Cover photo for illustrative purposes only

A man in South Florida is still reeling after he returned from the hospital to find his dog has been adopted without his knowledge. According to Miami's Local 10 News, the man, Nelson Patricio, said that his 11-year-old American Eskimo, Cheryl, was his service dog and is irreplaceable.

"She's my daughter. After all these years, she's my daughter," Patricio told Local 10's Christian De La Rosa. There is now a petition to get Cheryl back. 

Earlier this month, Patricio was admitted to the hospital and stayed there for weeks. While he was gone, Cheryl ended up at Miami-Dade Animal Services in Doral, FL, just south of Miami. When Patricio returned home, he discovered that Cheryl had in fact been adopted while he was away.

He hoped he could be reunited with Cheryl. Unfortunately for Patricio, the new owners are refusing to return her to him.  Miami-Dade Animal Services reported to Local 10 News that the adoption was indeed legal.

Miami-Dade Animal Services Spokesperson Erik Hofmeyer told Local 10 that they had reached out to the new owners to see if they could return Cheryl to Patricio. However, the new owners replied that they wanted to keep the dog.

"We are saddened for the former owner and we sympathize with what he is going through at this time..." said Hofmeyer.

Hofmeyer further explained that it was a legal adoption and that the Miami-Dade shelter is unable to hold dogs indefinitely. He asks the public to respect the new owners' privacy, since, after all, they were unaware that the dog had a previous owner when they adopted her. 

Because Cheryl is 11, Patricio will miss out on what will likely be the last few years of her life, without ever saying goodbye.

Miami-Dade Animal Services encourages people to make sure their pets have up-to-date tags and microchips to prevent a similar situation happening.