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Column: West Covina councilman and his adopted dog Tommy embody Christmas love, ‘one day at a time’ – The San Gabriel Valley Tribune

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In many ways, what you’re seeing is just a man and his dog.
But Ollie Cantos, West Covina’s hometown boy made more than good, is that city’s first blind person elected to its city council.
His day job is attorney in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education located in Washington, D.C.
A West Covinan from age 4, Cantos graduated from Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, Loyola Marymount University in Westchester and Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
In his legal career, Cantos has served under appointment by former Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump. He also worked in leadership roles under former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden.
But he is proudest of his role as adoptive father to blind Colombian-born triplets, Leo, Nick and Steven, whom Cantos adopted when the boys were 10. Now age 24 and thriving in college, Cantos’ sons are the first blind triplets in Boy Scouts history to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Not that any of that matters to Tommy, his 3-year-old Maltese terrier mix with long hair of many shades of brown. The two met through Leave No Paws Behind, Inc., the nonprofit animal rescue that runs a low-cost clinic in Cantos’ district.
At a Kiwanis Club meeting early this year, Cantos spoke with community leader Sherry Fischer, general manager of Merrill Gardens Senior Living in West Covina. He mentioned how much he missed his last pet, a Maltese named Angel, and how he wanted a dog.
Fischer introduced Cantos to Leave No Paws Behind founder Toby Wisneski.
“I told Toby that I felt it was time to bring another dog into our lives,” Cantos said. “Toby and I had a thorough discussion about my dog, Angel, a Maltese, and my dream to have a way to honor her…Amazingly, a half Maltese male dog needing a forever home was found!”
That turned out to be the dog that came into our family on March 20. I named him Tommy. No more perfect match could have been found as he fits into our family so wonderfully. He follows me everywhere and we’ve become the best of friends. Tommy has not replaced Angel, but the love between Tommy and me helps fill that void.
I still miss Angel every day, but having Tommy and bonding with him has been so healing. I’m looking forward to having this first Christmas together with Tommy.”
Wisneski said the first-term councilman is a treasure in West Covina and she’s grateful for Cantos’ dedication to Americans with disabilities, his public service to West Covina and his support of Leave No Paws Behind, Inc.
“Ollie’s heart is so big and his ‘can-do’ persona is his nature,” she said. “(But) being a dog lover is the best part of his resume.”
Taking on Tommy’s special needs is a daunting task for any pet owner. Diagnosed with a congenital heart condition and rare form of heart muscle disease, Tommy lives with the threat of developing congestive heart failure. He can’t play much and will be closely monitored at the Leave No Paws Behind vet clinic.
“Tommy and Ollie have made the most adorable pair,” Wisneski said. “Ollie showers Tommy with love one day at a time. (They) always have smiles on their faces that show to everyone that no matter what limitation, life is to be lived a day at a time and with hope and joy.”
Tommy’s first Christmas with his new family, includes lots of play time with his fur cousins Alfie and Fat Boy.
“Tommy will get his favorite dog treats and extra belly rubs for special attention,” Cantos said.
Tommy, in turn, brings the gift of unconditional love, his new dad said.
“He is always there, no matter what,” Cantos said. “All Tommy wants is to be at my side. I love him so much. He’s my best friend.”
In the end, it’s not really about the blind man or the special needs dog, or even the question of who rescued whom.
“I love Tommy just as he is, health conditions and all. He deserves to have a life filled with love, regardless,” Cantos said.
In the spirit of giving during this holiday season, Cantos said he would love to see people support nonprofits like Leave No Paws Behind, Inc. to further important missions to help animals and people alike.
Donations to Leave No Paws Behind, Inc.: leavenopawsbehind.org/donate
Anissa V. Rivera, columnist, “Mom’s the Word,” Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News, Azusa Herald, Glendora Press and West Covina Highlander, San Dimas/La Verne Highlander. Southern California News Group, 181 W. Huntington Drive, Suite 209 Monrovia, CA 91016. 626-497-4869.
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