When Marissa Mabanag asked her mom for a puppy, her mother, Marie, told the 10-year-old she could get a dog only if she earned it by placing on the honor roll that year. Marissa worked hard throughout the school year, diligently completing homework assignments, putting in long studying hours for tests, and making her parents proud.
In June, Marissa’s mom rewarded her with a Shih Tzu-Yorkie mixup pup. Thrilled, Marissa named the dog Meeko after the expressive raccoon character in Disney’s Pocahontas. Marissa taught the little dog to sit and roll over.
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Last Monday, however, the Mabanag house was burglarized for the second time in a year, despite recent home security improvements. The burglars entered through a shattered sliding glass door, and in addition to taking thousands of dollars in electronics, swiped Marissa’s beloved Meeko.
Heartbroken, the little girl offered up her piggy bank in exchange for the dog’s return. When City Council members heard of the dog’s disappearance in a second home invasion, they added $1,000 to the reward, and police and fire unions chipped in another $5,000.
The heightened stakes worked — the dog was discovered by an unnamed individual this Thursday in a shopping center in Los Banos, almost 80 miles from home.
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Marissa’s mom described the ordeal as a “roller coaster” for her daughter, saying that Marissa will “try to be really brave about it, but if you sit down and talk to her about it, she breaks down.”
The burglary is just one of a rash of break-ins recently plaguing the family’s neighborhood, the result of a budget-crunched police force that simply does not have the manpower to patrol the streets. When the Mabanags discovered their home had been violated again, that was one thing — but when they realized Meeko was gone, it was simply devastating.
Material things can always be replaced, but the traumatic disappearance of a beloved companion animal leaves an aching hole in your heart. Fortunately for Marissa, she will be reunited with Meeko all thanks to a community effort. It’s a lesson in optimism even in the face of devastating adversity.
As Marissa’s mom said, “As much as there are bad people out there, there are also so many good people and this is a perfect example of it. I always tell her that good things happen to good people.”