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Alan Moncayo is a Navy veteran and single dad. While he’s between jobs, he’s been making ends meet by delivering food with GrubHub. Often, he takes his 5-year-old Sabrina along with him while he’s working.

In February, he was called to deliver lunch to the animal shelter for Fairfax County, Virginia. And yes, he left with a dog. But no, it’s not what you think. Adopting the puppy wasn’t even Sabrina’s idea.

Moncayo, 51, said that as he walked up to the shelter a face popped into the window and stared at him. And he missed a beat because it was like seeing a ghost: the dog looked exactly like his beloved Rusty who he lost 30 years ago.

Pit bull dog sitting in a field
Pit bull | Katie Bernotsky via Unsplash

“They’re identical..Rusty was exactly the same stature and build…He’s beautiful.”

It’s not that Sabrina didn’t want a dog. But Moncayo had decided they couldn’t afford one. “Being a single parent, and with inflation being so high…it’s not in my budget to pay for a dog.” But the shelter drove a hard bargain. Moncayo happened to walk in during their “Adoption Bowl” Super Bowl weekend event. Volunteers told him they were waiving the adoption fees for big dogs. He softened a bit, and asked them if he and his daughter could play with the 65-pound pit bull mix.

“Right away, he played with my daughter. He was very sensitive and gentle..This dog is unbelievable.”

White and brown dog stands in a field, flowers visible in the foreground.
Pit bull | Joel Moysuh via Unsplash

Alan and Sabrina Moncayo learned the 6-year-old dog is named Jihoo. And they learned something else: he’d been in the shelter for 240 days. The average is 24, but big dogs and pit bulls are hard to place.

In that time, he’d won over the shelter’s workers. Rebecca Cavedon, communication manager for the county’s Department of Animal Sheltering said, “He was very special to all of our staff and volunteers…He’s just an amazingly gentle, sweet, kind boy.”

Moncayo decided to take Jihoo home. The shelter offer Moncayo a crate, dog food, toys, and even a leash. “It was a no-brainer. It was a done deal,”

Jihoo settled right in with his new family. Reportedly, he enjoys belly rubs, playing fetch, and licking faces. He is “a very funny dog” and makes Sabrina and Alan Moncayo laugh all day long.

One day, they got a call to deliver lunch to the Fairfax County shelter again. So the duo grabbed Jihoo and brought him back to say hi to the staff.

Moncayo said he and Sabrina have no regrets, “It was like an empty space in my heart that just needed to be filled up…It had to be healed, and now it’s filled with so much love for our beautiful new dog…We feel like a complete family now.”