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This man just got his dog back after a heartbreaking separation: 'He's home'

Lewis Jimenez adopted Titus from a shelter but had to return the dog as his breed became increasingly unwelcome at his apartment complex. Now, they're reunited.
Man thought he was going to have to give up his dog but shelter helped them stay together instead
Lewis Jimenez is reunited with his dog, Titus.Austin Animal Center
/ Source: TODAY

After a heartbreaking separation, this man and his dog had a blissful reunion that no one could be sure would ever happen.

They're both so glad it did.

Because it can be so difficult for families with pit bulls to find housing, the nonprofit My Pit Bull Is Family has compiled what it calls a "non-discriminatory housing database": Animal Center/Sarah Jurgensen Throop

Lewis Jimenez adopted Titus from the Austin Animal Center, the city animal shelter in Austin, Texas, in 2013, when Titus was just a puppy.

In November, Jimenez brought Titus back.

This was not a choice the 53-year-old wanted to make. Jimenez loves Titus so much he calls the dog "my other half."

But Titus is a pit bull, which comes with a lot of stigmatization. Jimenez said that a neighbor had complained to Jimenez and to management for three years about living in the same complex as Titus because of his breed. It reached the point where Jimenez would try to walk his dog only when no one was around, like at 4 a.m.

Then one afternoon in November, while Jimenez was at work as a residential housepainter, one of his daughters and her 10-year-old son came to his apartment. The grandson went to take Titus for a walk, and encountered the neighbor in a stairwell. Jimenez isn't sure of the details about what happened next — he believes Titus may have been trying to protect his grandson — except that Titus nipped the neighbor's finger.

Worried about eviction, Jimenez brought Titus to the shelter.

Lewis Jimenez adopted Titus when he was 8 months old. He was forced to give up the dog last November, but reunited with him in February.Austin Animal Center/Sarah Jurgensen Throop

"I had to give Titus up," he told TODAY.

Jimenez spent 20 years in prison when he was younger. He describes himself as having "lived a rough life." He got out a decade ago, and says that ever since, he has felt committed to "do right, do good, help people out."

Part of why Jimenez wanted to adopt a pit bull in the first place is because he knows they face so much discrimination. He wanted to give a dog like that a great life.

Jimenez calls Titus "my other half."Lewis Jimenez

Things weren't always easy for the pair. At one point, for a stretch of about 10 months, they lived in Jimenez's car together. During these toughest times, Jimenez says Titus took care of him, and "I returned the favor."

Even after giving Titus up to the Austin Animal Center, Jimenez came to the shelter often to see him. Jimenez promised the dog that he would find a new place to live, where Titus would be able to join him. But there were no guarantees it would happen in time.

There was little risk of Titus being euthanized, given that Austin Animal Center has a "live release rate" of 97.9 percent, meaning that nearly all of the animals coming into the shelter will make it out alive. (The generally accepted benchmark for no-kill status is 90 percent.)

Titus could have been adopted, though. It was just good luck that no one snatched him up before Jimenez was able to find another place to live.

"And we did it," he said.

Jimenez and his girlfriend found another rental in late February. It's a house in Austin that needs some remodeling, and "I do remodeling," Jimenez said.

"Titus comforts me," said Jimenez. "He makes me happy when I'm sad."Lewis Jimenez

He went to pick Titus up from the shelter on Feb. 25. Their joyous reunion deeply moved everyone there who had gotten attached to the dog; they were so glad to see him back with his person.

"Titus got lots of love here at the shelter from staff and volunteers. He went on regular walks, played with toys and got lots of treats," said spokesperson Jennifer Olohan. "News of Titus’ reunion spread through the shelter pretty quickly and there were tears from everyone."

These days, when they're on the couch watching television, Titus doesn't nap or relax; he just sits and stares, almost like the dog can't believe he's with there with Jimenez and that the two of them are together again.

Jimenez understands the feeling. He is immensely grateful to the shelter's staff and volunteers, who took such good care of Titus while they were apart. And he is mostly just grateful to have Titus back.

"Animals are our family," Jimenez said. "He's home. He's home, and he's happy."