WHEATLAND – A unique partnership was formed in Platte County and two best friends travel the region delivering life to those in need.
Bill Trujillo, 62 and his service dog, Max, 9, travel between 1100 and 1700 miles per week delivering oxygen and servicing oxygen machines for Community Home Oxygen Inc. in Wheatland.
The friendship was formed about eight months ago as Max had an owner who had gone into hospice and Bill was pretty much on his own, looking for another dog to replace the one he had just lost.
“It was really odd,” Trujillo said. “I lost the dog I had. “Jara” was 17 years old and was part Shepherd and part Sheltie. At first I didn’t want another dog. I went through some personal problems and I got to the point where I was kind of being lonely.”
He then began to think about getting another dog and one of his co-workers, Kim Hill told him her grandmother had gone into hospice and wasn’t going to be able to care for her dog any longer.
“That’s how I got Max.” Trujillo said. “When she brought him in, we bonded immediately. This dog and I just… bonded. And if it wasn’t for him, I was in a really depressed state. I was really out of it and didn’t want to be social. It was hard.”
Max is an older dog and so these two older souls found each other in a time of their lives when there were no answers for the future. Through the thick and thin of heartbreak, they were sent to heal each other’s hearts.
And from that healing, they became strong enough to go out and be the encouragement for others.
“We travel everywhere together,” Trujillo said. “We’re inseparable. Anywhere I go, he goes. I deliver oxygen and take care of VA patients as well as elderly Medicaid and Medicare patients.”
Trujillo not only delivers the oxygen tanks, but also cleans and services the CPAP machines and makes sure they are operating correctly. He has worked for the Wheatland company for three years. Before Trujillo landed the job with Community Home Oxygen, he worked for 13 years at Carquest Auto Parts, and before that he was a meat cutter for Safeway.
“This job at Home Oxygen was an opportunity to help people,” he said.
Trujillo wasborn in Trinidad, Colo., and went to high school in Denver. After high school he was with the Marine Corps. for four years. After marriage and divorce, Trujillo experienced the death of his ex-wife who died in a car accident. He found himself raising three children on his own.
Adversity seemed to be a pattern for him, but he always found strength in not giving up.
“You gotta keep moving,” he said. “You can’t just lay down. I look at adversity every day in these people and patients I take care of. If that doesn’t motivate you that these people want to get up and continue to live their life, I don’t know what does. And it does me good helping people.”
With COVID and quarantines, Trujillo said that it was making the journey even harder for those he cares for. For some people, he and Max are their own visitors.
“They’re terrified,” he said. “They are shut-in and watch TV all day long which is not good for them, but they see Max coming and they just get all happy.”
The unlikely delivery team eat together on the road, make stops when Max has to conduct some business and Trujillo said he always has a bag of treats.
“He’ll eat dry food in the morning before we leave,” Trujillo said. “When we get home at night he’ll have his wet food, and maybe a snack before we go to bed.”
According to Trujillo, Max is very loving partner and that there is no “mean” in him.
The pair travel all over the state of Wyoming and even into Nebraska for their service and Trujillo says that there are about 400 clients. As for taking the dog along to help in deliveries, he said that he has wonderful bosses.
“They suggested taking Max along,” he said. “He’s actually my service dog. I see how my patients light up when they see him. He puts a smile on their face like you wouldn’t believe. He loves people, he loves kids and he’s such a good dog.”
Max is part Saint Bernard and part Bulldog and has managed to get the sweet temperament that both breeds can have.
At 62, Trujillo doesn’t have problems with the delivery or transporting oxygen tanks, but finds something else to be a challenge for him and for Max, who feels things every bit as deeply as Trujillo does - saying “goodbye” to their clients. They take long walks together every day as a time of exercise and reflection. Two to three miles, no matter what the weather is, it is an everyday treat for both of them.
“The death that happens with patients is the hardest part,” Trujillo said. “I get to know them and get really close and when they pass, it’s hard.”
When that does happen, Trujillo says that that close bond between his partner and best friend is the key and their passing seems to draw a closer bond between them.