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Community responds after man's dog is killed

December 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It has all the makings of a party, but for Joe Martinez, there is little reason to celebrate. He is without his faithful companion."I would give anything to have him back because I need him," said Martinez. "I'm no good without him."

As friends gather to mark his 56th birthday, Joe is still heartbroken over the loss of what had become his constant companion, a specially trained service dog that was killed earlier this month.

"If I had my choice I would be gone with Killer, because I miss him more than anything in the whole world," said Martinez.

Joe and his 4-year-old Chihuahua, Killer, were well known in the South Bay. They were local celebrities known best for the dog's trademark cowboy hat and friendly disposition.

But on December 17, as the two entered a crosswalk, Killer was run down by a hit-and-run driver.

Joe has suffered multiple strokes and he's undergone a tracheotomy, but he says losing Killer was his darkest day.

"I wanted to have my birthday with Killer. I just need Killer in my life," said Martinez.

The community responded immediately. At a Redondo Beach pharmacy, the staff put together a donation box. They wanted to help because Killer was more than a companion. He had been trained to dial 911 on a specially equipped phone in the event that Joe stopped breathing.

"He and Killer were truly a symbol of resilience, of courage in the face of adversity," saide pharmacist Odette Leonelli.

Leonelli says in a few days, local residents had raised $2,000.

The money being raised will go to toward training Joe's new dog, Thunder, in the same life-saving techniques that Killer had learned.

"If it wasn't for Killer, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in," said Martinez. "Killer brought happiness to everyone."