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PONTIAC A former Pontiac couple is used to taking in animals, but their most recent save needs more than just a good, loving home.

Shorty, an American Eskimo dog estimated to be 3 to 5 years old, "adopted" Steve Folk when he was in Texas to repair utility trucks used in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. But Shorty needs surgery next week to repair an intestinal wall.

The operation will cost about $1,800. The University of Florida, where Shorty will have the surgery, will pay about half of the cost.

Steve and Maria Folks, already facing financial burdens while living in New Port Richey, Fla., are trying to come up with the rest of the money.

The Folks have three other dogs, Baby, Gidget and Sissi, two of which were strays and bought home by the Folks' children. The couple also cares for three of their grandchildren.

To make matters even worse, Steve, 49, is having foot surgery later this month.

?~Just breaks your heart'

Steve, a hydraulics mechanic, was working at a Super 8 Motel in Texas repairing bucket trucks that are used to fix power lines. Steve has been working out of town and long hours since hurricanes hit the Gulf region. "Shorty was just walking around," Steve said. "I started to feed him. He was great and well trained."

Steve couldn't get to a store to get the dog food, so he shared his cans of Campbell's Chunky Soup with the animal. The dog slept in the hotel room at night and rode the 22 hours back to Florida in Steve's truck.

At first Steve thought the lump on the dog's side was a tumor, but doctors told the Folks otherwise. A genetic defect caused a wall between the heart and intestines not to form. If untreated, the condition itself or pressure on the area could prove deadly.

"Somebody just dumped him because they didn't want to pay to make him better," Maria said. "I just fell in love with him. It just breaks your heart."

Steve was raised in Pontiac; Maria, 48, was raised in Fairbury. The couple has been living in Florida for about three years.

Donations for Shorty's surgery can be made by contacting the Folks at (727) 846-7724 or 5421 Avery Road, New Port Richey, FL 43652.

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