Caroline Johnson of Palm Coast was nominated by many people in the community for being a positive person in our community. Caroline Johnson currently runs the Lost and Found Pets page on Facebook, as well as being the founder of SMART, a local animal rescue that helps save dogs from abusive situations and gets them the help they need to flourish.
This last week we sat down with Caroline to find out more about her story, and how she got to be so involved with the animal and pet population here in Flagler County.
It turns out that Caroline’s story started back when she was a teenager. At 14, she told me, her father died on his way to rehab for a Heroin addiction. When she was old enough she got involved with working for rehab centers, helping people recover from their addictions. In her 20’s though she was involved in a terrible car accident that left her with life long injuries and issues. These injuries have prevented her from going back to work in the rehabilitation field, and ultimately landed her on disability. She said that was something she struggled with at first; being so young and being put on disability.
It was when she moved here to Flagler County and a year later adopted a dog named Bosco that the pieces started to slowly fall into place as far as getting involved with the animals here in Flagler. Bosco, she said, was where the passion for animals started. Bosco’s story was that he was a lost dog, and no family ever came to claim him. It was after she adopted Bosco that she joined the Lost and Found Pets page, and every year after that she slowly just got more involved until she was an admin of the page and then she was running it. Now she is a pillar in the pet community, and she is the person everyone calls when they need help finding a pet. Her passion for the animals in our community has a way of uniting the people around her to work together to provide these furry friends of ours with everything they need.
Caroline started the foundation SMART, last year. SMART is a 501c3 non-profit organization that rescues animals and helps get them adopted or fostered with families. Caroline goes one step further and helps any animal in need. Whether they need medical attention, professional training, or even boarding training, she rallies the community to raise the money so that these dogs can overcome their past history and be their best furry self.
When asked how she felt about being someone the community looks up to as an inspiration Caroline said, “It’s humbling, it’s very humbling. It’s a rewarding feeling to know that I have done enough good that people appreciate it and recognize it.” In response to the overwhelming number of people who nominated her, she had this to say, “Thank you for trusting in me with the animals and knowing that I will always give my best for them. Thank you for trusting in me that I will always do the right thing when it comes to the animals and for the community.”
We talked about the inspirations that keep her going, because running a foundation and a lost and found pets page can be exhausting. We wanted to know what keeps her inspired to keep pushing forward even when its tough, or she’s tired. She told us, “I would say two things. The happiness when you see a family reunited with their pet is the best feeling, to see the joy, and the relief. The other is, to see the abused ones, the dumped ones, convert over and they start trusting you and you see the fear turn into love. That to me is extremely rewarding.”
Caroline and I also talked about some of the challenges that she faces everyday with lost pets and SMART along with how she overcomes those challenges. Financial needs are one of the biggest needs that she faces because we all know vet bills are not cheap. The other big challenge she faces is having a place to house the animals that are lost, abused, rescued, or surrendered. Caroline is currently working on a foster list to help keep track of who has dogs, who can foster, etc., to help match up dogs to families faster. They are currently looking and working towards finding and purchasing a property to eventually build on.
When asked about how she hopes her story inspires the community around her, Caroline said, “I hope it inspires people to speak up more when it comes to the animals with abuse. Have more of a dedication to work through behavior issues with a dog instead of giving up on them. Volunteer your time to help the animals; if it it isn’t SMART, there are other shelters.” We asked Caroline what she would say to the community in general as to how to impact the animal community, “Fostering, foster a dog, it saves a life.”
We wanted to know what was the most memorable interaction she has had with the community since starting SMART? “Catching the dog in Flagler Beach. His name was Rocky, he went missing while his family was here visiting a few months ago. We had to use kayaks to go over to where he was missing, me and some of the residents, to go across the water to where he was on a little barrier island. The community effort and support was over the top. Neighbors were pulling kayaks for us to use, helping me bring a trap over on a kayak to another island, Paul from Tortugas arranging for the family to come have a free dinner afterwards before getting on the road. It was just the whole support network that was there for it, seeing that and the family when I was able to hand their dog back to them. It was incredible, and it was one of the memorable ones.”
We also wanted to know who was Caroline’s biggest inspiration. “Annie Conrad, a local detective with the FCSO. She’s a friend, she’s one I’ve done rescue together for years. We met with doing the lost pets stuff, and her passion for animals, I would like to compare to it with mine, but hers is probably more intense than what mine is. Her passion is huge for the animals; mine is dogs, hers is everything including wildlife. She will do anything to save and see an animal happy and healthy. She is never too busy, she puts the animals before everything.”