, putting to work her experience as a school social worker who needs to extract information. “I lost it,” she admits. “I got mean”—threatening dire consequences if any harm had come to the dog. “I blew up from the overwhelming grief.”


From that, a miracle ensued, and a reunion was arranged. It turned out that Chile had been adopted by one of the veterinarians who had a history of caring for him. Giddy with excitement, the family gathered at the hospital in early April. It had been seven months since they had seen Chile.


The old dog, prone and panting from a parathyroid tumor, rallied to look around at his long lost family, and even struggled to get up when Cervantes made a motion to go. Everyone spoke at once, remembering his youthful antics and all the times he had defied death: once when he ran straight off the edge of a ravine, another time when he was attacked by coyotes protecting a den.


“We called him Gangsta because he got shanked,” chuckles Cervantes, betraying her social milieu at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho. Last year Chile had a spinal stroke, a type of back injury for which there is no clear cause. He was undergoing treatment at the animal hospital when his owner died.


“And he’s still here,” Cervantes said, stroking the old dog’s head. “I just love him so much.”


According to the veterinarian who adopted Chile, who asked that her name not be used, Daniel’s family made it very clear that they wanted the dog to stay with her. She had been treating Chile and was wondering about a missed appointment when a neighbor called her in distress to say that Daniel’s beloved dogs had been taken away.


Old and ailing, Chile rallies and thumps his tail to see the family

who thought he had died months before.

The vet contacted Animal Control, and she was allowed to foster the dogs and adopt Chile once Daniel’s sister signed a release (the other dog was taken by a family friend). The vet said she promised the family “to do the best I can until the end” to keep Chile comfortable, because an old, sick dog had little chance of being adopted by anyone else. Now Chile gets along famously with her dogs and cats, she says, “especially the deaf, blind Aussie.”


“I don’t think he’s ready to go,” she added. There had been talk of putting him down, but each time Chile rallied. He continues to enjoy top-quality care, which Daniel had gone to great lengths to provide, including dialysis after renal failure, as well as acupuncture and physical therapy.


“What dog gets acupuncture?” marvels Cervantes. “He’s amazing. He’s such a lucky dog. There’s no way I could have gotten people to give me all the care he’s gotten here.”


“Everyone at the hospital loves Chile,” confirms the vet. “He’s a great dog, and he’s been through a lot here.”


Cervantes and her daughters seemed greatly relieved to see the dog’s famous fighting spirit, which had led him to “flunk” obedience school several times, according to Genia. “He could be like Marley [of the movie Marley and Me], he’s so stubborn.” “Mom always said Malo went on his own,” she said of the dog that had been Chile’s constant companion. “And Chile would milk it to the very end.”