Alaqua Animal Refuge rescues Great Pyrenees dogs from heartbreaking conditions

More than 70 adult dogs were found in unhealthy conditions. Photo courtesy Alaqua Animal Refuge.

Alaqua Animal Refuge, a no-kill animal shelter located in Northwest Florida, is in the midst of a massive rescue effort to save and provide aid to many Great Pyrenees dogs, who have been living in squalor in a nearby county.

Alaqua was originally contacted nine months ago by Lucky Puppy Rescue in Bonifay, Florida, indicating a situation where an elderly woman was living in a house with an enormous amount of Great Pyrenees dogs in Washington County. Alaqua contacted local law enforcement authorities and then accompanied them to the scene where more than 70 adult dogs were found on the 35-acre property, including inside the woman’s house.

The owner of the dogs was confined to a wheelchair with medical issues and could not move about within the house to properly care for them. The dogs were allowed to come in and out of the house through window openings that had large rubber mats affixed to them, serving as giant doggy doors.

The entire property, including the house, was covered in urine, feces and hair, and was extremely unsanitary for the owner and the dogs. During Alaqua’s initial assessment, it was determined that none of the dogs had been spayed or neutered. They also had multiple injuries from fighting—mostly from males fighting over females in heat. The dogs’ hair was dirty, matted, and fleas were infested everywhere.

Laurie Hood, founder of Alaqua Animal Refuge, described the scene inside the home as “truly sad and deplorable,” for the woman and the dogs.

“There was a central room with dog food and the owner would sit in her chair and dump food on the floor for them. There were bits of food scattered everywhere. It’s hard to believe than anyone or any animal could live in these conditions,” said Hood.

Unfortunately, at that time, it was determined by officials that the dogs and the woman would be allowed to remain on the property and live in the house. Alaqua, however, kept in touch with the woman and offered to assist her with the dogs’ care, including food or whatever was necessary.

On June 18, Alaqua learned that the woman had passed away, and that it was in her final wishes that Alaqua take ownership of all of the dogs living with her. On Sunday evening, representatives were granted access onto the property to evaluate the situation. Again, many dogs were found living amid horrible and miserable conditions. A neighbor had also indicated that that there were deceased puppies laying on the ground and in the house. Through a sheer miracle, the puppies found were not deceased, but were so weak and lethargic that they could barely move.

A total of 10 puppies, ranging from two to four weeks old, and one kitten were brought to Alaqua late Sunday night. The animals were each evaluated by Alaqua’s medical team, and staff worked well after midnight caring for and stabilizing them. Each animal was given a thorough bath, fluids for dehydration, dewormer and flea medication, feeding by syringe and the appropriate vaccinations. They are all in foster care now where they are safe, and can be given individual care during this critical time in their lives.

Alaqua is currently working with rescues such as the Lucky Puppy Rescue, who has been caring for the dogs’ essential needs by giving them food and water, and has been an integral part of this massive rescue effort. The remaining adult dogs on the property are also being evaluated by Alaqua’s staff of veterinarians and animal technicians. After each animal is evaluated, they will be dewormed, vaccinated, and provided medical treatment as necessary.

“It is a daunting task,” Hood said. “The majority of the dogs have never been handled or socialized, much less had any outside human contact. We are taking our time to gain the trust of the dogs, so the process is a lengthy one. I’m grateful for so many national groups stepping forward to help us rescue these majestic animals, so we can get them the care they deserve and into loving homes quickly.”

A rescue of this magnitude takes an incredible amount of resources, as one might imagine. Large rescue efforts such as this one require additional resources, time and money, in addition to meeting daily essential needs of more than 250 animals that are continually in Alaqua’s care at any given time.

If you would like to help Alaqua with the Great Pyrenees rescue efforts, you can make a donation by clicking here.

All donations are appreciated and are important, as life-saving rescue work cannot done be done without the support of individuals and organizations wanting to help animals suffering from neglect and hoarding situations such as this.

About Alaqua Animal Refuge
Alaqua Animal Refuge is a no-kill animal sanctuary and adoption center located in Freeport, Florida. A member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, Alaqua believes that every abused, neglected and homeless animal deserves a second chance. This private, non-profit animal sanctuary is committed to serving the Emerald Coast as: the premier no-kill refuge, providing protection, shelter and care to animals in need; a full-service animal adoption center; and a peaceful, proactive animal welfare advocate through educational outreach and community programs. The Refuge has placed more than 15,000 animals of all kinds since its inception in 2007, and has grown to become a recognized leader in animal welfare and animal cruelty prevention.

Posted in Home/Garden | Tagged | Leave a comment

Beautiful railroad vines help protect South Walton beaches

railroadvine1Beautiful plant strengthens sand dunes

Always a pleasant sight along South Walton’s beaches, the beautiful blooming railroad vine is also an important protector of our sand dunes. As with the sea oats, the plant helps to stabilize the dunes by rooting at nodes all along its length, and is often planted for that purpose.

Each flower opens only once, in the morning, but keep blooming almost all year long, peaking from May through November.

The railroad vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae) is native and part of the morning glory family. It is an herbaceous vine that grows wild on ocean shores from Florida to Texas and Georgia.

They open in the early morning and close before noon each day that the plant is in bloom. Small, round seedpods that contain four velvety, dark brown seeds appear on this plant after flowering.

Other common names: beach morning glory, goat’s foot vine

Posted in Beaches, Environment, Nature | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nick’s Kids Catfish Tournament June 24

kidscatfish1smJoin in on the fun as Treylermade Tournaments hosts their Annual Kids Catfish Tournament on Saturday, June 24, 2017. Entry fee is $50 per angler with proceeds to benefit the Backpacks of Love Foundation and Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance Grasses in Classes. All anglers must register at Nick’s Seafood at Basin Bayou by 7 p.m. on Fri., June 23. Download flyer and registration form:   Catfish Tournament Rules, Regulations, Entry Form 2017

*All fisher kids must be registered by 7:00 pm Friday, June 23.

Rules- Kids age of 12 years or under, Four (4) catfish limit saltwater species. Fishing in the Choctawhatchee Bay or estuaries thereof. Fish may be caught in a boat, on a dock, or from the shoreline. Adults may assist kids with handling fish but may not reel fish in for them. Baiting, casting and use of landing net only. Live or artificial bait, rod and reel only, no jugs, cast nets, or noodling. Note: Catfish have three spines use caution when handling these fish. (Cut the line when the fish is in the boat, hooks are cheap.)



1st PLACE BOTH DIVISIONS:A brand new boat & trolling motor by TRACKER MARINE!

Hardhead Division
Total weight of three Hardhead Catfish.
Grand Prize: New boat by Tracker Marine with trolling motor, safety gear, and accessories.
2nd – 5th Place: prizes and medals.

Sailcat Division
Single heaviest Sailcat.
Grand Prize: New boat by Tracker Marine with trolling motor, safety gear, and accessories.
2nd-5th Place: prizes and medals.

*If one Angler wins 1st Place in both divisions, he or she will be awarded one Grand Prize.*

Starting Point: Anglers may start from their desired location in waters on or adjacent to the Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Tournament starts at safe daylight on Saturday, June 25th.

Weigh-in time: 4:00-5:00 PM. Anglers may start from their desired location in waters on or adjacent to the Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Tournament starts at safe daylight on Saturday, June 24th.
Weigh-in time: 4:00-5:00 PM. Scale will open for 1-hour, 4:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday, June 24th. Contestants must be checked in with a tournament official by 5:00PM to have their catfish scored. Weigh-ins will be held on the stage at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant 7585 Hwy 20 West Freeport, FL 32439. 850-835-2222 or 850-830-6161.

Mullet Toss for all ages will be held following the weigh-in.

Posted in Fishing, Outdoor Family Fun | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Independence Day celebrations in Walton County

Enjoy Independence Day celebrations in north and south Walton County July 3 – 4.

Monday, July 3:

South Walton

5:30 – 10 p.m. WaterColor benefit concert at Marina Park

Easy On 30A is hosting a benefit concert on Monday, July 3 at Marina Park in WaterColor, 238 Watercolor Way, Santa Rosa Beach. The event will benefit Alaqua Animal Refuge, The Sonder Project, Muskogee Nation of Florida, and Children’s Volunteer Health Network. Performances:

5 – 6:30 p.m. – Chris Alvarado, Scott Rockwood, & John Reinlie
6:30– 10 p.m. –Performance by First Note & Friends including Lindsey Thompson, Anthony Peebles, Jamie Kent, Will Thompson, Eric Erdmann and Time Jackson.

Other activities include an open market, silent auction, and raffle items. The event is free.

7:30 p.m. Seaside – Join in the fun in Seaside for a two day celebration including the Stars & Stripes Pops Concert featuring the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra at the Seaside Amphitheatre at 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 4:

South Walton

7:30 a.m. Rosemary Beach – Start bright and early with a Bike Decorating Contest & Breakfast.  followed by the Bike Parade throughout the Town Center at 8:30 a.m.  Enjoy an old-fashioned family field day on Western Green with sack races, water balloon toss, games prizes and more starting at 9 a.m.  Rock to the sounds of the different decades with  the “Like Totally” Hep Cats on Western Green at 6 p.m.  Enjoy a star spangled fireworks display from the beach at 8:45 p.m.

8 a.m. – South Walton 4th of July Parade from Seagrove to Seaside on Scenic Hwy. 30A.

8:30 a.m. – Grayton Beach neighborhood parade. Line up starts in front of the Red Bar at 8.m. Everyone welcome. Watermelon, popsicles, and lemonade at the end of the parade.

6 p.m. – Alys Beach live music by Bucktown Allstars. Fireworks follows. Food and drink available.

7 p.m. – Seaside Concert at the Amphitheatre starts at 7 p.m. followed by fireworks at 8:30 p.m.

6 – 9 p.m. Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin
Red, White and Baytowne.
Enjoy lawn games, inflatables, kids crafts, and face painting. Then enjoy live music on the Events Plaza Stage by Donovan Keith & the Funky Feat at 7 p.m., followed by a fireworks display at 9:15 p.m.

North Walton

4 p.m. – DeFuniak Springs celebrates with the theme ‘Proud to be an American’ with a parade around Lake DeFuniak

6 p.m. – Defuniak Springs celebration continues at Wee Care Park on Walton Road with children’s activities, entertainment, and fireworks. Live music from Josh Buckey Band and Meridith Lee.

The event is sponsored by DeFuniak Springs Business and Professional Association. For more information call 830-1661. To sign up for the parade call Carolyn Mora at 892-3950 or Alicia Ammons at 892-2134.

Posted in Outdoor Family Fun | Tagged | Leave a comment

Camp Helen State Park hosting movie, cookout, and more June 28

Date/time: Wednesday, June 28, 5:30 p.m.

The fourth annual Movies & More series at Camp Helen State Park continues on Wednesday, June 28.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. in the park’s Recreation Hall with a brief interpretive program led by a Camp Helen Park Ranger or other expert. The program will be followed by an old-fashioned campfire cookout of hot dogs and s’mores provided by the Friends of Camp Helen. Each evening will conclude with a family-oriented movie in the Recreation Hall, where seating will be provided.

A parent or guardian must accompany all children.

These special movie nights are sponsored by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Friends of Camp Helen State Park. Admission into the park for this event is free, although donations are accepted. Donations will go directly to the Friends of Camp Helen State Park to benefit the park’s resource management projects and interpretive programs.

Then, on Wednesday, June 28 The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer: The amazing story of Daniel, a dolphin who abandons the safety of his pod to explore the ocean and discover the true purpose of his life. (Rated PG) Gulf World will present the interpretive program on the Savannah Monitor.

More information is available at, by calling (850) 233-5059 or by emailing [email protected].

Camp Helen State Park is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway (Highway 98), Panama City Beach, just west of the Lake Powell Bridge.

Posted in Outdoor Family Fun | Tagged | Leave a comment

Area residents seek return of traditional fishing spots on U.S. Hwy. 331 causeway

One of the causeway areas local fishermen enjoy casting a line. Photo courtesy Steve Underwood

Freeport resident and avid fisherman Steve Underwood wants his old fishing spots back and he is not alone. Before the U.S. Hwy. 331 bridge construction, several popular fishing spots along the causeway north of the bridge offered a variety of locations to reel in a fish and launch a boat. Although happy about the new Thomas Pilcher Park on the southern end, it’s not a location where the fish are always biting according to Underwood.

“The fishermen in this area have gone from seven boat ramp locations and eight fishing spots to one single spot only accessible from the south requiring U-turns for access and exit to the north,” said Underwood.

Although some of the previous areas are still easily accessible and off the roadway, no parking signs have been positioned along the road by Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). In addition, warnings have been issued to violators.

Freeport resident Paul Hill has been asked to leave by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office three times while fishing from the causeway shorelines, even though there are no signs indicating fishing is not permitted.

Freeport fisherman Price Farmer prepares to sign petition at Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop while Steve Underwood looks on. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

“They said it was a safety issue, but I’ve never seen any issues,” said Hill.

Lifelong Freeport resident Price Farmer is particularly disappointed in the inability to reel in a fish as he relies on it for sustenance.

“I fish to eat,” Farmer said.

The FDOT public information office provided the following after an initial inquiry:

Per Florida Statute 316.1305 Fishing from state road bridges —

(1) The Department of Transportation is authorized to investigate and determine whether it is detrimental to traffic safety or dangerous to human life for any person to fish from a state road bridge. When the Department of Transportation, after due investigation, determines that it is dangerous for persons to fish from such a bridge, it shall post appropriate signs on the bridge stating that fishing from the bridge is prohibited.

(2) Fishing from a bridge upon which the Department of Transportation has posted signs as provided in subsection (1) is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a pedestrian violation as provided in chapter 318.

(3) This section is cumulative and is not intended to repeal any special law making it unlawful to fish from any bridge.

Underwood has reached out to Tanya Branton, Public Information Specialist for FDOT hoping to get more answers and finding a resolve.

“Tanya Branton was very willing to listen and went on the Google maps website with me so that I could point out the exact areas we feel should still be open to fishing. She has agreed to go to the proper person/persons in the department to find out if any investigation was ever done concerning the safety of these areas. The statute she quoted stated that if an area was found to be unsafe it would be marked with no fishing signs. These areas are not. They are only marked with blank yellow reflectors,” said Underwood.

Underwood has started a petition in protest to the closed fishing areas, and has had a sizeable response from the fishing community. Hundreds of signatures have been obtained at several locations in the community.

Interested in signing the petition? The following businesses are collecting signatures: Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop 17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S, Freeport, BJ’s Bait and Feed 19323 US Hwy 331 S Freeport, Franks Cash & Carry Freeport and Grayton Beach, Black Creek Cafe 25B McDaniel Fish Camp Road Freeport, The Outpost 4576 County Highway 3280 Freeport, and Freeport Café, 39 State Highway 20 E, Freeport.

You can download the petition here, sign and send to Steve Underwood at [email protected].

Posted in Fishing | Tagged | Leave a comment