No one could say Alex Perez doesn’t have a big heart.
He was just 11 years old when he came across a puppy at a yard sale — and insisted on taking him home.
Just a couple of years after that, while driving with his mom, the boy spotted an injured pit bull running up the middle of the street.
“I was pulling off the side of the road when I hear Alex’s car door open,” his mother, Valinda Cortez of Canton, North Carolina, tells The Dodo. “Before I could stop him, he was out in the middle of the road with this dog.”
“He picked up this bloody baby and brought him to the car,” she says. “We got him all healed up and now he lives a wonderful spoiled life.”
But earlier this week, at 16, he became part of a very different kind of rescue — the kind that pushes hearts to the breaking point.
“He’s helped before in animal shelters and homeless shelters but this time was different,” Valinda says.
Having the day off school, Alex joined his mom, who volunteers with animal rescue groups, at a warehouse where dozens of animals saved from a hoarding situation in Canton, North Carolina, had been taken.
Rescue groups — Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, Sarge’s Animal Rescue Foundation, and Duke’s Animal Haven, as well as the Haywood County Animal Shelter — had coordinated the rescue from a secluded property. The dogs, many of them Chihuahuas and dachshunds, had spent their lives in cages. In all, they found around 140 animals living in every kind of misery.
“Most of them had only had little or no human contact,” Valinda explains. “They were so scared. They would tremble and cower if we tried to pet them.”
But at the temporary warehouse where the animals were housed, Alex was drawn to one dog in particular — a trembling bundle of terror named Trouble.
“Alex walked around looking for a bit and talking to the dogs,” Valinda recalls. “Then he came to Trouble’s crate. He decided that Trouble was The One.”
As the little dog clambered into his rescuer’s arms, his whole body seemed to beg, never let me go.
And Alex, despite being surrounded by countless animals in need, held on tight.
“He held him, played with him and, probably for the first time in this dog’s life, he felt loved,” Valinda says. “He fell asleep while Alex was holding him.”
Valinda’s heart swelled with pride as she watched her boy’s compassion blossom, as it had time and time again, for this love-starved dog.
“My wonderful 16-year-old son has a giant soft spot in his heart for the animals that are ‘less desirable,'” she says.
But Alex would eventually have to let Trouble go. Along with the rest of the animals, they had to remain at the holding facility, where many of them would get much-needed medical attention.
“He didn’t want to leave Trouble,” Valinda notes. “But we are at capacity with all our animals from pit bulls to chihuahuas.”
Alex, along with an army of volunteers, brought a rare ray of human kindness to a lot of long-suffering dogs that day.
But his thoughts kept returning to the little dog who clung to him so passionately. It seems this bond won’t easily be broken. And wherever Alex goes, one way or another, Trouble will likely follow.
“He has asked me several times this evening about Trouble,” Valinda says. “After he gets home from school tomorrow, we’re going back to the temporary warehouse where the remainder of the dogs are. I hope Trouble got adopted, but if not, I’m sure we will be bringing him home, if only as a foster.”