The Dogs Are Alright: Google Maps Leads Rescuers To ”Foster Fail”

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This is Sonya. She is a Chow-Golden Retreiver mix that, like many humans in Long Beach, lives on the streets. Her plight as a shaggy street dog came to light in August when two people (who don’t live in the neighborhood) noticed her on a Google Street View of a West Long Beach industrial area and decided she needed to be helped.

Enter Eldad Hagar from Hope for Paws, an organization that rescues dogs from the streets, cleans them up and find them loving homes. Hagar meant well when he followed up with the nice people who noticed Sonya (obviously not her name at the time) in the Google Street View and made a trip to Long Beach to save her from hiding under cars for shade and what could only be assumed 

But after Hagar posted a video of his “rescue” of “Sonya, the Google Maps stray dog,” the website Dogster discovered that the animal did not actually need to be rescued. In fact, “Sonya” was actually named Choka and for the last 18 years she has been a well cared for street dog in the area, serving as a watchdog for local business owners who freaked out when they showed up Monday morning and discovered her missing. 

I recently talked to Vince Guerrera, who said he was Choka’s owner, to get more of the story behind the dog’s former situation.

Guerrera has run a machine shop from the building seen in the Google Street View for more than 25 years. He said he found Choka as a pregnant stray more than 18 years ago and that he has provided care for her ever since, including her spay surgery and regular shots. She had a shelter and water bowl on the sidewalk near his entrance, but they were missing when Patrick visited before contacting Hagar. Guerrera said he even attempted to domesticate Choka.

“We tried to get her in the house a couple of times, but she would just eat through the door,” he says. “She didn’t want to stay in the house. So I would go down there seven days a week and feed her.”

Guerrera said he fed her a half-pound of liver, one and a half chicken breasts, and half a can of dog food a day. Choka does not seem hungry in the video Hagar shot of her rescue. She actually ignored most of the cheeseburger bits he tossed toward her in an attept to lure her out from under the RV.

Guerrera says he’s not happy he wasn’t notified of Choka’s “rescue,” but is glad she is in a safe home living out the remaining years of her life. 

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.