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'We both almost died if it hadn't been for him': An Arizona man and his dog were saved after a week stranded deep in the desert

Mario Castro and his dog are lucky to be alive after a car crash left them stranded in the desert outside Las Cruces. They might have died if not for one explorer.

GLOBE, Ariz. — "Just, the time spent was trying to survive."

It's almost unreal for Mario Castro to be alive today. The Globe resident left home Friday on his way to El Paso, Texas, to spend his 54th birthday with his mom.

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But when Mario got to Las Cruces, "I called my mom, I told her I'm just an hour and a half away. I'll be right there." Those ninety minutes turned into six long, brutal days.

After leaving Las Cruces, Mario missed his exit and took the next one. 

But when he tried to drive back to get on the missed road, Mario's truck struck a rock and became stuck on the dirt path.

There was no getting it back. Mario and his 14-year-old dog, Zoe, were left walking treacherous terrain for the next week, trying to get help.

“It was very difficult. I was almost at the verge of death," Mario told us. "I would get so thirsty I would become dehydrated but then I would find a watering hole drink water and head out again” 

Thursday was his sixth day under nearly 100-degree weather.

“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 hunker down underneath a tree and I was making an SOS sign with fire, I only completed half the S when I saw a white truck”

In that white truck - Frank Martinez, an explorer of New Mexico's off-road trails.

“I saw he was dragging his feet. Carrying some old boots, maybe clothing, and struggling to follow me so I stopped," Frank said.

Frank told us he was skeptical at first; that the area was known to locals for illegal activity.

But all the same, he offered to drive Mario somewhere safe.

   

“I saw in the mirror and he was eating and drinking like if he hadn’t drank in days. So that’s when I knew it was serious what I’d seen,” Frank said.

Frank and his wife helped get Mario and Zoe to a hotel. And not only that, they even drove back on Friday to help recover Frank's car.

With everyone safe, the pair look back on how bad things could have been.

"I think about what if I didn't get there yesterday," Frank said, "I don't think he would be here today, as bad as he was."

And Mario is more than thankful for Frank, his guardian angel.

"We both almost died if it hadn't been for him."

Frank, who is also a mechanic, has even agreed to help fix Mario's car.

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