A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.

Nobody is ever really inspired by statistics alone. People are inspired by something that will create meaning in their lives. Karyn Ringhaver of Apollo Beach knew she had much to be grateful for. She loved her family and friends, and always put their needs and comfort before her own. She was a champion of the underdog and could rally her friends to join her causes, the strongest of which was the wellbeing of animals, especially dogs.

For years, Karyn volunteered at Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. Her commitment and vision to help homeless dogs escape the threat of euthanasia inspired her friends to join her as at the shelter.

Karyn Ringhaver, Jagger (shortly before he died) and Maggie. Photo courtesy of the Ringhaver family.

Then, in 2007, Karyn’s beloved Yellow Labrador passed away from bladder cancer. How would she ever get over the loss? Determined to honor this dog’s life not by grieving, but by helping more dogs, Karyn had a vision that would become Jagger’s Dream.

Years ago, the late Steve Jobs, legendary entrepreneur and Apple CEO, was also Disney’s largest shareholder. A Disney executive charged with revitalizing the Disney stores, turned to Jobs for advice. Jobs response was simple: “Dream bigger.”

According to Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo, a compelling vision that inspires everyone’s best efforts meets four criteria: Big dreams are bold. Big dreams are specific. Big dreams are memorable. Big dreams are consistent. Jagger’s Dream now encompasses all of these, but the vision’s humble beginnings started out with a more concise focus.

Through her work at the Pet Resource Center, Karyn noticed that the dogs confiscated as a result of human criminal activities, were held at the shelter for months, sometimes even years, during litigation, without socialization. They were the forgotten ones, the un-adoptables, with nowhere to run. Karyn convinced her friends to join her in fundraising efforts that would lead to the creation of a park for those dogs. Jagger Park, a fenced-in grassy area on the campus of Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, was officially opened in March, 2008.

The fundraising efforts of Jagger’s Dream Team, as they were affectionately known, were so successful that there was money left over. That money was used to help shelter dogs with medical issues, which the shelter could not afford to provide, like heartworm treatment. These efforts meant that more dogs would be successfully adopted, resulting in less dogs being euthanized. Jagger’s Dream Team was unstoppable. Members would come to the shelter to walk the dogs, clean kennels or “fluff them up” as Sue Green, one of Karyn’s friends and a volunteer, described.

“When we left the kennels at the end of our volunteer shifts, you could hear a pin drop. The dogs were that tired after our walks and time spent with them,” said Alyce McCathran, another friend and Jagger’s Dream Team member.

Four years after Jagger’s Dream Fund was created, Karyn was diagnosed with cancer. She continued tirelessly volunteering and fundraising for Jagger’s Dream. Her friends were amazed at her resilience, but not surprised. She had six rescue dogs of her own at home and cooked for them twice a day. Her sense of humor never waned. And she continued asking about the health and wellbeing of others.

Chris Carter, who has worked for Lance Ringhaver (Karyn’s husband) since 1985 said, “I witnessed Karyn’s love of animals and her desire to help them early on. Her level of commitment was infectious to everyone who loved her. You could not say no to Karyn.”

Karyn lost her battle with leukemia on August 19, 2014. While she was alive, Jagger’s Dream was a ragtag group of friends making a difference in the lives of dogs. “We were seat of the pants,” smiled Cathy Unruh, one of Karyn’s friends.

Today, Jagger’s Dream, Inc. is a 501(C)(3) non-profit that continues to help not only dogs, but also cats in Karyn’s honor and memory. Her friends continue to volunteer at the shelter and donate to the fund each month.

County-run shelters don’t always have the funds to help all of the sick, injured, and heartworm positive dogs in their care. In the last year alone, by covering the medical costs, Jagger’s Dream has helped more than 200 dogs find forever homes from Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. Jagger’s Dream has also partnered with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to help lower the cost of heartworm treatment. These efforts not only help increase adoptions, they help lower owner surrenders, ultimately saving more dogs from euthanasia.

“God gave us animals to have dominion over them in order to care for them. We are the stewards of the earth. Jagger’s Dream has been very fulfilling for me,” said Chris. “I’m grateful that we’re able to continue supporting Jagger’s Dream. And, thank goodness for the rescue groups that have stepped up to help.”

“By keeping Jagger’s Dream alive, we’re keeping Karyn’s dream going,” said Cathy “Keeping Karyn’s legacy alive keeps her with us,” she added.

The original Jagger’s Dream team: Sue Green, Chris Carter, Alyce McCathran and Cathy Unruh, shown here with Boomer. Photograph by Jacqui Silla for The New Barker.

SIDEBAR: Jagger’s Dream board of directors includes Alyce McCathran, Sue Green, Chris Carter, Lance Ringhaver and Cathy Unruh. They decide on a case-by-case basis which cases to fund. After adopting a dog, the new pet owner reimburses Jagger’s Dream fund what they can, if they are able. Such was the case of Josh and Boomer.

Since moving to Florida from Texas three years ago, Josh had been without a dog. He knew, when the time was right, that he would end up adopting a dog. Josh attended a dog adoption event and met Boomer at the Florida Big Dog Rescue (FBDR) tent. “I saw Boomer and fell in love with him right away,” said Josh.

Boomer had already been adopted and returned to the shelter once, coming back with medical issues. Jagger’s Dream covered Boomer’s medical expenses and Florida Big Dog Rescue pulled him from the shelter. After Josh adopted the dog, he ended up paying back all of the medical expenses to Jagger’s Dream. Josh affectionately calls Boomer a Pocket Rotti. “We run a lot together,” said Josh. “We go to the Mango Dog Park and I make sure he receives plenty of exercise and attention every day.”

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, by Anna Cooke, first appeared in the winter 2015/16 edition of The New Barker. For more information on Jagger’s Dream, visit http://www.JaggersDream.org