TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Humane Society of Tampa Bay volunteer is sharing his story of how one of his pups helped heal his broken heart during hard times.

In his story submitted to a national Petco Love contest, Dwight Raines calls his dog, Buddy, his “Christmas Miracle.”

Raines has been volunteering at the shelter since 2009. That’s the year his oldest son, Ryan, passed away at age 31.

“When my son passed away, we wanted to make sure we had a way of honoring his legacy, and he loved animals,” he said.

Raines and his wife began caring for their son’s dog, Precious, after his passing. The pit bull passed around six years after Ryan, due to bladder cancer.

“That was the hard part, because that was kind of our last living legacy toward Ryan that was his. So that was a very difficult thing when we lost her,” Raines said.

Even after the loss, Raines continued to volunteer at the shelter.

A few years ago, he and his wife were working to decorate the Humane Society’s gazebo built in honor of their son for the holidays, when Raines said an emotional young woman pulled up to the shelter.

She was looking to drop off her dog. Raines said she told them her “family didn’t have time” for the young puppy any longer.

The couple took the dog in as a foster, but Raines quickly fell in love with the pup, who he named, “Buddy,” quickly.

“He had absolutely the same characteristics as my son. Wanted everything he could get his hands on, had an outgoing personality, loved to be around people,” he said. “Just a wonderful soul and he came into our life really at the right time after we had lost Precious.”

Raines said he tells others they’ll know the right time to get another pet, and that pet that comes will “heal your heart.”

“Buddy [is] that dog,” he smiled.

Buddy has been with the family for 5 years. Raines said he loves to go to Home Depot, Lowes and outdoor restaurants with his three doggie siblings.

This year, he was inspired to write and share this story about Buddy, which was submitted to Petco Love Stories. Each year, the nonprofit invites pet owners to share how their pets have changed their lives, for the opportunity to receive grant awards.

Raines was recently notified that he and Buddy are among 100 finalists in the contest, chosen by Petco Love and campaign partner, BOBS from Skechers.

Fans of the pair and the Tampa Bay Humane Society now have the ability to vote for Raines’ story to help earn grants for the shelter. If the story cracks the top 50 in the contest, Raines and Buddy will earn $5,000 to give back. The five stories that receive the most votes can earn another grant up to $20,000.

Raines has a passion for giving back to and advocating for the Humane Society and is happy to share the story of heartbreak to “Christmas Miracle” with all dog lovers around the world.

“Buddy was one of those dogs that came in and sensed this [feeling of loss]. Dogs are amazing in being able to sense when there’s something wrong and he just basically lit up our house,” Raines said.

Voting for Buddy’s story is open throughout the month.