Adopted Dog Brings Love and Light to a Deputy’s Widow

Chenko’s legacy would be to protect and serve his new family.

Maura + Chenko

When Chenko was named after Maura’s late husband, who died in the line of duty, he got a second chance at life by her side.

"Chenko appeared determined to bring love and light back into my life!"

A frightened puppy was brought to an animal shelter in Ventura County to be put down. Luckily, the staff recognized that the pup’s special temperament just needed some love, and contacted VIP Dog Teams to save his life. The team enrolled the pup into the Ruff Road training program at Todd Road Jail. The program gave unwanted pets a second chance, pairing them with incarcerated inmates who worked with the dogs to overcome behavioral issues. An officer inquired as to whether the dogs could be named after fallen Deputies as a tribute to their legacy. This is where I come into the story.

Chenko the dog

My name is Maura, and I was married to Deputy Yevhen Kostiuchenko who was killed in the line of duty in October 2014. An officer reached out to ask me if they could name a Ruff Road pup “Chenko” in honor of my late husband. I was invited to attend training sessions at the jail facility to meet the pup they had in mind.

Chenko the dog

I loved the way Chenko playfully listened and compliantly responded to each of his instructions. He was so eager to please that he was begging to learn new commands to gain praise from his trainer and earn a tasty morsel. It was obvious that the inmate had grown fond of Chenko. After several months Chenko completed his training and was ready for adoption.

After my husband was taken from me, I had a difficult time coping with life. Before his death my world was filled with happiness and love. During our marriage, I understood how lucky I was and appreciated every minute I was able to spend with him. I felt totally connected to the universe as love fed my soul. In the dark days in my husband’s absence, I felt alone and isolated in the world. I had lost the brilliance and fixated on the darkness instead. Each day was a solitary experience, and I had become more and more reclusive.

Chenko the dog

But Chenko changed all of that. He looked me straight in the eyes and licked me all over my face. He insisted that I play with him as if he understood that life was too short to waste, and that every moment counted. He appeared determined to bring love and light back into my life! At his graduation, I listened to the speech prepared by his trainer. At the podium, in his orange jumpsuit, tattoos and tough-guy appearance, he positioned the mic and attempted to deliver his speech. He uttered only a few words before his dialogue dissolved into sobs. His words were audible enough to convey that the young dog had changed his life and had made him a better man.

On that day, my life also changed. I took Chenko home and was never alone again. The skies became bright and I felt love once more. His warmth and understanding swaddled me like a blanket. Chenko helped bring back some happiness that had been so elusive after the death of my beloved husband.

Each year, Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Maura won VIP Dog Teams in California a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.