Brevard County Residents Love Their Pets
by Jaimie M. Engle
With more than a dozen pet adoption centers, leash-free dog parks, and cat grooming boutiques these four-legged furry friends (and reptiles, amphibians and birds) move into our homes and into our hearts. They become our family. In this spotlight, we will introduce some dogs and cats who go to work with their humans, dogs trained to assist the disabled, and a pet hospital dedicated to community involvement.
Dr. Danielle Becton sees her fair share of animals. As one of the few ABVP accredited teaching hospitals in the country, Aloha Pet and Bird Hospital prides itself for its accessibility to clients, outreach to the community, and availability to other veterinarians. Offering optimal patient care with compassion, the hospital creates an ambiance of ease and comfort for both humans and pets alike. They promote responsible pet ownership through education with preventative as well as diagnostic solutions. With an active Facebook adoption page, it’s easy to find your future fuzzy family member. Aloha offers animals in recovery a temporary home until they are whole, while animals too young to adopt join the Aloha family until they are of age. An active expansion will provide separate locations for those animals needing medical attention from those seeking a home.
Lisa and Ron Hays both grew up on farms in Washington and Missouri where they each earned money for college by raising and showing swine and cattle. Today, they are the proud “parents” of Skittles and Scooter, both of whom were adopted as puppies. Having no children of their own, the Hays’ pets are more like their kids with Skittles’ insulin treatments each morning and night, and Scooter sleeping in bed or wearing his leopard print Doggles in the pool. Skittles and Scooter are involved in Lisa and Ron’s life on every level, whether at the beach or riding their own doggie-boogie boards in the pool. The Hays love the fact that they are able to provide a forever home to their dogs, including Bear who passed in 2003 and Sophie who passed in 2013. They know that as much as they give their dogs, their dogs give them much more in return.
After Tom and Telethia Szuba’s daughter found a pregnant cat outside her UCF apartment, her heartstring tugged, she brought the cat home. Knight is one of her four kittens and the only one to become a member of the Szuba family. The couple’s son Matt, who is in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg, found a rescue dog he made part of the Szuba family. Tom and Telethia enjoy a long distance relationship with “grand-dog” Sandy via Skype. Khan and Sampson are the couple’s two Bengal cats who go everywhere with them, including the office, the Alternative Living Facility where clients search for therapy cats, and even to local hospitals. While animals need care, feeding, and love they pay it back by loving their owners. With their children all grown and out of the house, Tom and Telethia’s pets are their fuzzy kids. They bring joy to their home and give purpose to their lives, as well as the lives of their guardianship and care management clients.
Michael and Carol Ann Gaich have had a lifetime passion for golden retrievers from their first golden, Nugget, to Cody Bear in 1997. Friends introduced them to Canine Companions for Independence, an organization dedicated to providing the highest level of trained assistance dogs to those in need. Cody was recommended for their breeding program and the Gaichs agreed to donate Cody to Canine Companions. Teary-eyed, they said good-bye. A year later Cody graduated at Sea World and continued on to advanced training in Long Island, New York. Four months later Cody was released from the program and after nearly two years returned home to Michael and Carol Ann. As a board member for 16 years with Canine Companions, Michael has watched the organization flourish to 16 local teams including five facilities in Brevard County. With Cody’s passing more than eight years ago, the Gaichs have decided not to adopt another golden retriever, getting their “dog fix” with each visit to the Canine Companions for Independence South East Region Campus.
When Robi’s grandchildren gave her a 7-week-old Pomeranian, it took her a month to find the perfect name for him. Shadow never leaves her side and along with canine sister, Missey Prissey, the two go everywhere with Robi including a second home in the Bahamas. Robi even purchased an RV for more comfortable travel on longer road trips. People sometimes say these dogs live “the good life,” but Robi feels her furry family makes her life good. No matter what is going on, they are patiently waiting, loving, and loyal. In fact, Missey Prissey has a heart murmur that almost killed her at age 8. With less than six months to live, the Roberts spared no expense, working alongside local veterinarian Dr. Matt Coris and the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital to find the perfect treatment: an ace inhibitor previously only used by humans. Five years later, she is as animated and adorable as ever. Shadow went through two surgeries by the UF team for his bladder stones. Robi can’t imagine not having her dogs to care for.