Mario Castro and his 14-year-old dog are lucky to be alive after being stranded for six days in the desert.
The Arizona resident, 54, hit the road earlier this month to visit his mom in El Paso, Texas, according to NBC affiliate KPNX in Arizona. But the journey soon went awry.
When Castro was just an hour and a half away from his mother's house, he called to let her know he was close by. After missing his next exit on the highway, his truck hit a rock and got stuck on a dirt path.
Castro decided to get out of the vehicle in search of help, but there wasn't anyone to be found in the rural area. Determined to get back on the road, Castro and his furry friend, Zoe, walked through rocky conditions for several days. It certainly didn’t help that the duo were traveling through intense heat, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees.
“It was very difficult, and I was almost at the verge of death,” he told KPNX. “I would get so thirsty, I would become dehydrated, but then I would find a watering hole, and get some water and rehydrate again and then head out again.”
Just when he was about to give up, things turned around.
“I felt like it was my last day. My dog’s eyes had sunk in. I felt like it was her last day, too. We just hunkered down underneath a tree and I was making an SOS sign with fire." Castro had only completed half of the S when he spotted a white truck.
Frank Martinez, a mechanic who was checking out New Mexico’s off-road trails with his wife, instantly noticed that something was wrong with Castro.
“I saw he was dragging his feet — carrying some old boots, maybe clothing — and struggling to follow me, so I stopped,” he said, adding that he was nervous to approach Castro at first.
Martinez offered drive him and the dog to a hotel so they could get some rest.
“I saw in the mirror he was eating and drinking like if he hadn’t ate or drank in days. So that’s when I knew it was serious, what I’d seen,” Martinez said.
After dropping Castro off at the hotel, Martinez and his wife returned the next day to help retrieve his abandoned car and even offered to help fix it.
Naturally, Castro is counting his blessings now, and he's so grateful that Martinez found him in the nick of time.
“We both almost died if it hadn’t been for him,” he said.
Martinez is also happy that fate brought him to Castro by chance.
“I think about what if I didn’t get there yesterday,” he said. “I don’t think he would be here today, as bad as he was.”