“It was so weird. We had an instant connection. I’ve never had a dog get attached to me that quickly in my whole life.”
Those were the very words uttered by Mario Rodriguez when he met Hickory, a 2 year-old pit bull whose life will later change for good. He had recently lost a dog, a pit bull as well, and he was willing to go the distance for another one.
It was his wife, Sabrina who had told him about a smiley-faced dog at the risk of being put to sleep at Animals Care Centre (ACC) in New York. All it took was one look at the adorable pup, and Mario knew he had to adopt Hickory.
Though there was one hiccup in the process of doing so. Mario was halfway across the country in California, on a work assignment. He quickly called his employer, and explained his situation. Lucky for him, they were able to set a delivery trip to New York close to the shelter.
As soon as he got the approval, Mario called the shelter and asked if they were able to keep Hickory for just a few more days. Touched by his gesture, they agreed.
“I was pushing through traffic and calling the shelter every single day, and by the third day, they knew my number. They were like, ‘He’s still here, Mario, he’s still here!’ ” Mario shared with The Dodo.
Finally, after treading the road for six days and six nights, Mario arrived at ACC shelter. He was exhausted but excitement kept him up. He was finally going to meet the dog he fell in love with at first sight. The shelter staffs recognized him right away and brought him to the kennel where Hickory was.
“As soon as Hickory saw me, he literally almost jumped through the kennel door. I said, ‘That’s it, buddy! We’re going home!’ He started wagging his tail going crazy. He immediately started jumping on me, licking my face.” explained Mario of his experience meeting Hickory for the first time.
Mario sorted out the paperwork, and off they went on an epic journey to Georgia, Hickory’s new home. The happy pup bonded right away with Mario’s wife and their other two pit bulls, Cooper and Angel. He was brought to the family vet for treatment and even bonded well with Mario’s young grandson.
Mario would soon have to leave for work, and he wasn’t ready to part with Hickory just yet. That’s when his family suggested that Mario take Hickory along on his work trips. Soon, Hickory became Mario’s permanent travelling companion, and he seems to be enjoying every little bit of it.
“He’s seeing so many things he’s never experienced before. We’ve stopped off places all the time, like to the park, or to farms out west where he’s met some horses. He’s barked at cows on our way down the highways … He’s really having fun,” beamed Mario.
Mario has a fond admiration for pit bulls. His family grew up with the breed when he was little, and he adopted a few when he started his own family. For every mile he travels, he saves one cent to accommodate the donation for at-risk animals at shelters all around.
He’s also planning to open up a pit bull rescue when he retires. For a man who traveled 2800 miles to adopt a dog, the sky is the only limit. As for Hickory, he is living his best life surrounded by a loving family and discovering new experiences everyday.