Sunday, 16 December 2018
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Moreno Valley family heartbroken after losing dog that comforts 2-year-old autistic son

“Where’s Cali?” Adrian Varela asked. His 2-year-old son, 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 hasn’t been seen since.

Varela said he doesn’t believe his son realizes yet that Cali — while she hasn’t been around for a few days — may never come around again. “It’s breaking our hearts to see him looking for her,” he said.

Cali is loved by the whole family, including Adam’s 17-year-old brother Xavier, 14-year-old sister Noemi and 7-year-old brother Anthony.

“She likes to eat treats, play with us,” 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 March from a breeder for nearly $2,000 to help Adam grow socially and emotionally. Varela said Adam was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder late last year. The breeder let them make payments, which they finished in October.

The choice was no accident.

Doctors had recommended a dog. And Varela said he researched which dogs were best for helping children with autism, and found the English bulldog was near the top of the list.

“They (English bulldogs) get their feelings hurt,” he added. “Very emotional. Stubborn.”

It turned out to be the right choice, he said. Over the past several months, Adam and Cali have bonded.

“All our kids spoke before age 1, and he wasn’t saying anything,” Varela said.

Lately, he said, Adam’s growth has been “through the roof.” A few months back he started saying, “Mom.”

“He tries to mimic sounds that you say now,” Varela said, saying that also was prompted by the dog.

Now Varela is afraid that Adam, who will turn 3 in spring, will regress.

“He started throwing tantrums,” Varela said. “He’s defiant. He doesn’t want to go to sleep.”

On Monday afternoon, Nov. 12, Adam crawled into Cali’s 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 him he couldn’t 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.

“We plastered the neighborhood,” he said. “Every light pole. Every mailbox.”

Varela said the family planned to continue looking.

“We want Cali back,” he said.

At some point, though, Varela said he’ll seek another solution. He has to. It’s too important, he said, for his son’s growth.

“I’ll sell something and buy another dog,” he said.

Anyone with information about the dog’s whereabouts is asked to call Varela, 951-455-2112.


The Bark Box

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