Happy news about animals
Jill Logan’s hearty affection for pooches and people speaks through the wet, sloppy kisses that Gypsy — her red-nose American pit bull terrier — lavishes on perfect strangers.
Every Friday for three years, the chocolate-colored canine has been her sweet-natured ambassador at the St. Lucie Surgery Center in Port St. Lucie.
Here, Logan is the administrator. Gypsy’s photo ID badge reads: “Pup-Lick Relations.”
The friendly dog chases away worries for children awaiting a tonsillectomy and fears from adults needing hernia repairs or a routine colonoscopy.
A wag of her tail or a stroke of her coat is also good medicine for family and friends as they nervously watch the clock over a loved one.
“When people come in, they are very stressed,” says Logan, 57, of Palm City. “They’re scared. They’re nervous about their surgery. Although we try to make the lobby homey, it’s still a sterile environment.
“But Gypsy takes their mind off their fears for a little while. She just really helps to relax people.”
After making her rounds, Gypsy retreats to Logan’s office, where her efforts are rewarded with a comfy doggie bed, chew toys and food and drink. A cookie jar shaped like a fire hydrant holds her favorite treats.
But this dog’s life wasn’t always so grand.
Three years ago, she was scared, hungry and homeless. Logan was leaving work one night when she spotted a little critter on the loose in the parking lot. To her surprise, the 6-month-old pup scampered right up to her.
No one claimed her after Logan ran a classified ad or recognized her photograph in nearby neighborhoods. Rather than abandon her at the local animal shelter, Logan and her husband decided to adopt the pooch, whose kind has a bad name.
“Pit bulls have such a horrible reputation, but they are really wonderful dogs,” Logan says. “I did a lot of research and found their temperament is almost on the same level as a golden retriever.”
Because she was a stray, the dog was christened Gypsy. She was people-friendly, calm and not prone to barking. So it was an easy decision one Friday when Logan, having no one at home to watch Gypsy, brought her new pet to work.
“From the time she first got here, she just acted like she belonged here,” Logan says.
Gypsy soon won the hearts of staffers and doctors. When patients saw her in the receptionist’s cubicle, they begged to touch her, and the allure of the little dog spread through the waiting room.
Today, Gypsy is a state-certified doggie volunteer. She has an official ID badge and personnel file with a clean bill of health, vaccinations and obedience training. Her mug shot appears on the surgery center’s Web site as a pet therapy dog.
Recently, Bill Meuser and family members met Gypsy while his wife, Gloria, had a cancerous growth removed from her foot. The pooch was immediately attracted to his granddaughter’s boyfriend and mopped his face with sloppy kisses.
Suddenly, the quiet, somber room erupted into laughter.
“The pit bull doesn’t have a reputation for making people feel at ease,” says Meuser, 79, of Port St. Lucie. “But you couldn’t ask for a nicer dog.”
With a grin, he adds, “I don’t think my granddaughter is ever going to kiss her boyfriend again.”
Meuser’s daughter, Broward resident Jennifer Norman, patted the dog with approval.
“I think it’s super,” she said. “I’ve never heard anything negative from animals being involved in helping people through difficult times. I think it’s good therapy.”
Logan’s history of helping humans and critters started long before Gypsy entered her life. For several years, she’s been a supporter of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.
Eight years ago, she launched an in-house pet show for staffers and physicians at the surgery center. As the new administrator, she hoped the sharing of animals would bond employees and build camaraderie between departments.
When she read the K-9 unit needed bulletproof vests, Logan targeted the event as a good cause and fund-raiser, too. Local merchants donated prizes for raffles, and together with other contributions she raised $250.
“We had cats, birds, dogs and turtles,” she says. “One doctor even brought his little pet hedgehog.”
The pet show was such a hit that it became an annual tradition. Through word of mouth in the medical community, the attendance grew larger as friends, family and employees from local doctor offices and the St. Lucie Medical Center joined the festivities.
Three years ago, Logan’s brainchild went public.
In May, the eighth annual Yappy Hour was the most successful ever, with $4,000 raised for the sheriff’s K-9 unit.
More than 250 people attended with more than 100 dogs for an afternoon of pet-oriented fun. The event featured dog-and-owner look-alike contests and raffles, a pet psychic and doggie vendors, including representatives from a boutique and day care.
Local animal shelters came to solicit pet adoptions. A kissing booth for the brave was staffed by Cowboy the St. Bernard, Dino the great dane and Emma the boxer. The K-9 unit wowed the crowd with demonstrations of obedience, attack, drug detection and pursuit.
“We’ve just had a great time getting to know the deputies and dogs and appreciate how much they do for us every day,” Logan says. “I’ve always been impressed with the dogs’ unbelievable ability to learn. And to team that up with an event where folks can bring their dogs for an outing couldn’t be better.”
Logan honored for work
Yappy Hour has raised nearly $18,000, including a special gift from Logan. In 2005, she won a community service award for her K-9 fund-raisers, along with $1,000 to a charity of her choice from the Hospital Corp. of America’s East Florida Division.
Sgt. Tony Cavallaro of the sheriff’s K-9 unit says the annual fund-raisers have been a plus for his department.
Last year, the K-9 unit bought a German shepherd named Basil for $3,500 as an explosive-detection dog.
“A deputy’s best friend is a canine who keeps him safe,” Cavallaro says. “A canine’s best friend are people like Jill Logan and her staff whose support is an inspiration.”
Soon, Gypsy may have a new partner at the surgery center. Lola, an 8-week-old English bulldog puppy, recently joined the Logan family.
Will she be another member of Pup-Lick Relations?
“Maybe she’ll join her big sister when she’s a little older,” Logan says. “It depends on how her temperament develops. She’ll have to be house-trained, at the very least.”