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Shows up at door of house where pit bull killed dog
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Esther and Nelson Nieves are shown with a year-old Beagle mix – looking eerily like a pet killed by a pit bull last Thursday – that was found cuddled at the base of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Saturday morning outside the front door of the dead animal’s home. - photo by GLENN KAHL
It almost seemed like a reincarnation for a family who lost a pet of 15 years to an attacking pit bull last week to find a year old Beagle mix cuddled up on their front porch Saturday morning at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The young dog put the family in awe seeing it outside their front door looking so much like their pet “Dude” who they had lost violently before their eyes just two days earlier.

The family named their new canine visitor “Spirit” for the life he brought back into grieving home as he would quickly find his spot in the master bedroom. And they would calm his apparent fear of people within a short time.

Nelson Nieves had been working on his car in the driveway of his home on Pestana Avenue Thursday afternoon with his dog sleeping on the driveway next to him. A pit bull came prowling down the street from a residence two blocks away and attacked the smaller animal.

Its caretaker later told an animal control officer that the same 60-pound dog had jumped out of a second-story window in a residence that they were just moving into with their furniture about two blocks farther north on Pestana. They said they had opened the window to air out the room.

Witnesses said the pit bull was shaking the smaller dog by the neck and dragging him past school children who were walking and riding home from the nearby Joshua Cowell Elementary School. Traffic stalled and motorists were heard yelling at the animal. The dog refused to drop his kill even after a delivery man kicked at him several times.

Nieves said his adult nephew, Delfino Guerra, quickly got into his car that was parked in the driveway and chased the running dog up the street and retrieved the body of his uncle’s pet – then located the pit bull who he said was going after another puppy behind a fence. He said he grabbed him by the neck and put both animals in his car and returned to his residence.

Guerra said the owner of the dog followed him to his uncle’s house and demanded to retrieve his pit bull. He wouldn’t let him have the dog as he waited for authorities to arrive.

Nieves said he had taken the small Beagle with him everywhere he went since he retired – having had him since he was only a four-week-old puppy. The man and his wife recently moved to Manteca. He is on medical retirement from the heavy construction industry in the Bay Area.

It was on Saturday morning – two days after the death of their dog – Guerra said he had been talking to his dad about his uncle’s extreme sadness. He remarked that he was very concerned about how distraught he had become and hoped he could somehow make a difference in heading off what he saw as an approaching serious depression.

Told by nephew to have faith in God

He was told by his dad to have faith – God would step in before He asked someone to suffer more than was reasonable – to just give it time, he said.

It was a short 20 minutes after talking to his father – about 9:30 a.m. – that the nephew went out the front door to have a cigarette. After just being told to have faith, he was shocked to see what was cuddled up on the porch at the feet of the family’s statue of the Virgin Mary, a look-a-like Beagle mix that closely resembled the dead pet when he was younger.

At first he hesitated telling his aunt and uncle about the dog, because they had already been through so much heartache, he said. He described the dog as trembling and cold – hesitating to come to him or to go to other family members who peeked around the edge of the front door.

He said when he went upstairs to tell his aunt and uncle about the dog, they reacted with the expression: “Yeah, right!” Guerra said he begged them to just come down and see for themselves how it really looked like “Dude” when he was a puppy.

“We all came back in the house and left the dog alone as my uncle came down the stairs and went outside,” he said.

The dog’s reaction totally shifted when his Uncle Nelson walked through the door to see for himself – the dog had retreated to hide behind a corner of the porch. He said the little tan Beagle became very excited, running over to his uncle and jumping on his legs – almost like the dead dog’s spirit had been transferred into this puppy – having many of the same mannerisms.

Nieves’ wife Esther said of finding the puppy at their door, “My husband really needed that,” without hesitation.

Guerra added, “That was a trip to me and I said that’s more than just a coincidence -- just to come out here right after we were talking about faith.”

The nephew further suggested that if somebody did bring the dog to the residence and drop it off, it was weird that he would stay right on the porch – with other nearby neighbors he could have chosen to adopt.

“He (the dog) will only go out the door for a couple minutes, look around and run right back inside,” he noted. The puppy will not go toward the driveway where the attack occurred, he added.

Pit bull owner hires attorney to help get his dog back

Manteca Animal Control Officer Les Rowe said the owner of the pit bull has retained an attorney from Walnut Creek to represent him, hoping to save the animal from being destroyed as a vicious dog within the community.

Rowe said he discovered a chip under the animal’s coat, put there by the Contra Costa Animal Control Office, describing the dog as being dangerous based on six earlier offenses in that county.

Rowe said he has 10 days to complete his investigation and decide whether to present the owner with a citation that would mandate his appearance in court for a hearing charging him with possessing a vicious dog within the city limits.