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Greyhound apologizes for putting 80-year-old woman off bus for puppy

November 24, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Greyhound apologized and gave a refund to an 80-year-old woman for kicking her off a bus in the middle of the night with her birthday present: a tiny puppy named Cookie.

The bus driver discovered Antonia Sanabria’s gift, told her it wasn’t allowed and ordered her off at a rural truck stop about 80 miles from home in Tampa at 3 a.m. Friday. She had boarded the bus Thursday night in Panama City for the 340-mile trip home after visiting her daughters.

A security guard summoned by the bus driver called Marion County sheriff’s deputies _ adding to her fright.

``When the bus pulled away and I saw all those policemen I was scared,″ Mrs. Sanabria said. ``I thought they were going to put me in jail. I don’t know, I was crazy with fear. I’ve never gone to jail.″

Greyhound has suspended the unidentified driver, who has been with the company for 20 years, pending an investigation.

In addition to the $150 refund, Greyhound also found and returned Mrs. Sanabria’s luggage, which had gone to Tampa without her, and gave her a voucher for another trip.

``We are very sorry that it happened. This is one of those once-in-a-million kinds of things,″ company spokesman George Gravely said today. ``It is a regrettable thing.″

What could have quickly become a terrifying ordeal for the woman, who walks with a crutch and has trouble hearing and seeing, instead became an inspiration.

After getting her a sandwich and something to drink, police from different jurisdictions teamed up to ferry Mrs. Sanabria from the Ocala area to her Tampa doorstep in five different patrol cars.

``I’ve never seen so many people so nice with me _ an old lady. They gave me love, respect, attention,″ she said. ``Love has a lot of names _ compassion, respect, friendliness.″

As soon as she got home, all Mrs. Sanabria wanted to do was sleep, which she did with her 7-week-old Pekinese pup.

When she woke up, she found a bouquet of roses with a card that read: ``We want you to know there are still some nice people in the world.″ It was sent by Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies in Tampa who coordinated the relay.

After the police rescue, Mrs. Sanabria was far from bitter.

``It was a birthday I’ll never forget,″ Mrs. Sanabria said.

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