Cyntia Morales was walking her two dogs after work — like she does every day — when she was hit by a car.
“She was on the sidewalk, she wasn’t crossing the street, she was going her normal route,” her daughter, Adriana Pachaco, 22, tells PEOPLE. “Unfortunately, instead of making a left or a right, which you’re supposed to do at the stop sign, the driver didn’t stop and decided to go straight and just completely ran over my mom.”
The accident happened on October 24 around 5:30 p.m. in Fairfax, Virginia. Morales, a 54-year-old social worker with the Fairfax County Health Department, was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries following the accident.
Morales’s 11-year-old, 25-pound Shih Tzu named Charlie, died at the scene. Animal Protection Police rushed 5-year-old, 15-pound Shih Tzu-poodle mix, Bruno, to an emergency vet. To help Morales recover from this tragic incident, her community raised enough money to cover all of the dog’s medical expenses.
“It was amazing that all the community came together to help,” Pachaco says. “I could never thank anyone enough for what they did for Bruno. It shows me there are still people that are willing to help and want to help. And it makes me feel so heart warmed that people are so selfless.”
The effort to save Bruno started as soon as the dog arrived at the animal hospital.
“I spoke to the veterinarian on the phone, and they said, ‘This little dog Bruno is not doing well,'” remembers Reasa Currier, director of the Fairfax County Department of Animal Sheltering. “He had a leg fracture, abrasions, and just a lot of bruising from being struck by the vehicle and hitting the pavement with so much force. They said, ‘This is going to be very expensive to treat him.'”
Currier reached out to the nonprofit Friends of Fairfax County Animal Shelter, which raises money to care for “animals in emergency situations where animals need extraordinary care.”
The Friends group started a Facebook fundraiser and raised $8,200 for Bruno within hours.
“It just shows you that no matter what, you can count on people to be there. This poor woman had such a devastating thing happen to her,” says Evelyn Grieve, the president of the Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. “They opened their hearts and said, ‘We’re here. We want to help.'”
Currier called Morales’s daughter and said they would cover all of Bruno’s medical expenses and that she could focus on caring for her mother.
Bruno received round-the-clock observation during his two-day hospitalization, along with x-rays, an ultrasound, blood work, and pain meds. The veterinarian also determined that Bruno suffered a broken leg during the accident, but the injury doesn’t need a cast or surgery.
“When they took him, they thought that his injuries were a lot worse than what they were. They told me they were life-threatening injuries,” Pachaco says. “But they said he just has a broken leg and obviously road rash all over his belly. And he was just really shaken up.”
Bruno made a full recovery and is back to his cheerful self.
“Bruno did so great. We were all incredibly impressed with his resiliency,” Currier says. “When he came in, he was really shut down. I think he was probably in shock just from what had happened. Within 24 hours, he was doing so much better.”
Pachaco has since picked Bruno up from the veterinarian, and he is now back home.
“It was just a really wonderful reunion,” Currier says. “Bruno’s just so happy to be at home with his family. It just brings tears to my eyes. This is really why we do this work. Sheltering animals is one aspect of the work that we do here at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. We provide so many other services and have so many other resources and programs that are really designed just to keep pets together with their people.”
Overall, Bruno’s medical costs totaled shy of $3,000, so the surplus money from the fundraiser will go to Finnegan’s Fund to help other animals who need emergency care.
Bruno’s good health is a point of light for Morales, who, Pachaco says, has a close bond with the fluffy pup.
“Bruno’s the one that was the most attached to my mom,” she says. “Bruno was literally her shadow. He followed her anywhere, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, anywhere she would move to, he would go. So I know him being away from my mom is super hard, probably on both of them. My mom has been asking about her dogs every single day.”
According to her daughter, Morales has seven broken ribs on one side, eight broken ribs on the other, a punctured lung, a broken sternum, and multiple fractures in her skull from the accident.
“They’re hoping she’ll make a recovery. They don’t know,” Pachaco says. “Doctors are hoping that with time and lots of therapy that she’ll be able to recover.”
Since being hit by a car, Morales has lost movement on the left side of her body, and her speech is delayed and slurred due to the brain injury. A GoFundMe has been established to help with Morales’s recovery.