Man experiencing homelessness reunited with dog after hospital stay

After four days alone outside, CoCo the dog is back with her dad

ROANOKE, Va. – Not every dog that comes into a shelter has a happy ending, but for one dog named CoCo, luck was on her side.

Last week, Angels of Assisi got a call from a social worker at Carilion Clinic.

“They said, ‘Please help,’” said Dayna Reynolds, the shelter’s director of communications.

A patient came into the hospital and ended up on a ventilator, but he was worried about his dog, CoCo, who he had to leave behind. The two had been living in a tent.

When he had to go to the hospital, he told CoCo to stay and left her some food. While he was on the ventilator he was unable to speak, so he drew a map of where to find CoCo.

“He was just so worried about his dog,” said Reynolds.

Four days had passed, so the shelter asked the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection to track down CoCo. Roanoke County Animal Control followed the map and found CoCo still in the tent, just like her dad asked.

“She briefly stayed at the municipal shelter for a night and then she came to us for vet care,” said Reynolds.

On Wednesday, CoCo was all smiles when she was finally reunited with her dad.

The shelter posted about their story on Facebook and it’s since gone viral.

“It made my eyes leak,” said Dawn Sandoval, the founder of The Least of These Ministry (TLOT). “That man went over and above to make sure that his dog was cared for.”

TLOT is an outreach organization that helps individuals experiencing homelessness. Sandoval said many of them have pets and, as a result, can’t stay in area shelters or aren’t allowed to live in low-income housing.

“For a lot of homeless individuals, their animals are all they have. And that’s why they’re willing to die on the streets before they’ll give up their animals because they don’t want to be separated from them,” said Sandoval. “That is their family.”

Sandoval works with Angels of Assisi to provide food and medical care for pets just like CoCo. The shelter runs a Guardian Angel program: they can foster animals when their owners are sick or temporarily without a place to stay.

“It helps people who are temporarily unhoused, are in the hospital or are just going through kind of a hard time and need somewhere for their animal to stay for a couple weeks,” said Reynolds. “It kind of prevents them from losing their animals. Because a lot of these people, just like us, [pets] are our babies. They’re our whole worlds.”

Both organizations want everyone to know that they’re here to help.

“People need to understand that the only thing that sets us apart from this gentleman that was living in a tent, is a set of circumstances. It could very easily be any one of us. And I think we need to show compassion,” said Sandoval.

Sandoval reached out to Angels of Assisi to try to get in touch with the man to offer services.

10 News tried to get in contact with the man, but he was not immediately available for an interview.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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