Nemo & Lucy
ONTARIO (FOX 26) - Few things can mend a broken heart or a troubled mind.
But for James Xuereb the answer seems to always be the same: a loving dog.
A video of James receiving a Bichon Frise as an early birthday gift has gone viral and touched the hearts of many.
In the video, you see his daughter Jaleen handing him a card as he sits unwittingly on the couch.
The photo on the card is almost a dead giveaway -- a photo of a Bichon. But what's written inside and the story behind it brings the 52-year-old man to a heartfelt cry.
It read: "Hi, my name is Lumo and I am a boy Bichon. No, I am not Nemo, nor could I ever be Lucy, but my mommy brought me to bring you some happiness back into your life. So, as we walk in this journey of life together, may we create our own wonderful memories and reclaim the beautiful memories that you had with Nemo and Lucy. Love, Lumo."
What elicited such a strong emotion?
More than 13 years ago, James was going through a state of depression. Nothing would cheer him up. That's when, according to Jaleen, his wife Wanda brought him home Nemo, a Bichon Frise puppy. James instantly fell in love.
"He had an attachment to him. He leaned on him for anything and everything," says Jaleen of their relationship.
To James, Nemo was another one of his kids. His best friend.
After two years, the family decided Nemo needed company, so they brought home Lucy, another Bichon.
Both dogs, as is common with small breeds, suffered from a congenital heart defect.
Sadly, in late August, Lucy, 11, suffered a cardiac arrest that took her life. Two weeks later, things went from bad to worse.
Nemo's health was deteriorating. His lungs were filled with liquid and he had a hard time breathing. The Xuereb family had to make the difficult decision to put down their 13-year-old companion to stop his suffering.
"My dad was on edge," Jaleen recalls. "He didn't want to talk about [Lucy and Nemo]. He would leave the room if we did. Or he would start crying."
Meantime, the family put up photos and contemplated ways to make Xuereb feel better.
So Wanda decided it may be time for a new dog. She researched breeders, and found Fern Klapman-Flett's Bichon Lovers in Simcoe, Ontario.
In October, Wanda, and her daughters Jaleen and Jade, went to the breeder to meet a new litter.
"We went back in November to make our pick," Jaleen said. "When we walked through the door, one came up to us and kept pulling on my mom's pants."
It was number 25, and he kept coming to them and tugging at them.
"That's how we knew."
Next came the card, the heartfelt cry, and tiny Lumo.
Lumo's name is a testament to the family's fallen -- L-U for Lucy, M-O for Nemo -- the two whose deaths were too much to bear.
But thanks to Lumo, James can finally talk about Lucy and Nemo and smile.