Crystal eyes and french fries

Burrito is this year’s Pet Star

Burrito, photography by Neal Bruns

Burrito, photography by Neal Bruns

Luckily for Burrito, it was love at first sight – even after he ate Mauricio Geraldo-Beckman’s dollar bill.

The two met for the first time about four years ago when the Fort Wayne Derby Girls partnered with Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control for an adoption event. There was Burrito, then a 2-year-old husky mastiff with the most crystal clear eyes Geraldo-Beckman had ever seen.

So Geraldo-Beckman went to shove a dollar as a donation for the organizations into a special vest Burrito donned for the event. But the dog snagged it, chomped it and swallowed. That dollar ended up in Geraldo-Beckman’s yard a few days later – after he finally took Burrito home.

“I wanted to take him home that day,” Geraldo-Beckman remembers. “I had to wait for the adoption process to go through. I did not want to leave him.”

Geraldo-Beckman’s investment paid off big time, though.

Not only did he get a loving member of the family – Burrito hardly leaves the side of Geraldo-Beckman’s wife — he is now also the owner of the 2016 Pet Star winner, which is worth a cool $1,000.

Pet Star is a fundraiser for Fort Wayne Newspapers’ Newspaper in Education program – an international program designed to promote and increase children’s literacy by providing newspapers as an educational tool in classrooms.

Newspaper in Education offers newspapers to local teachers at no cost, and the papers are provided when requested by public, private, parochial and home school teachers. Fort Wayne Newspapers has been a part of the program for more than 30 years.

When Geraldo-Beckman and his wife, Nicole Cichocki, saw the contest, they knew right away they had to enter Burrito.

“It’s the eyes,” Geraldo-Beckman said. “Everyone always says how amazing his eyes look.”

Though the dog’s eyes are unique, it wasn’t love at first sight for everyone. Cichocki wanted a small dog when they were looking, and she didn’t know whether a husky mastiff would be right for her or their home.

She was soon swayed.

“Everyone kept telling me, ‘He’s soooooooo cute!'” she said. “It was a guilt trip all weekend.”

Despite that initial hesitation, Cichocki has no regrets – the dog is very protective of her, is always at her side and only barks when she’s in danger. Burrito will even kick, literally, Geraldo-Beckman out of bed to snuggle with Cichocki.

The couple trained Burrito to be a service dog since bringing him home, which means they can bring him to hotels and inside restaurants. He even sat still on the sidelines when nearly 70,000 people jammed into Soldier Field during a Copa America soccer match between Colombia and Chile this past summer.

If he sees a McDonald’s from the car, though, he’ll whine until he’s given a french fry. Or a cheeseburger. He loves steak, which Geraldo-Beckman makes for him on special occasions, and if he sees a rabbit he’ll take off like “a bolt of lightning.”

Still, he makes friends with everyone. Man, woman or dog – everyone loves Burrito.

“It’s the eyes,” Geraldo-Beckman repeats. “People just love him. Anywhere he goes, he just makes friends.”

First appeared in the January 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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