The power of the pooch

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Siesta friends create means of transporting their dogs, maintaining a special bond

By Jane Bartnett

This is the story of four best friends who one Siesta Key morning, 12 years ago, found each other at the popular Bean Coffee spot in Davidson Plaza. Two of those best friends, Riley and Bodhi, are of the four-legged, canine variety. And they never leave the sides of their own two-legged, human friends — Jackie Baumann and Andi Chappell.
When the foursome first met, both dogs were quite young. Jackie, an IT executive, and Andi, a marketing executive, were working remotely from their Siesta Key home offices. Both enjoyed starting their day by walking their pups and stopping for a quiet cup of coffee. Although the women had hopes of socializing at the coffee shop, their dogs had other ideas. That’s where it all began.
Jackie’s dog Riley, a golden retriever was, as she recalled, “a leash-eating puppy at the coffee shop.” When Andi arrived with Bodhi, a shepherd and saluki mix, the two women began to talk but the two pups weren’t getting along. Despite the challenging situation, the two ended up chatting for an hour. As the days and months went by, their meetings continued, and the two dogs came to an amicable truce.
“They tolerated each other,” said Andi, as both women laughed.
And a friendship began that has held through the years.
One summer day, the women decided that they and their husbands would get together for a weekend visit while both couples were vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina. Jackie and her husband, Mike, drove with Riley to the house of Andi and her husband, Greg. When Riley jumped out of the car, Bodhi greeted him with all the joy and enthusiasm of seeing a long-lost friend. The two pups played and ran together the whole weekend. They never looked back. The two families grew closer. When Jackie and Mike traveled, Riley stayed with his best friend Bodhi at Andi’s and Greg’s home.
The years went by and when Mike was injured in a car crash in Mexico, Andi, Greg and Bodhi were there for their friends. They’ve also weathered other storms together, including Hurricane Ian.
“We got through it,” said Andi.
“The two dogs and the four people,” said Jackie. “We packed up, hoped that we’d have houses to return to, and moved to a hotel in Lakewood Ranch. Together. We made it through.”

From left, Andi Chappell, Jackie Baumann, Riley, and Bodhi. (submitted photo)


Another storm that the two families are facing came as a terrible surprise when Riley’s veterinarian diagnosed the furry gentle giant with leukemia. The news came at a time when both dogs were showing signs of aging, and both were having trouble with their back legs. The best friends’ daily walks around Siesta Key became a challenge. As Riley began chemotherapy treatments, the human friends came up with a solution. The two women would attach wheeled carts to their bikes and instead of a walk, they’d all bike ride around the Key together.
Greg, a builder, spent hours designing a cart for the long-legged Bodhi that attaches to Andi’s bike. Jackie found a perfectly sized dog cart on wheels that attaches to her bike. When the women presented the canine chariots to the dogs, Bodhi and Riley got right in. They were ready for their ride.
“It’s as though they’re saying, let’s go somewhere,” said Andi.
Both dogs consider each other’s home their own. Although Riley has some difficult days, he loves riding behind Jackie on her bike with the wind blowing through his golden locks. His friends Bodhi and Andi are right there with him. Bodhi is in his cart and Andi leads the way on her bike.
When Bodhi and Andi come to visit, both pups howl in delight.
“They’re always so happy to see each other,” said Andi.
When it came time to celebrate Riley’s 13th birthday, Andi, Greg, and Bodhi created a special party for their pal. The two dogs enjoyed three-tiered birthday cakes made of beef with pumpkin sauce and wonderful memories were made.
“We are so grateful that we live here and that we found each other,” said Andi.
Added Jackie, “It takes a lot of energy to be good friends. We have this vision of finding a compound together someday.”
During the days of COVID-19, the two started a butterfly garden in Jackie’s yard.
“We’ve released hundreds of butterflies,” said Andi.
As a beautiful orange butterfly fluttered by, the two dogs lay together on Jackie’s and Mike’s patio. “OK, let’s go,” said Andi. As though on cue, Bodhi and Riley stood together and followed behind Jackie and Andi on the way to their bikes and carts.
The two women helped each other to load the pups and the two furry best friends settled in and glanced over at each other. Jackie and Andi got on their bikes and away they went. It was time for the four best friends to take a ride through the Key. And, as dogs love to do, it was time check out the latest neighborhood sights and smells.

 

Riley (left) and Bodhi share in a holiday snuggle. (submitted photo)
Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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