Paul Arceneaux, 82, has had a difficult year, suffering the loss of his left leg and his beloved chihuahua Gabby. On Christmas Day, Arceneaux woke to find his 12-year-old dog dead in his Nederland, Texas, home, which he shares with his wife, Mary.
“His heart was broken. He just put his hands over his face and he just cried and cried. He said, ‘My life is over. That was my best friend,’ ” Arceneaux’s granddaughter, Jessica Walker, tells PEOPLE. “He cried for three days. His heart was broken.”
Walker, who had given Gabby to her grandfather more than a decade ago, knew she had to do something to ease Arceneaux’s pain. So, she found a new pooch for her “pawpaw,” a 7-week-old Shih Tzu and poodle mix. She and her three children presented Arceneaux with the puppy on Dec. 28.
“My little girl handed him the puppy wrapped up in a blanket and he put his hands over his face and he started crying,” Walker tells PEOPLE. “He just said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ and my [grandmother] started crying. He just kept hugging it and he said, ‘It’s gonnna be my best friend.’ ”
Walker shared a sweet photo of Arceneaux cradling the little dog, named Chief, in his arms, and giving the pooch a scratch on the head.
The sweet gift comes just months after Arceneaux had his left leg amputated below the knee in March due to an infection as a result of his diabetes, Walker says. He spent months in a hospital and rehabilitation center and Walker says the amputation left him filled with grief.
But Walker tells PEOPLE that his new pup has put a much-needed smile on Arceneaux’s face.
“It’s so sweet. He rocks it to sleep. It sleeps in the bed with him,” she says. “He sends me pictures of the dog laying in his bed. He’s just so happy. He says, ‘That little rascal. He’s my pal.’ “