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Better Together

Better Together

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Published by: The Florida Times-Union on Dec 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated

. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”
– Mohandas Gandhi


by Scott Trebatoski
Division Chief Animal Care and Protective Services


old from the shelter perspective, Better Together focuses on animals and individuals, organizations and outcomes. Powerful images capture whiskers and spots. Compelling text, framed by a clean design, offers context and insight. Better Together is a collection of moments and memories. While similar in circumstance, no two rescue tales are ever the same. There are, however, two common themes. First, rescue animals make life better. Second, individuals and organizations accomplish more when they work together. More than two dozen animal protection agencies have accomplished tens of thousands of success stories in Northeast Florida. With the help of Friends of Jacksonville Animals (FOJA), Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) has made impressive strides since 2008:

• 13,863 adoptions • 4,352 animals rehomed • 4,228 pets reunited with their owners • 7,994 partner placements • 18,142 community cats returned to their caregivers • A new 42,000-square-foot shelter facility • New management policies and programs Thrilled at the positive change in our community, we know there’s still work to be done. With the help of First Coast No More Homeless Pets, the Jacksonville Humane Society, and other local rescues, Jacksonville is closer than ever to becoming a no-kill community. Help us bring the euthanasia number down to zero. Five years ago, two volunteers crossed paths at the city shelter. With a shared vision, they pushed for change. This is their story.

Animal rescue stories are amazing and uplifting, heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. Day in and day out, shelter workers and volunteers witness the highs and lows of animal protection. Surrounded by triumph and tragedy, supporters gain a first-hand understanding of the importance and urgency of rescue work.

www.coj.net/pets 2. 3.

FOJA History ’07
Early 2007
Two Jacksonville Animal Care and Control volunteers, Ginger Hughes and Margie Yarborough, cross paths one day at the city shelter. They begin talking about ways to grow the program.


Feb. 2008
The city stops purchasing drugs necessary to treat heartworms in dogs. Consequently, all heartwormpositive dogs are euthanized. As word of the situation spreads, offers of help come pouring in. Again, the lack of a dedicated account means donations would go to the city, not the animals. The only way to promise donations to animals is to form a nonprofit.


May 6, 2009
Shelter volunteers Sherri Audette and Clark LaBlond join FOJA to help build the nonprofit.

Aug. 8, 2009
Jacksonville renames its Animal Care and Control division “Animal Care and Protective Services” (ACPS). The city opens a new shelter facility at 2020 Forest Street.

Jun. 2, 2009
FOJA hosts a public meeting for interested persons. Of the dozens who attend, FOJA invites six to join its Board of Directors.

Summer 2007
A plague of ticks descends on the shelter, attracting local media attention. First Coast News reporter Kristin Smith covers the story, then organizes a holiday drive to benefit shelter animals. Supporters want to make monetary donations, but the shelter does not have a dedicated city account.

Aug. 12, 2009
ACPS hosts its first event at the new Forest Street location. Flossy, the first dog FOJA helped with heartworm treatment, is adopted.

Jun. 4, 2009 Sep. 26, 2008
Shelter volunteers Ginger Hughes, Margie Yarborough, and Jill Mero incorporate Friends of Jacksonville Animals, Inc. (FOJA) at Margie’s kitchen table. FOJA holds its first board meeting.

Sep. 25, 2009 Aug. 2009
With $312 in its bank account, FOJA files the $300 501(c)3 application. Funds came from a “cup of cash” (beverage service tips at a local event) and a personal donation. FOJA is granted 501(c)3 status.




avana’s time was up. She was scheduled to be euthanized that day. No one was looking at her. No one was interested. ACPS volunteer Jen Watson wanted Havana out. She sent Havana’s photo to her sister, Sybil Turner. Sybil wasn’t sure she wanted another dog, but instantly fell in love with Havana. With one phone call, Havana was off the euthanasia list. Jen and Sybil had saved her life. Havana joined the Turner household, and was renamed “Spice” to complement “Sugar”, the name of the Turner’s other dog. Spice fit in well at the Turner’s, and her new life was happy. About a month and a half after Spice’s adoption, tragedy struck. Sugar was bitten by a rattlesnake in the backyard, and couldn’t be saved. The Turners were devastated, and Sybil’s son CJ took it especially hard. He had slept with Sugar every night, and now Sugar was gone.
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“Anyone can find their best friend at the shelter.”
— Sybil Turner, Spice’s owner and vice president of Pit Sisters




opper was in trouble. He’d been hit by a car, and had two broken legs. Good Samaritans had pulled him from some apartment bushes, and brought him to the city shelter. But ACPS wasn’t equipped to handle the medical emergency. Euthanasia was deemed the most humane option. But the Fates hadn’t counted on FOJA volunteer Becky Hamilton being there that day. Copper lay in a cat carrier, purring despite the pain. All it took was one little paw, reaching through the carrier bars, to convince Becky that Copper deserved a second opinion. Contacting fellow animal lover Dr. Susan Shelton, Becky arranged to have Copper transported to Wells Road Veterinary Medical Center. Once stabilized, the veterinary team determined Copper


needed additional specialized care. Becky then reached out to Affiliated Veterinary Specialists. The animal hospital not only agreed to treat Copper, but also donated nearly 100% of his care.
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“I just couldn’t imagine putting him in a carrier and taking him some place else. He was mine, and always will be.”
— Lindsay Layendecker, Copper’s foster mom/owner and FOJA volunteer


harley Lawton looked down at the small matted bundle of fur. “What is this?” she asked her husband, “It looks like a big old black dust mop.” Glancing at Marley, John had to agree. Marley hardly looked like a phantom Miniature Poodle. But given his recent ordeal, Marley was lucky to even be alive. He had been left alone in an apartment for nearly a week, and weighed just seven pounds. ACPS team member Joy Barley had helped connect the Lawtons with little Marley, who became their first adopted dog. Well-cared-for and five pounds heavier today, Marley is a beautiful, healthy dog. He follows Charley around the house, and loves to go for car rides. Marley encourages the retired couple to be more active. He ropes them into walks and games of tug of war. Marley’s many antics include a hardto-resist bedtime show. As Charley describes it, “If Marley’s ready for bed and you’re not, he’ll hide his toys under your pillow. Then he’ll sit in the living room like, ‘Okay, it’s time for bed.’”


“We take him everywhere we go.”
— Charley Lawton, Marley’s owner





ed Lamb wasn’t looking for a Poong-San; he was interested in a Husky. One of his family’s two Border Collies had recently passed away, and Ted was at the Jacksonville Humane Society trying to find a new companion. After learning that the Husky had already been adopted, Ted decided to walk through the kennels one more time. At the back of one, he noticed a white face peering at him. The dog was a purebred Poong-San, a North Korean hunting breed known for its intelligence and loyalty. The dog’s name was Jen.
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“She is like a sister, and comforts me all of the time.”
— Mikayla Lamb, Jen’s owner




t was an ordinary Sunday afternoon. Adrienne Brooks sat eating lunch at Panera, browsing through a local newspaper. She turned the page, and there was Toby. Toby was available for adoption through First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP). He had come to FCNMHP through ACPS, via the Feral Freedom program. Under normal circumstances, a cat like Toby would have been neutered and returned to the wild. But Toby was too special for that. Toby was blind; a special needs cat in need of a special home. He had either been born without eyes, or they had become infected and shriveled up when he was young.
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“I think from now on, I will probably only adopt special needs cats.”
— Adrienne Brooks, Blaze’s owner



N Mendy

icolle Arteaga squinted at the dog down the road. It looked just like a dog she and her husband had owned when they were dating. The dog trotted alongside Nicolle’s neighbor, Jill Mero. Nicolle glanced at her two children. They were on their way to her son’s fourth birthday party, but had time for a quick stop. Nicolle decided to take a closer look. Greeting Jill, Nicolle asked about the dog. Jill, a FOJA volunteer, explained that she was pet sitting the dog until its foster family got back into town. The dog, named “Mendy”, would soon be up for adoption. Saying goodbye, the neighbors parted ways. That evening, Nicolle “asked” her husband for Mendy. “I found a dog,” she said.
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“I saw how many people and great organizations and rescues came into Knox’s life. I wanted to help, so I began fostering.”
— Peggy Conover, Mendy’s foster mom



ebecca Evans wanted a big dog. Looking online, she found a 113-pound Mastiff named “Tiny”. Tiny looked small in the ACPS picture, but Rebecca decided to go see him anyway. With the family Bull Dog in tow, the Evans headed to Forest Street. Everyone liked Tiny, and the family decided to adopt him. Unfortunately, there was a problem. Tiny had heartworms. Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the heart and lungs of puppies and dogs. Left untreated, heartworm disease is fatal. Over forty percent of the animals taken in at the shelter test positive for heartworms.
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“Grant would lay on him and hug him, try to ride him around like a horse. Tiny was very patient. He had no problems with it.”
— Rebecca Evans, Tiny’s owner





imba looked up at Carolyn. He couldn’t understand why she was so sad. He laid his head on her lap, trying to comfort her. It was Saturday. Like Saturdays before, FOJA volunteer Carolyn Edwards was at PetSmart, trying to find Simba a home. Adopters came and went, but no one was interested in Simba. Carolyn couldn’t understand why. She sat down next to him on the floor. Petting him, she told him he was a good dog. She assured him there was a family for him. The adoption event ended, and Simba went back to the shelter. His time was up. Carolyn went numb as she read the email. Simba was on the euthanasia list, and would be put to sleep the following day. In shock, Carolyn rushed to reply. She couldn’t let Simba die. Not after so much hard work. Not Simba. With the help of another volunteer, Carolyn rescued Simba. Off the euthanasia list and out of the shelter, Simba still needed a home.
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“They bonded within seconds. Inside, sensitivities between them instantly connected.”
— Shari Duval, president and founder of K9s For Warriors
20. 21.


ucy went tearing across the yard, barking up a storm. She wagged her tail as she dashed along the fence line. The Kurycki sisters couldn’t help but laugh. Lucy was a big dog trapped in a little dog’s body. She was completely different from her brother, Walter. Though stubborn at times, Walter really just wanted to lick your face. Katie and Karen Kurycki had thought about fostering or adopting a dog. But it was their sister Joanna who really pushed for one. After Joanna moved in, the Kuryckis stepped up their search. Learning a litter of part-Dachshund puppies had arrived at the shelter, the Kuryckis went to have a look. The moment the sisters saw them, they fell in love. The Kuryckis had planned to get only one dog, but took home a second as a companion. The puppies, “Walter” and “Lucy”, were theirs.
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Walter & Lucy

“Never be afraid to take the leap, the rewards far outweigh any of the negatives… They are such amazing companions with such very real personalities.”
— Katie Kurycki, Walter and Lucy’s owner


hauna Rogan and her family piled into the car and headed north. Driving from Palm Coast to Jacksonville, they pulled into a PetSmart adoption event. The Rogans were on the lookout for a dog named “Honey”. They had found her through Dione Garnand, Shauna’s aunt and FOJA volunteer. Shauna was very interested in Honey, but needed to see how she would react to the Rogan’s three small children. Honey was wonderful with the kids, and was adopted on the spot. The Rogans tucked their extra passenger into the car, and headed home. Honey and Kiley, the Rogan’s youngest daughter, instantly became best friends. Kiley’s sisters Baylee and Mackinzie quickly followed suit. Today, all of the Rogan girls adore Honey. And she adores them. The girls try to dress her up, and put barrettes in her hair. They snuggle and cuddle with her, and giggle as she gives them kisses. With a few


hours drive, the Rogans found a lifetime of love.

“They are all so sweet together.”
— Shauna Rogan, Honey’s owner



andsome weighed thirty-four pounds. The chain around his neck was thick and heavy. At his side, Princess was starving. Both dogs were. Handsome had purposely stopped eating, trying to give the puppy a better chance. Chained to the porch, the dogs suffered in their own filth. Urine burned their feet. A terrible freeze was approaching, and threatened to swallow them whole. Their time was almost up. It was the week of Thanksgiving. Gratefully, ACPS arrived in time, and both dogs were saved from the porch. ACPS officers lead the dogs from the cold concrete slab. Ironically, prison guards would later escort Handsome and Princess’ owners into concrete cells of their own. One to serve a sixmonth sentence; the other, a year. It was a fitting twist of events.
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“I will fight for him, no matter what.”
— Lisa Graham, Vinnie’s foster mom/owner





ella couldn’t be kenneled. Anxious in the small space, she kept having accidents. FOJA volunteer Jaime Gillham, Bella’s foster mom, patiently bathed the puppy every day after work. After a few days, Jaime moved Bella into the kitchen. Working at a small table, Jaime sat in the kitchen with Bella at her feet. The puppy soon learned to climb up onto Jaime’s chair. Squeezing in at Jaime’s back, the two shared the oversized seat. Whenever Jaime was away, Bella returned to this “safe place”. Curled up in the chair, memories of her old life gradually drifted away.
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“The best part about being a foster is knowing you made a difference for that animal. Showed them love when they needed it most. Found them a home where they are safe and loved…I often hear people say, ‘I couldn’t do that. I could never give them up.’ But by fostering we are able to save so many more pets that need a chance at a new life too.”
— Jaime Gillham, Bella’s foster mom and FOJA volunteer
28. 29.

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The evening after it happened, Sybil’s husband went to check in on everyone. He was surprised to see Spice curled up in bed with CJ and the family cat, Oreo. Spice had jumped a baby gate in the other room, and had wandered down the hall to be with CJ. Spice knew CJ needed her, knew CJ needed her comfort. “How did she know?” Sybil would later ask. Losing Sugar and gaining Spice changed Sybil’s perspective on animal rescue. Hundreds of animals waited day after day for homes. Animals like Spice. Families like the Turners. After Sugar’s death, Sybil, fearful of snakes, began walking Spice in the front yard. A neighbor, noticing the pair, called Sybil’s landlord and reported an “aggressive pit bull”. It was obvious Spice was not aggressive. Her breed, however, was less apparent. The shelter had listed Spice as a “pit bull terrier”, but “pit bull” isn’t a breed. It’s a label used to describe multiple breeds including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bulldog. Sybil needed a DNA test to correctly identify Spice’s breed. She couldn’t do it by sight alone – visual identification proves inaccurate nearly seventy-five percent of the time. The stakes were high for Spice and Sybil, but for others they can be much worse. Many landlords will not accept DNA test results, forcing tenants to make a tough decision: do they give up their home or give up their dog? In cities like Miami and Denver, it is illegal to even own a pit bull. Enforcement is based on looks, despite the high margin of error. Breed-specific policies and legislation have not been shown to improve public safety, yet measures are still in effect. Taxpayers are left to pick up the tab. Spice’s DNA test results proved she was not a pit bull. Spice is a Bullmastiff-Weimaraner mix. One to five other breeds may also be included in her genetic makeup: Treeing Walker Coonhound, Kuvasz, Wire Fox Terrier, English Setter, and/or Alaskan Malamute. Sybil thought back to Spice’s days in rescue. Had the label “pit bull” hurt her? Was it a reason she was passed over? • Over 100 dogs rescued • 57 spays/neuters • 16 heartworm treatments • 6 ringworm treatments • Parvo treatments for 2 litters of puppies • 1 entropion surgery In its first year, Pit Sisters, voted “Jax’s Boldest Nonprofit”, achieved remarkable results: Spice’s story is Pit Sisters’ story. Northeast Florida is different today because of a little brown pittie who sat alone, unwanted and unloved, in an ACPS kennel. Spice was destined for great things, and she inspired two sisters to accomplish great things worldwide. Spice’s story – her comfort in times of need, her mischaracterization as a pit bull – changed the Turners’ lives. It also changed the lives of thousands worldwide. How? Spice and another rescue dog named Dodger inspired Jen and Sybil to found Pit Sisters, a Northeast Florida pit bull rescue. Pit Sisters is committed to providing love, homes, and voices for those who cannot speak. The nonprofit focuses on bully breeds, and works to change misperceptions and stereotypes. • 3 severe demodex mange treatments • 2 sarcoptic mange treatments • 1 Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) treatment – Rilind, who became Cesar Millan’s “Pit Bull of the Year” • 1 auto-immune disorder treatment – Tinkerbell, who captured the hearts of more than 7,500 people around the globe • End to an eleven-year-old Putnam County pit bull euthanasia policy



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Fortunately, Copper didn’t need surgery. He just needed help healing, needed a foster home...or three. The first administered physical therapy to help Copper regain muscle mass. The second, supervision to ensure Copper’s Bengal nature didn’t get the best of him. The third, a quiet place to stay on his way to his forever home. They say every foster parent has a “failure”. Copper was Lindsay’s. FOJA volunteer Lindsay Layendecker had fostered before, but Copper was different. Many wonderful people came forward to adopt Copper, but Lindsay just couldn’t let him go. Copper had already been through so much: losing his first home, being hit by a car, recovering from two broken legs in three different homes. Lindsay also knew each of her pets would miss Copper. He fit right in with the Layendecker pack. Copper quickly befriended resident Beagle-Basset Hound Ruby, and won over all three of the cats – even mean girl Zoey (a.k.a. Bubbo McChubbo). Zoey let Copper sleep in the bed at night (huge in the cat world). As Copper’s third foster parent, Lindsay was tasked with finding him a forever home. Adopting him, she did. 32.

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From the pages of Dog & Kennel Magazine, Jen found herself at the shelter. Rare in breed, her pedigreeto-pound circumstances were not that unusual. An estimated twenty-five percent of shelter dogs are purebreds. The reasons for purebred intake vary, but for Jen, it was simply a family too busy to keep her. Ted inquired about Jen and put her on hold. The following day, the rest of the family came back with their Border Collie. Jen was very shy and cautious, but immediately warmed up to the Lamb’s daughter Mikayla. A few days later, the Lambs brought Jen home as the newest member of the family. At first, Jen would only eat and sleep in Mikayla’s room. She was extremely loyal to Mikayla. As days went by, Jen became less shy and more social. Today, Jen loves to play with the Lamb’s black Lab, Levi. Jen still shares a special bond with Mikayla. Mikayla says the local shelter is the perfect place to find your lifelong companion. Lucky for Jen, she’s right.

...Continued from page 14

Adrienne teared up as she read Toby’s story. She emailed FCNMHP and, after a few days of back-andforth, went to see Toby after work. Cameron Moore, FCNMHP’s Program Director, ushered Adrienne upstairs to the cattery, and brought Toby out to meet her. Toby may have been blind, but he certainly didn’t know it. He played soccer like a pro, and was comfortable with Adrienne. Adrienne adopted Toby and renamed him “Blaze”. The new name blended the words “blind” and “amazing”. Blaze figured out his new home in no time, and got along with Adrienne’s other two cats. Blaze wasn’t scared of anything. He boldly ventured out onto the eleventh-floor balcony and even up a ladder. Blaze may be a special needs cat, but he certainly isn’t high-maintenance. Adrienne cares for him just like her other cats, with a few exceptions. She taps Blaze’s

food bowl to help him find it, and speaks to him when he loses her. She answers his meows, and helps him find a toy once in a while. Adrienne’s biggest adjustment may come as a surprise. When she returns home, all three cats greet her at the door. Adrienne had always said that she would only have two cats, because she only has two hands. With all three cats wanting to say “hello”, Adrienne has her hands full – literally! Blaze may not be able to see Adrienne’s expression when she reaches down to pet him, but he knows better than most what a smile feels like.


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The next day, Nicolle called Jill and asked her to bring Mendy over as a surprise. Mendy was wonderful with the Arteaga’s small children. She nosed them gently, and wagged her tail as she explored the house. Mendy was sweet and affectionate, and the Arteagas thought she would be a good fit. Once Mendy was available for adoption, the Arteagas took her home. Looking at Mendy, you would never guess her troubled past. Seemingly low-key, Mendy was actually a high-profile dog. She had suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her previous owner. Named “Scar” at the time, her story had been covered extensively in the news. Mendy’s story begins with a 911 call.

her on animal cruelty charges, police turned their attention to Scar. “Noticeable pain”, they noted in the report, “not aggressive”, “a good nature”. ACPS confiscated Scar from the house. In cases of significant trauma, euthanasia is usually deemed the most humane option. But not for Scar. Her tail never stopped wagging, and she wanted to live. As long as Scar had fight in her, ACPS and FOJA would fight for her. As the extent of Scar’s injuries became clear, FOJA stepped in to pay for her surgery. Affiliated Veterinary Specialists in Orange Park mended her bones, inserting a plate to fix her femur. On her way to recovery, Scar was renamed “Mendy”. At the animal hospital, Peggy Conover sat waiting

Peggy works with her husband and daughter to rescue dogs, primarily Dobermans. “Knox”, a special needs Doberman from Knoxville, Tennessee, inspired Peggy to get involved in animal rescue. Before adopting Knox, Peggy thought shelter animals were unpredictable. Today, Peggy knows that’s not the case. Animals have an amazing ability to forgive and forget, and move on. After surgery, Mendy stayed with the Conovers for a few months. During that time, Peggy’s daughter Alana, a swim instructor, taught Mendy how to swim. The extent of Mendy’s injuries made her recovery a slow process. Mendy’s femur needed to be kept still, yet her hips needed physical therapy and movement. Near the end of her recovery, the Conovers went out of town. Mendy went to stay with Jill, and that’s how she found her forever home. Today, Mendy is a healthy, high-energy dog. She jumps on the furniture with the kids, and rides with

them to school. Mendy loves to run, and sprints along the fence line in the Arteaga’s enormous backyard. Mendy has a special place in the Arteagas’ hearts, and they in hers. As Nicolle says, “Mendy was the right dog at the right time.”

Dehydrated and malnourished, Scar was unable to stand. One leg was broken at the hip; another, fractured in three places. Old rib injuries had gone untreated. Neighbors called police when they saw Scar’s owner choking her with a cable. The woman said she was disciplining the dog. After arresting

to meet her new foster. Devoted to Doberman rescue, Peggy was about to meet her very first nota-Doberman foster, Mendy. Seeking an experienced foster family with a pool for hydrotherapy, ACPS vet Dr. Leslie Gillette had contacted Peggy and entrusted Mendy to her care.



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Walter & Lucy
...Continued from page 22

Simba was later adopted, but his new home wasn’t the right fit. Carolyn went

Walter and Lucy were used to having other animals around. Fifty-three to be exact. Twentythree dogs. Thirty cats. All rescued from an animal hoarder. The puppies’ foster parent had was consistently angry. It wasn’t until 2010 that Charlie was diagnosed with PTSD. As part of his treatment, Charlie was assigned a K9s For Warriors dog named Slider. Charlie and Slider bonded instantly. Shari Duval, president and founder of K9s For Warriors, calls the pair a “phenomenal matchup”. The two go everywhere together. With Slider at his side, Charlie is getting his life back. Slider picks up on anxiety, panic attacks, and episodes. He curls up close to Charlie, and nudges him with his nose. Charlie says he finds reassurance in Slider’s “size ten paw”. When Slider’s vest comes off, he’s just a regular dog. He loves the beach, and loves the waves. (Charlie found this out the hard way.) Many of Charlie’s Slider stories involve eighty-five pounds of wet, messy dog. But Charlie doesn’t mind. Together, the two are putting the past behind them. named them, and the two names stuck. The first day Walter was home, he took off running. Back and forth across the floor. Tired, Walter sat down to rest – just like an old man! Walter’s and Lucy’s names are fitting for another reason – they dress just like little people. Gameday jerseys, business casual, Sporty Spice, Peanuts characters. You name it, Walter and Lucy probably have it. But better too many clothes than too many animals.

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to pick him up. Her son, David and his wife, Kristen took Simba in and renamed him “Slider”. The couple loved him and cared for him. But Slider needed more. He needed a job. Thinking him the perfect service dog, Carolyn reached out to K9s For Warriors. K9s For Warriors is a nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The organization typically works with rescue dogs younger than Slider, but allowed him to test. Slider passed, and was accepted into the program. Carolyn cried as she handed over his leash. Slider had found his forever home. Charlie, a Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, served two tours in Iraq. In 2006, he returned home from the second. For four years, Charlie fought demons daily. He couldn’t sleep, and

Heartworm treatment usually requires several injections of medication (Immiticide) to kill the worms living in the dog’s heart and lungs. Other medications, including heartworm preventative and an antibiotic, may also be given as part of the total treatment plan. The bigger the dog, the more Immiticide you need. For a big dog like Tiny, heartworm treatment can cost well over $1,000. Few families could afford to adopt and treat Tiny. Luckily, FOJA stepped in, and Tiny was adopted. The Evans’ son Grant, who is autistic, immediately fell in love with Tiny. Before Tiny, Grant had no interest in animals. Today, Tiny helps Grant socialize with animals and people. Weighing in at 130 pounds, Tiny’s story is bigger than most. But like many shelter animals, Tiny offers a big heart to those who show him small kindnesses.



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Leaving behind a life of hurt and hunger, Handsome and Princess parted ways. Handsome, renamed “Vinnie”, went to live with Lisa Graham. Lisa, a foster mom, worked diligently to help Vinnie recover. As Vinnie got better, Lisa became more and more attached. Realizing “no one else would be good enough” for Vinnie, she adopted him permanently. Vinnie was Lisa’s second foster failure. Happy in his new home, Vinnie never forgot Princess.

Bella had been called “Princess”. She was chained on a porch, starving alongside another dog named “Handsome”. Bella weighed just eleven pounds. At thirty-four pounds, Handsome’s bones protruded from beneath his skin. His eyes were sunken, his expression spiritless. A bulky tow chain hung from his neck. Princess, oddly enough, wore an attractive collar. It looked expensive, even thoughtful. It was grossly out of place on the soiled porch. Retrieved by ACPS, Princess, renamed “Bella”, Kailyn Mead was looking for a dog. Browsing Craigslist ads, she paused at a French Bulldog Terrier mix who was available for adoption. The dog’s name was Bella. Kailyn contacted Bella’s foster mom, and the two arranged to meet at Losco Park. Kailyn and her boyfriend Daniel Fielder immediately fell in love with Bella, who began visiting on weekends. Bella even stayed over for a sleepover. After a few trips, Bella became a permanent part of the family. Today, Bella is a bug-eating, lizard-chasing ball of energy. She tries to pick up anything that moves. (Well, except for the fish. Those she just stares at.) Bella loves people, and likes to give kisses just a little too much. She always wants to play fetch, and teases you to chase her. When a ball rolls under the Jaime was the perfect person to find Bella’s new family. An avid foster mom and rescue evangelist, Jaime had helped to save a few hundred rescue animals. She went to work. bed or couch, Bella’s there to help you retrieve it. Be careful, you may get shoved out of the way. At night, Bella falls asleep in her own bed, then moves to the big bed. Happy and healthy, Bella is clearly loved. went to a foster home. Jaime met her there while pet sitting. Taking care of Bella temporarily, Jaime just couldn’t give her back; she had to keep her. Jaime took over Bella’s care, and worked for months to rehabilitate her. She trained her, and loved her. Cared for her, and transformed her. In time, Bella grew into a “spunky little maniac”. As much as she loved her, Jaime knew it was time for Bella to find her forever home.

One day, he saw her. Pricking up his ears, Vinnie trembled with excitement. Princess, now called “Bella”, was just a short distance away. Rushing to meet her, the two dogs circled one another, wagging furiously. It was as if they had never been separated. Reunited, the old friends played, then returned home with their new owners. Today, Vinnie is all about the open road. He loves car rides. With Vinnie at her side, Lisa is helping to change pit bull stereotypes. Vinnie inspired Lisa to get involved with pit bull rescue, and she shows him off as the breed standard. Goofy and friendly, smart and affectionate, Vinnie is just your typical, wonderful pit bull. 38.


…and they all lived happily ever after.

Credits Photographs by Amy Ploss-Samson Text by Jen Hyde Design by Russel Quadros

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