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Victoria Hernandez is a single, working mom and a 31-year-old alumna of El Molino High. And suddenly she’s something she long thought she would never be.

She’s a Sonoma County homeowner.

This is her and 12-year-old daughter Ariana’s first weekend in a brand new Santa Rosa townhouse with three bedrooms, a two-car garage and a sweet, private patio. For them to have a place of their own feels like a miracle.

And it is: They and 59 other families have moved or soon will move into new homes on Dutton Meadow, between Hearn and Bellevue avenues, through the practical miracle of sweat equity and the joining of forces by the nonprofit Burbank Housing and several public agencies.

Hernandez and her daughter put in thousands of hours helping to build their townhouse.

“Not the electricity and plumbing,” Hernandez said, “but other than that, we did everything.”

Having taken part in so much of the construction, Hernandez is confident that if anything in her house breaks, she can fix it.

She and the other homeowners at Catalina Townhomes had to qualify for a mortgage, and they must pay back loans that helped them make their down-payments. Their homes right now are worth about $400,000 and their monthly payments will average about $1,500 — less than many paid to rent small homes or apartments.

It elates Hernandez, who works for Santa Rosa Community Health Center, to be liberated from the rental market. She smiles as she looks out a second-floor window onto her patio and a communal patch of grass.

“I love my view,” the new homeowner said. “I’ll be able to watch my daughter play outside.”

A SICK DOG in Middletown, the best friend to an autistic teen-ager, will undergo an expensive, live-saving surgery thanks to some caring humans.

Flynn is a Labrador retriever especially important to a 16-year-old named Mason. The dog grew ill and thin earlier this year, so Mason and his folks took him to veterinarian Steve Franquelin in Calistoga.

The vet discovered the problem: Flynn had swallowed a straw that needed to be removed. During the surgery, Franquelin discovered something more alarming.

Flynn’s liver is only about a quarter of the size it should be, due to a birth defect that causes bloodflow to bypass the liver. If untreated, the condition would eventually kill Flynn.

Dr. Franquelin told Mason’s parents the specialized corrective surgery would have to be performed at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and would cost many thousands of dollars. The family was shattered; for Mason to lose Flynn would be devastating.

Then Franquelin suggested that the family share their plight with the volunteers at Wine Country Animal Lovers. They did, and the WCAL folks put out a call to help Mason save his dog.

At last count, folks with the animal rescue group and the Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch have raised more than $10,000, possibly enough to pay all of the costs involved in repairing Flynn’s ailing liver.

The surgery has been set at Davis for May 31.

Some may say that $10,000 is too much to spend on a dog. But this surgery is essential also to the life of this dog’s boy.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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