A 10-year-old Pasco boy filled a shopping cart Saturday with dog toys, grooming supplies and months' worth of dog food as his 120-pound shepherd mix strolled beside him.
The dog, Popelle, was oblivious to the crowd following him through the south Kennewick Petco store. He was more interested in the treats the younger brother of his owner, Francisco Beltran, was handing him.
But Francisco wanted to make sure he got everything Popelle needed. It had been five years since he'd had to leave him with relatives in Mexico -- what better reason to spoil him a little?
"He's a little bit skinnier," Francisco said.
Volunteers with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in two states and in Mexico arranged the reunion and $500 shopping spree after learning about Francisco's lymphoma diagnosis. The Robert Frost Elementary fifth-grader is in remission but still being monitored.
Francisco said he's grateful for the support he's received from his family, but Popelle always has been on his mind.
"His wish has always been to get his dog back," said Maria Buxbaum, a translator with the foundation. "We didn't have to dig deep."
Francisco's family acquired Popelle, 7, as a puppy and took him on a trip to Mexico five years ago. The family wasn't allowed to bring the dog back across the border, though, because it lacked the proper documentation.
Make-A-Wish volunteers spent five months working to bring Popelle back to the U.S., said lead volunteer Nanc Foster-Mills. Volunteers and a veterinarian in Mexico retrieved the dog and quarantined it for six weeks, then worked with customs agents to let the dog through.
Popelle then was taken to Phoenix, where he caught a free ride on an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle.
Francisco was kept in the dark about his dog returning, as his family didn't want to get his hopes up, said his mother, Rosario Garcia. When the family went to Seattle, she told him they were picking up an uncle.
"When he saw us in our (Make-A-Wish Foundation) shirts, I think he knew something was up," Foster-Mills said.
Popelle was calm when his kennel rolled up to the boy. It didn't take long for the pair to bond once he was let out.
"He smelled my shirt and then he recognized me," Francisco said, smiling.
Francisco knows he'll have more responsibilities with Popelle in the house, he said. He's just glad to have his friend by his side, and he won't let them be separated again.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald