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Community gathers to support pet sitter (w/video)

By Bianca Montes
June 29, 2014 at 1:29 a.m.

Heidi Uresti-Sanchez, of Victoria, center, hugs Patrick Becker, a Victoria Fire Department engineer paramedic,  at Victoria Fire Department Station 1 on Sunday. Heidi's house sustained fire damage in May of this year, resulting in the death of her family's cat. She took the firefighters to  lunch  Sunday during a benefit held for her family by their friends and family at the All Star Dance Academy in Victoria. Heidi operated a pet service out of her home before the fire.

How to help

More than 600 plates of barbecue were sold Sunday at the fundraiser, and family said enough money was raised to cover the medical bills. All leftover money and future donations will go to the fire department to help raise more money for pet-sized oxygen masks. To donate, call 361-894-1335.

Heidi Uresti-Sanchez couldn't help but choke up when she delivered a plate of barbecue and a sincere thank you to the Station 1 firefighters, who helped save animals that she was pet-sitting when her home caught fire in May.

Family and friends organized a fundraiser Sunday to lend support to the family and their mounting pet bills, but in true fairy dog mother fashion, Uresti-Sanchez was all about thanking others.

"You," she said, shaking the hand of firefighter Cody Langridge, "you were in the paper holding a little schnauzer - she made it."

Uresti-Sanchez was returning home from delivering a donation of pet supplies when a neighbor phoned her about the fire, she said. She didn't care about her house but just pleaded on the phone, "get the animals out of there."

Neighbors busted out windows to try to save the pets, and when Uresti-Sanchez got home, she dared to run into the smoking house twice.

"I thought I could go in," she tearfully said, "but the smoke was too bad."

Firefighters saved all of the animals except one, her son's cat and best friend, Ben.

Sunday, cars lined up on North Star Drive in front of the Victoria All Star Dance Academy to purchase $8 brisket and sausage plates - many coming in to eat - and bid on donated items in a silent auction. Tint jobs from Victory Kia, night stays at the Hilton and baskets filled with pet treats, beauty supplies and food lined the walls.

"It was a joint effort put together by a whole bunch of friends," Melissa Rivera said about the fundraiser. "They are such a giving family. When we put on other fundraisers, they are the first to step up and help out, and we figured it was our time to step up and help them."

Rivera and other organizers didn't have an exact goal of how much they'd like to raise but said they wanted to bring in enough to cover the thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills the family insists on paying.

"A lot of families wanted to pay the bills," Uresti-Sanchez said. "But I won't let them."

Along with the firefighters, Uresti-Sanchez said the veterinarians also were the true heroes, thanking Dr. Travis Schaar with the Main Street Animal Hospital, Dr. Mark Besancon with Crossroads Veterinary Clinic and Dr. John Beck with Hillcrest Animal Hospital.

Besancon, she said, cared for the dog with the most severe injuries for weeks.

"It's the one dog we didn't think would make it," she cried. "I told him spare no expense."

The owner had just lost her husband, and Uresti-Sanchez said there's no way she'd let her face another loss.

The dog survived.

Firefighters at Station 1 on Goodwin Avenue said they were thankful for the plates of food but even more for the gratitude of the family.

"To have them come up and thank us in person is pretty awesome," Langridge said. "We enjoy our jobs, but we enjoy it even more when we get to see the end result of what could have been a bad situation."

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