After confronting the pit bull puppy at a park, Cruz slowly realized that what he was experiencing was not fear but guilt about what happened when he was a little boy.
"He was able to see that he was not so angry at pit bulls as he was angry at himself for not closing that gate and not taking responsibility for the harm that came to his friend," Zasio explained.
For Cruz, his final exposure was to climb inside a cage with two fully-grown pit bulls, where he was finally able to see the dogs' behavior as playful instead of threatening.
"I felt like a real man, seriously," Cruz said. "I felt like a real man, a real husband, a real father."
Cruz said he believes he never would have gotten over his fear if it hadn't been for exposure therapy and that the best way to conquer fears of anything, including animal phobias, is to face them head on.
"You have to go to the extreme, and I went to the extreme," Cruz said. "Trust me. Full extreme."
Perhaps his case proves that there is no extreme animal phobia that can't be tamed.
"The bottom line is that fear is not about reality, it's about doubt," Zasio said. "I need patients to sit with that doubt and test their fear."