State

Family honors dying man's wish to care for pet, but it's time to go

SALIDA — Jule "Junior" Rombout was a reclusive, lifelong bachelor. His constant companion in the last nine years of his life was his beloved Bigfoot, a 120-pound Great Dane-German shepherd mix.

Rombout had cancer, and last year he asked his sister Jeannie Castillo to find a good home for Bigfoot after he died.

For nearly a year, Castillo, her husband and their three adult daughters have honored Rombout's wish, even cooking bacon to suit the canine's tastes while they searched for a new master.

They've contacted animal rescue groups, handed out fliers, put an ad on Craigslist and asked everyone they know whether they want the 10-year-old dog.

There have been no takers.

The dog still lives in his former master's home in a neighborhood near downtown. Family members come by daily to feed and care for Bigfoot, spending an hour to 90 minutes with him. A couple of neighbors keep an eye on the house and the dog, who has the run of the place and the back yard.

Rombout died June 13 at the age of 61. He was disabled, did not work and seldom was apart from his dog. Bigfoot was included as one of the survivors in Rombout's obituary.

"This dog was everything to him," Jeannie Castillo said Thursday as she and her husband, Alonzo, visited with Bigfoot. "It was his child."

The Castillos and other family members can't take Bigfoot. Some family members have health problems, others have pets and no room for another dog.

The Castillos kept the power on at the Salida home so they could run indoor fans last summer to keep Bigfoot cool.

They want to find Bigfoot a home soon. If they can't, they will try to place him with a no-kill shelter.

"We really want to place the dog by the end of May," Jeannie Castillo said, starting to cry. "It's been a year, and we feel there is no closure."

Jeannie Castillo, 64, said her brother's home will be sold so the state can recoup its Medi-Cal payments to her brother.

She said she was nervous when she started looking after Bigfoot. He barked when she and her husband visited her brother. Rombout would put the dog in another room. "We hadn't been around him that much," she said about Bigfoot.

But Bigfoot, who is a bit of recluse himself, has taken a shine to the Castillos, eating dog treats from Jeannie Castillo's hand and giving her kisses.

Dog was low-carbs guy

Taking care of him has posed some challenges. Rombout fed Bigfoot people food such as hot dogs, Spam, eggs, table scraps and KFC — just the meat from the bone — as a special treat.

So Bigfoot wouldn't touch the dog food the family put out for him.

Alonzo Castillo found himself frying bacon and scrambling eggs for the dog.

But the family eventually weaned Bigfoot from people food, and he now eats lamb and rice dry dog food.

Jeannie Castillo said an ideal home for Bigfoot would be one with no other pets with a yard and an owner who could spend a lot of time with him.

"If I just knew he was going to someone who really wanted him, that would be really satisfying," she said. "To see him with someone who really wants him and sees his potential.

"Maybe he only has two years left, but they would have someone who really loved them like he loved my brother."

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star

  Comments