In the days after her uncle Joaquin Rivera died while waiting for care in a Frankford emergency room late last month, Wilma Berrios' dog, Tuti, ran away, and remained missing for almost two weeks.
After posting fliers throughout her Olney neighborhood, yesterday Berrios and her beloved miniature pinscher were reunited.
"I'm overwhelmed," a smiling Berrios said, standing in her living room next to her husband, Jimmy Parrilla, and holding an affectionate 3-year-old Tuti. "I'm so happy. There are no words in the dictionary to express how I'm feeling. I didn't think I would get him, but there's a God up there."
Wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers hoodie, Tuti escaped from Berrios' Olney home three days after Rivera, 63, died at Aria Health-Frankford Campus on Nov. 28.
In between spending time with her family to mourn her uncle, Berrios walked her neighborhood streets, sometimes in the early hours, posting and handing out fliers with Tuti's picture.
A letter carrier and a 35th District police officer phoned Berrios with sightings of Tuti, who had been spotted roaming the neighborhood with a canine companion, then hanging out at the nearby post office parking lot with a group of cats. From one of the calls, Berrios learned that Tuti had been picked up and taken to the SPCA animal shelter in Hunting Park.
Then Tuti had a New Jersey odyssey and an arranged adoption. Last weekend, Kathy McGuire, president of N.J. Aid for Animals in Sicklerville, and a companion went to the shelter looking for animals in need of homes, which her organization would arrange.
"We said, 'He's a cute little dog,' " McGuire recounted. " 'We'll take him.' "
Berrios went to the Hunting Park SPCA and found that Tuti was in New Jersey. The shelter contacted McGuire and arranged yesterday's reunion.
McGuire said Tuti was returned to Pennsylvania a somewhat different dog.
"He's been castrated," she said, adding it was her group's policy to neuter all animals for which it seeks homes.
Neither Berrios or Tuti, still wearing the baseball hoodie, seemed to mind.
As Berrios, with tears in her eyes, hugged Tuti yesterday, the dog happily licked her face, kicking its feet.