The Starfish Dog

The Starfish Dog // Suzanne Cardiff, Unleash Jacksonville Contributor // Photos by Suzanne Cardiff

 

We’ve all heard the story about the person walking down the beach, purposely throwing starfish back into the water. “It matters to that one!” In our lives, we each have times to ask ourselves, is this my starfish? For me this story became reality one December evening many years ago with a dog named SuzieQ.

Her story is much like a starfish being tossed across ocean waves as it moves toward the beach until thrown on shore through no fault of its own. For Suzie it started far before we knew of her landing on Animal Control’s euthanasia list immediately following the minimum stray hold. On the outside she had a scar from a previous C section, was fearful and was a biter triggered by touch. On the inside she was complex and broken, her true self only to be revealed with time and compassion. A small rescue stepped forward for her.

I met her after she had been at the rescue for a while. Volunteers passed her by intimidated by her wild display known as barrier frustration. When it was my turn, I held out the leash in peace offering for her one chance to get outside. As I slowly opened the crate door, she walked right into the slip lead.

Over the next nine months, my dog and I showed her a great deal about the world and her place in it. Until one afternoon when a group of dogs turned on her leaving her scarred physically and emotionally. Then a few days later her rear became paralyzed. No longer able to walk she regressed to a point of feeling threatened by everyone and everything. Yet, fate was not finished with her. I was at AVS for my own dog when the surgeon offered to examine her after hearing her story. The diagnosis, a slipped disc pushing on her spinal cord. He said most likely it had been slipping for a long time which explained her biting behavior when being picked up. The attack was the traumatic final blow to that disc. IVDD or Intervertebral Disc Disease. SuzieQ had a successful surgery, less than a year of rehab her back recovered leaving little residual nerve damage. The surgeon gave me caution it was probably the worst case he had seen and she probably would not survive another surgery. With the absence of pain for the first time in a long time, she was a like a puppy playing and chasing her ball. Her behavior improved some but the lasting effects of her trauma remained. I adopted her on August 1, 2014 as we celebrated her 5th birthday and adoption together.

Life with SuzieQ is always filled with twists and turns.
She was a dog wanting to live like any other dog but with more baggage then any being should have to carry. She is small but fierce, with a bold, independent, adorable personality that had gotten her through the toughest experiences of her life.Once labeled “unadoptable,” over the years she has enjoyed all the good things in life. She has a safe, comfortable home with healthy foods, affection and enrichment. She loves going on car rides and our adventures around town. She learned to feel comfortable around people, even kids. We have been through phases of medications and treatments for her behavior and her back. Physical therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, Reiki, EMDR, salt cave, music therapy, essential oils and even a pet communicator. Some experiences in her early years were revealed and she has had many traumas leading to her PTSD behaviors.

Fast forward several years to Fall 2018 when she was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in her lower back. Life may be different now for her but the trauma from her back injury is still very real for her. Monthly acupuncture and laser therapy minimize progression of that pinched nerve and keep her comfortable. These treatments have become necessary to keep her moving and with the goal of preventing another slipped disc. This past year she was diagnosed with a heart condition possibly as a result of ongoing hypertension. We recently started Reiki sessions with Jade Paws, and it has become a greatest resource in addressing her past traumas.

I am still the only person she allows to touch and handle her. I can pick her up, give her a bath, even put on a muzzle. The one lasting challenge we have is in grooming. Her fear of the tools and being hurt again far outweigh any grooming benefits. These years of experience with her, and other misunderstood rescued dogs, has drawn me into the life of dog behavior and rehabilitation. She has led me down a path to studying positive and partnership training methods and teaching dog’s necessary life skills to fit into our world. I find alternative therapies and positive approaches to training outperform conventional methods. SuzieQ did not have to experience all her trauma. Of the traumas we know of, they were a result of human error in the form of lack of knowledge or access to providing appropriate vet care, a safe environment, and even basic knowledge of dog behaviors.

And now we’re here in the midst of a world crisis that has brought our medical and veterinary facilities to limiting patient services to curbside and drop offs. We cast aside the special needs of dogs like SuzieQ who once again do not conform into the mass molds. What happens to them? For SuzieQ, we’re fortunate to have places like the Saint Francis Animal Hospital which continues to keep the needs of the individual animals as their priority. For SuzieQ and me, this is not a new reality. For even specialists have refused her necessary care. My dog has PTSD and will not allow anyone near her without me handling her. This is her choice, her safety net, after all she has survived and grown through. And is she worth it? To be tossed another chance? To encourage us to perceive differently? When they ask her, I can see in her eyes and heart she is saying back, “Are you?” Maybe we need to put our egos aside more often and ask ourselves, are we worthy of their trust?

So, when is a dog a starfish?
When one is at your feet washed up on the shore of possibility. Be open, be mindful, and most importantly, listen. If you watch quietly with an open heart, they will tell you, “I am meant for more.” •

Dog Days of Summer

The London Sanctuary presents the Dog Days of Summer!

Because hounds love to sun and celebrate summer, we had to have an event for them . . . BUT they really want you to come too! We will bring some very special hounds that are ready to be adopted!

 

GoldenFest 2019

GoldenFest is G.R.E.A.T. Rescue’s annual fundraising event, now in its 16th year!

We’re so excited to have a new host location for this year as well, Kanine Social, Jacksonville’s beautiful private indoor/outdoor dog park and craft beer/coffee bar!

Enjoy fellowship with friends, new and old, and their Goldens; access the beautiful Kanine Social; partake in food and drink; learn from local vendors; enjoy games and contests…and more — all while helping in G.R.E.A.T.’s rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing efforts!

TICKETS

VOLUNTEER at the event!
SPONSOR the event!
Be a VENDOR at the event!

**All dogs must have proof of up-to-date rabies, bordetella and distemper. Dogs over six (6) months must be spayed/neutered. Actual records can be brought upon arrival at the event or a cell phone photo of records will also be accepted.**

11th Annual Nassau County Animal Expo

Once again Cats Angels Inc SPCA is delighted to host this wonderful community event. This will be the 11th year and it just gets better each time. This is a free event!!!! For every 5lbs of food donated visitors will receive a ticket making them illegible for a fabulous door prize

Blood. Sweat. Tears.

 

Reprinted from the Unleash Jacksonville Brilliant Issue.

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When you see someone fully embracing their passion—and growing in it—BOOM! It’s pretty darn inspiring, right? Kelly Kinlaw of Fur Sisters has been dedicated to saving dogs from high-kill shelters for many years and always wanted to be able to do more. Save more. Last July, Kelly realized her dream when Fur Sisters opened a 750 square-foot transitional space for dogs coming from urgent situations. In this space, dogs can decompress while waiting for a foster or adopter. This time allowed to transition is so important, because dogs are often too stressed in shelters to show their true personality and they get overlooked time after time. In the week or so that dogs stay at Fur Sisters, they can relax in this calm space while listening to music, enjoying some aromatherapy, and getting lots of treats. They are also tested with cats and other dogs during this time to see what kind of home would be best for them.

Here is where we need to stress that the new space IS NOT an adoption center (although that is one of Kelly’s ultimate goals), and it IS NOT a drop off for found or unwanted animals. But, while it’s true the new space is not an adoption center and you can’t just drop in any ‘ol time, there are always some very amazing dogs hanging out and you may make an appointment to meet them!

Fur Sisters mainly pulls from Putnam, Bradford and Clay county shelters, as these shelters are constantly overcrowded and, unfortunately, euthanize for space. They’ve also taken in some sweet pups from emergency situations, like Norman, who was thrown out of a moving car on Normandy Boulevard, and Angel, who was found in a Walmart Parking lot, completely starved, and the bottom half of her stained yellow and brown—you can figure out from what. You may also have seen Fur Sisters on the news when they helped Louis, a homeless man living in the woods taking care of a pack of dogs. Louis was taking as best of care as he could of the dogs he loved—they were being treated better than he treated himself. Fur Sisters stepped in to help the dogs and are also continuing to help Louis.

Here’s some exciting news for those of you who are looking for a great hair cut and want to meet some dogs at the same time! Kelly has moved her “day job” to be in the same building, so that she can be more efficient in both her rescue work and her making-people-look-gorgeous work. Cuts by Kelly moved to the front of the Fur Sisters space in Jax Beach in September of 2017. Go get your human hairs cut!

The new Fur Sisters location is a fantastic asset to our beach community. If you’d like to become involved (and become a “Fur Angel,” as helpers call themselves), Kelly says they’re always looking for people to help walk and socialize dogs, especially on the weekends. You could take a dog for a beach romp! They also always have a need for chew bones, dry dog food, monetary donations, and fosters—most crucial to save more lives!

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Donation items can be dropped off Tuesday through Friday 10-4 or email fureverursrescue@gmail.com to coordinate a time, offer volunteer time, or set an appointment to meet some amazing pups!

Fur sisters currently has several dogs they’ve pulled from high-kill shelters in boarding and the bills are piling up. Kindly Donate to Fur Sisters on #GivingTuesday or offer to foster!

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Painting With A Purpose (Twist)

You save lives! You help rescue! You help with vet bills! You help transport animals from high kill shelters to a new life! These are some of the wonderful things that you do when you support us! Not one dime goes to a salary and ALL goes to the cause! Sign up today before all seats are filled!
Bring your best friend, a bottle of wine, and be prepared to have a great time! We’ll also have wine and light appetizers to share!

Sign up today!

Hops for Hounds

Join ABBC and the FUR SISTERS as we  do a Down Dog the second Wednesday of each month this summer beginning 6:30pm at ABBC (June 13th, July 11th and August 8th).

Your $15 donation gives you a fab yoga class, one free pint of ABBC craft beer or one glass of Hogue wine as well as a chance for ABBC swag! Bring your mat and get ready to stretch. All proceeds benefit FUR SISTERS of Jax Beach!

Help a Hound Charity Golf Outing

Join us for the Second Annual Help a Hound Charity Golf Outing at Royal St. Augustine Golf & Country Club!

Registration is $65 per person which includes range balls, green fees, cart, coffee/donuts, and a hot lunch with an adult beverage!

Many great raffles and prizes!

Time: 7AM Registration Opens / 8:30AM Shotgun Start

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