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“The Light In My Dark World.”

The unveiling of 12 more Superheros On Parade 2017 took place last Thursday evening at the TradeWinds Island Resorts. Each dog sculpture was sponsored by local businesses and individuals to help raise funds for Southeastern Guide Dogs. The design of the dog was created by sculptor Scott Joseph Moore. When he began working on the design and production of the Superheroes on Parade sculptures, Scott discovered that the dogs in his hands became part of his own healing process, as he mourned the loss of his own beloved dog. He found comfort, knowing that the sculptures supported something so meaningful.

Once sponsored, each sculpture was given to one of 12 local artists and transformed into a collaborative vision. There was the TradeWinds Island Resorts own “Splash” by artist Elizabeth Fontaine-Barr. And “Rover,” sponsored by Annex 400 Beach, transformed by artist Marc Levasseur. Artist Anthony Hernandez created “Jack” who was sponsored by TitosVodka (the vodka for dog people, by the way).

Splash, by artist Elizabeth Fontaine-Barr. Sponsored by TradeWinds Island Resorts. Photograph by Anna Cooke.

Nancy Safford Westphal, Steve Westphal and artist Marc Levasseur pose with “Rover.” Photograph by Anna Cooke.
“Jack” by artist Anthony Hernandez. Sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Photograph by Anna Cooke.

Two of the most moving creations were sponsored by Jim Barge and Dawn McKnight. Rigby, created by artist Debbie Marucci, honors the brave Americans lost in Operation Red Wings. And “The Protector” Murph, created by artist Zach Gilliland, honors American hero, U.S. Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy, killed in action in Operation Red Wings.

“The Protector Murph” by artist Zach Gilliland. Sponsored by Jim Barge and Dawn McKnight.
“Rigby” by artist Debbie Marucci. Sponsored by Jim Barge and Dawn McKnight. Photograph by Anna Cooke.

When Shauna English spoke about her Southeastern Guide Dog PJ, there wasn’t a sound at the reception, except for the soft sniffles from a very moved crowd. “She is my Guide Gal,” Shauna said, “She constantly tells me that she is the most beautiful Lab ever. And I believe her.”

Shauna’s story begins almost two years ago, over Memorial Day weekend. She lost her vision following a stroke in her optic nerves. A year to the day later, over another Memorial Day weekend, Shauna woke up with massive headaches. One of her eyes had to be surgically removed as a result of complications from glaucoma.

“My life was just gone until PJ came to me. We’re so in tune – she just knows. And I’m in love. I joke that I came to Southeastern Guide Dogs looking for a soul mate. Instead, I found my heartbeat.”

Shauna shared something her mother always used to say to her, “You can get up, dress up and show up.” And that’s just what Shauna and PJ always do. They dress up and show up. PJ always wears something decorative on her collar that complements what Shauna is wearing.

“I have a confession. Yes, PJ sleeps with me in bed. And, I sing to her constantly.” Shauna shared with her audience that each night, before they fall asleep, she sings this to PJ:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are blue. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

“PJ,” added Shauna, “is the light in my dark world.”

PJ, Shauna English’s light in her dark world. Photograph by Anna Cooke.

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