Sunday morning, for some inexplicable reason, 78-year-old Art Bucci gave away his family dog to a stranger driving by his South Buffalo home, leaving his wife, Italia -- who suffers from Alzheimer's disease -- distraught, and his daughter Julie Brautlacht shocked and at a loss.
"I guess it got to be too much for him," Brautlacht, 36, of Cheektowaga, said as she tried to console her devastated mother, who spent hours Sunday calling out in vain for her beloved teacup Chihuahua.
"Penny! Where's Penny?" Mrs. Bucci cried, searching for her three-pound pet throughout her second-floor duplex on Roanoke Parkway.
Brautlacht -- who takes turns with her sister caring for their aging parents -- is hoping that whoever has Penny could learn just how much the Chihuahua means to her mother.
"Please just give us Penny back," she pleaded Sunday, tears streaking down her face. "I would take care of her . . . so my mom could be OK."
Sunday afternoon, Art Bucci, a former coal miner who brought his family to Western New York from Italy 38 years ago, seemed resigned to the dog's fate. "You people are wasting your time," he said. Brautlacht happened to stop by her parents' home with her two sons late Sunday morning when she found her mother hysterical. She then discovered what her father had done.
"I almost hit the ground," she said.
All Art Bucci would tell his daughter was that a man apparently from Tonawanda drove up to the home and said how cute little Penny was.
"And my dad goes, 'Here,' said Brautlacht, explaining how the Chihuahua that his wife and he had doted on for the last seven years was given away.
"Now my mother, she's totally distraught. She is totally crying. She's looking for the dog," Brautlacht said.
Mrs. Bucci, 76, was diagnosed about three years ago with Alzheimer's. She has moments of lucidity but then quickly slips into her own world, her daughter says. She's constantly losing her keys and her eyeglasses and wanders off into the neighborhood and offers visitors chocolate birthday cake of a brother in Italy whom she hasn't seen in years.
But she maintained a deep connection with Penny, spendinging hours with the dog, feeding it pieces of cold cuts and letting it sleep with her in her bed.
"My mom loved that dog," Brautlacht said.
The daughter now worries her mother will never get over losing the dog and can only pray the mysterious man from Tonawanda finds it in his heart to bring Penny back. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed," she said.
Anyone with information about Penny can called Brautlacht at 563-4726.