For as long as I can remember, animals have always been my life. Even as a young child I was known throughout the neighborhood as the "kid who saved animals."
Everyone brought the sick and stray animals to my house. My mother never could understand how people could put so much faith in a kid, but they did.
My name is Kay-Lynette Roca and I am known as the founding director for Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary & Hospital, a no-kill animal shelter in Jupiter. I have come a long way since those days of playing "Dr. Dolittle" back in my old neighborhood.
However, my vision remains the same; being an advocate for those who have no voice in their often abusive, negligent and helpless situations.
I was absolutely thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to write my own bi-weekly column for Hometown News. I have put a lot of thought into what would make this column special and interesting for you the readers.
One of the most commonly asked questions I am asked in my line of work, is how do you do your job? It must be just so heartbreaking. My answer is yes, it does have its heartbreaking moments but there are so many magical moments in my work that it helps me to get through the really bad times.
Speaking of sad, but also wonderful moments, I guess now would be a good time to introduce you to one of my best friends at Safe Harbor. Her name is "Jessica" and she will be working with me on this column. What makes Jessica's perspective unique is that she herself is a Safe Harbor rescue dog that resides in my office.
Jessica was rescued more than two years ago from a dog fighting ring in Indiantown. along with one of her litter mates whose name was "Rockhead." By the way, I gave Jessica her name, because when she first arrived at Safe Harbor she was simply called the "expletive."
The sister of the man who owned the two dogs had stolen them and brought them to us because she could no longer stand to witness the abuse.
Upon arriving, both Jessica and Rocky (we also changed his name) had huge tow changes around their necks. The chains were so heavy, that neither dog could lift their heads up from the floor to look around. Their skeletal bodies bore the signs of many a bloody battle, some old, some still fresh from the last fight.
Jessica was running a high fever from a case of mastitis as a result of having her litter of 11 nursing puppies stolen away from her. To top it all off, both dogs were heartworm positive, which is fatal if not treated in time.
The sister surrendered the two dogs rather than have her brother arrested for animal cruelty and we proceeded to give Rocky and Jessica a new identity and life.
After six months of heartworm treatment, a healthy diet and lots of TLC, Rocky was ready to go our on the adoption floor. However, Jessica was not handling her shelter surroundings quite as well. She suffered from separation anxiety, she was terrified of thunderstorms and rain, and she constantly stayed huddled in the back corner of her run, shaking with fear.
As Christmas approached, Rocky's lucky day came when a nice middle-age man and his grandmother came in and adopted him. It was an early Christmas present for all of us who had worked so hard to rehabilitate Rocky. When Rocky left us that day, he was 50 pounds heavier, heartworm negative and his coat was black and glossy. Best of all, he held his head high and was wagging his tail with excitement.
As the New Year approached, Jessica's mental state continued to decline. No one ever considered her for adoption because she had become a total recluse.
One day, as I was walking through the shelter, I stopped and looked in on Jessica. She looked so pathetic, like a trapped wild animal, pacing her run. I picked up a leash and asked one of our staff to gather Jessica's belongings and to take them down to my office. I wanted to see how she would react out of her shelter setting and if we could work to socialize her.
That was more than a year and a half ago. Jessica was a different dog in my office. We start every morning with her getting in my lap and giving me hugs and kisses. She loves to lie on her back in my arms like a baby and have her belly scratched. She is one of the smartest dogs I have ever come across.
She is the executive dog!
In future columns, I thought it would really be cool to give Jessica the chance to bond with the readers and their pets.
After all, Jessica has lived here at Safe Harbor for two years and she knows all the animals and their stories. Then we would like to have people and their pets write in animal- related questions they might have to either Jessica or myself and we will answer them for you in our next column.
Until then, keep your pets safe and give them lots of love and kisses.
After all they are the only ones that will ever love you unconditionally.
Kay-Lynette Roca is executive director of Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary & Hospital. Contact her at (561) 747-5311, visit www.safeharboranimalrescue.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org