âWhereâs Cali?â Adrian Varela asked. His 2-year-old son,Â Adam, walked down the hall of their Moreno Valley home and pointed at the front door.
Varela said his son, who has autism, accidentally let the 10-month-old comfort dog out Sunday, Nov. 4. The 45-pound female English bulldog with a white coat and brown spots hasnât been seen since.
Varela said he doesnât believe his son realizes yet that Cali â while she hasnât been around for a few days â may never come around again. âItâs breaking our hearts to see him looking for her,â he said.
Cali is loved by the whole family, including Adamâs 17-year-old brother Xavier, 14-year-old sister Noemi and 7-year-old brother Anthony.
âShe likes to eat treats, play with us,â Anthony said, adding that her favorite game is tug of war.
Cali was more than a family dog, though.
Varela said he wife, Kendra, purchased the puppy in MarchÂ from a breeder for nearly $2,000 to helpÂ Adam grow socially and emotionally. Varela said Adam was diagnosed withÂ autism spectrum disorder late last year. The breeder let them make payments, which they finishedÂ in October.
The choice was no accident.
âThey (English bulldogs) get their feelings hurt,â he added. âVery emotional. Stubborn.â
It turned out to be the right choice, he said. Over the past several months, Adam and Cali have bonded.
âAll our kids spoke before age 1, and he wasnât saying anything,â Varela said.
Lately, he said, Adamâs growth has been âthrough the roof.â A few months back he started saying, âMom.â
âHe tries to mimic sounds that you say now,â Varela said, saying that also was prompted by the dog.
Now Varela is afraid that Adam, who will turn 3 in spring, will regress.
âHe started throwing tantrums,â Varela said. âHeâs defiant. He doesnât want to go to sleep.â
On Monday afternoon, Nov. 12, Adam crawled into Caliâs kennel and bed with an opened bag of Skittles candy in one hand and a toy in the other.
Varela said he filed a lost-dog report with the city. Moreno Valley city offices were closed Monday in observance of Veterans Day and the report could not be confirmed.
Varela said he wanted to report the dog as stolen, because a neighbor told him a man in a white Toyota Sequoia around model year 2004 swooped up the dog the next block over. Varela said, however, that authorities told himÂ he couldnât file such a report because the dog was accidentally let out. The dog was microchipped.
The family posted more than 400 missing-dog flyers around their neighborhood, in the vicinity of Kitching Street and Alessandro Boulevard.
âWe plastered the neighborhood,â he said. âEvery light pole. Every mailbox.â
Varela said the family planned to continue looking.
âWe want Cali back,â he said.
At some point, though, Varela said heâll seek another solution. He has to. Itâs too important, he said, for his sonâs growth.
âIâll sell something and buy another dog,â he said.
Anyone with information about the dogâs whereabouts is asked to call Varela, 951-455-2112.