Four-legged heroes emerge from Hurricane IanJan 24, 2023 08:00AM ● By Holly Hamilton
Brian Boddie reunites with his dogs, Benny and Minnie, following Hurricane Ian. He is joined by United Way’s Annie Noel, Jenn Carolluzzi and Hannah Pelle.
For four days, Brian Boddie was trapped under debris in his North Fort Myers home following Hurricane Ian. Without his phone, water, food or medicine, all he had were his two dogs, Mini and Benny, who never left his side.
“My little boy Benny kept bringing me kibble to feed me, and my little girl Mini laid on my chest to keep me warm and keep me going,” says Boddie.
A long-time volunteer of United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties, Boddie is no stranger to the power of pet therapy. For the past four years, Boddie has been volunteering with Beelsye's Paw Prints, a United Way program that brings registered therapy dogs like Benny and Mini to visit local United Way Partner Agencies and schools, providing “paw-sitive” stimulation for children and adults who may be experiencing illness or depression.
“Dogs can do what we cannot, they literally keep people going,” says Jenn Carolluzzi, Beesley’s Paw Prints program coordinator at United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades. “In Brian’s case, they saved his life. We’re grateful, and I told Benny, ‘Thank you for saving your dad, thank you.’”
“These dogs were born to do this,” says Boddie. “You can’t create that kind of dog; it’s got to be in them.”
Eventually, Boddie was able to muster up the strength to crawl outside where a passerby found him. He was taken by ambulance to Lee Memorial where he underwent an amputation of his leg due to infection.
Following multiple surgeries Boddie has been recovering remarkably well. He is walking with a prosthetic, and has resumed his volunteer role with United Way, bringing Benny and Mini to local churches and nonprofits to continue their work of bringing care and comfort to those who need it most.
For information about United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades and Beesley’s Paw Prints, visit unitedwaylee.org/beesleys-paw-prints/.
Holly Hamilton is a Southwest Florida-based storyteller focusing on people, places and partnerships.