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A supportive little friend: Juan and Pepe

August 3, 2022

A man in a heavy-duty jacket smiles as he pets a small dog in his arms.

If you’re looking for Pepe – a tiny tan chihuahua – you may miss him at first. His favorite place to hide is Juan’s zip-up jacket. Pepe’s tiny head occasionally pokes out, just far enough to get ear scratches and peek around. 

Juan, Pepe’s owner, loves to keep him close for cuddling. The duo first met a few months ago, in a tough time in Juan’s life. 

In 2021, Juan was riding his motorcycle and was struck by another vehicle. He woke up in the hospital with his arm bloodied and skin ripped off. His arm had to be partially amputated, and he was in the hospital for a month to recover. Since then, he’s gone through three surgeries, with more on the way.  

The accident left him unable to work in his former job: construction and demolition.  

As his arm healed and surgeries took place, Juan lived on-and-off with family members – like with his grandfather. But in December 2021, his grandfather passed away, leaving Juan alone without stable housing.  

To cope with the loss, Juan’s mom gave him Pepe. She thought the little chihuahua would help keep his mind off what was going on at the time, and become a supportive friend. Juan temporarily moved in with his mom before realizing it “wasn’t going right.”  

He ended up on the streets, without a job and income due to his injury. In February he tried out mass shelter, but found, “That experience wasn’t that good,” he said. He was surrounded by people in all different circumstances, and was worried someone might mess with Pepe.  

In April, Juan moved into a Pallet shelter village in California. He has a shelter with a lockable door, air conditioning, a bed, and storage for him and Pepe. Juan knows it’s temporary, and looks forward to the future. 

“Eventually I hope to get somewhere more stable,” he said. “If it wasn’t for [the motorcycle] accident, I wouldn’t even be here.” 

Pepe gives him the support he needs to keep going. 

“My life is kind of in shambles right now. [Pepe] gives me hope… I like seeing him when I wake up, when I get back to my room, I know there is someone waiting there for me. It’s not like I’m alone in the world,” Juan said.  “I believe everybody should have a friend to guide them through life – that’s what Pepe does with me sometimes.” 

Learn more about building the right shelter for people and their pets

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