- February 23, 2020
People came out in droves to walk Granada Bridge in memory of their beloved pets at the eighth annual Sophie’s Circle Dog Rescue Rainbow Bridge Walk on Saturday, March 4.
Eight years ago, dog trainer Dana Conway started the Rainbow Bridge Walk because of her dog — Mr. Big.
“I always said that when I lose him, I needed to do something in his honor,” she said. “He was the most difficult dog I’ve ever had. Because of him, I became a dog trainer.”
Mr. Big was a 105-pound natural disaster. For a year, he destroyed Conway’s house on a daily basis. She needed to find a solution, and became a dog trainer. Today, she runs Loose Leashes Dog Training in Ormond-by-the-Sea. She won the 2022 Best of the Best Community Choice award for best dog trainer.
“Everybody has a soulmate dog; everybody has that one dog,” she said. “He (Mr. Big) was the one dog.”
Everybody has a soulmate dog, everybody has that one dog. He (Mr. Big) was the one dog.” - Dana Conway, owner Loose Leashes Dog Training
Conway works with all of Sophie’s Circle’s foster dogs. Mary Nichols is the foster coordinator for the rescue, and if there is an issue with one of the dogs, she contacts Conway.
“Tonight, Dana worked with one of our foster dogs who was having trouble on the leash and being reactive,” Nichols said. “He couldn’t handle all of this. She worked with him for 5 minutes and put a different collar on him. He was amazing. He is like a different dog now. He’s calm and relaxed.”
The money raised at the event goes directly to Sophie’s Circle to help care for rescued dogs.
Founder Kathy Blackman is focusing on an 8-month-old puppy that was found wandering in the New Smyrna Beach area with two gunshot wounds to his face.
“Despite all of that, he is still a happy, nice, friendly dog,” she said. “Still wagging his tail and giving kisses.”
He is being cared for by veterinarian Dr. Inderjit Singh, the owner of Luv-N-Care Animal Hospital.
The puppy, who has since been named Gunner, recently underwent oral surgery to repair his jaw and remove broken teeth. He will require another surgery to remove the second bullet from one of his cervical vertebrae. The cost is already over $8,000.
More than 35 sponsors and vendors participated in the event this year and have so far made $8,560.25, which is 85% of their $10,000 goal. Mary Korp and Lynn Betournay volunteered to run the T-shirt sales, which go toward the Sophie’s Circle pet food pantry.
“There’s a need for it in Volusia County,” Betournay said. “There are a lot of low-income people that need food for their animals. This helps keep the animal in their home rather than having to surrender them to a shelter.”
Most participants were walking with their dogs in honor of pets who had died. Port Orange groomer Pauline Kurpinsky, her husband, Tom, and their dogs — Astrid Blue and rescue Ruby Begonia — were walking the bridge in memory of their three dogs Lola, Lucy and Zena.
Sally Trant came from a large family and could not have a pet when she was growing up. After 65 years, she finally got her first dog — a Hungarian hunting dog, known as a Vizsla, whom she named Willy. This was their first Rainbow Bridge Walk. Before her mom died two years ago, they had had a running joke about it.
“I kept telling my mom when she kicks the bucket, I’m getting a dog,” she said. “So I did.”