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(01-28) 17:33 PST Los Angeles, CA (AP) –
Maria Medina was brokenhearted when her dogs disappeared, so she sent her grandchildren door-to-door in the Maywood neighborhood where she and her husband have lived for 20 years trying to find them.
The 70-year-old mother of nine, who has about 45 grandchildren, had no idea it was her German shepherd named Spikey who was hoisted by helicopter from the swollen Los Angeles River on Jan. 22 â€” a rescue televised on national television.
The firefighter who saved the dog fractured his thumb and lost a nail in his struggle to save the dog.
Medina’s other dog, Polo, a year-old Labrador retriever, was found by animal control officers a day later on the same bridge, said Capt. Aaron Reyes, director of operations at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority. “Maybe he was looking for Vernon/Spikey, we don’t know,” Reyes said.
Spikey was nicknamed Vernon by shelter workers because of the city where he was rescued.
Maria Medina still hadn’t seen the video by Thursday, and just laughed to think that her pet became famous overnight.
“My kids saw it, various other neighbors and friends saw it, but I don’t have a computer. They promised to show it to me later,” she said in Spanish. “We’re happy to find them both and waiting for them to come home.”
Medina’s son, Ramon Medina, said the family figures the dogs got out when some of the grandkids left the backyard gate open.
“Once they were loose, they were probably scared and running all over the place because the rain had been so heavy,” Ramon Medina said. The dogs had never been out of the yard before, he said, and his mom has had them since they were puppies.
Spikey is playful and likes to play fetch with a ball, Maria Medina said.
“He’s a good dog. He watches the house but he’s gentle and he likes children,” she said.
It was one of the kids who saw the video on YouTube and told their grandmother about the rescue.
“She couldn’t believe it. She never thought it would be her dog in the river. She was very surprised to see what was happening to her dog and she was very upset because the firefighter tried to save the dog’s life and got hurt. She figured she probably wouldn’t get the dog back,” Ramon Medina said.
But she sent her son-in-law to the animal care center first thing Monday, said Ramon Medina.
“Vernon went nuts when he saw him. His whole demeanor changed, like he found a long lost friend,” Reyes said.
Later her son went to identify the dog with some of her grandchildren.
“The kids were looking at the dog in the cage and crying for him,” she said. “Now they’re happy, waiting for them to come home.”
Polo will probably be released from the shelter on Friday but Spikey will spend the rest of a 10-day quarantine there and be released early next week.
Ramon Medina said it will be nice to see his mom smile again after she is reunited with her dogs.