From the Streets to Fame and Service

To look at Joey now as he shuffles slowly from room to room, you’d never know that he’s been a show dog and a service dog. Rescued by Jacki during her stint as the manager of the Bahamas Humane Shelter, Joey has not only lived a full life but he’s given one to Jacki too. Thanks to him, she’s visited set stages and discovered a German dog sport called Schutzhund.

I should talk to you about Joey. He’s my “potcake” from Freeport Bahamas. Joey’s now 16! He’s such a good dog & has lived an amazing life.

After landing a role in a music video in the Bahamas and then a gig with PetSmart for a summer doing advertisements, Joey’s career in show business took off. He appeared in numerous public service announcements. Allure and Glamour magazines used him for different ads. He got hired by Animal Planet and Disney Channel and was an extra in the movie Marley and Me. Locally, Animal Control heard about Joey’s acting career and asked if they could use him for public relations. Joey appeared in their public service announcements as a lost dog, reasons to license your animal, don’t leave dogs in hot cars, etc.

As his owner and handler, Jacki often received the red carpet treatment. Highlights for her were being flown more than once to Canada, staying at Grey Gardens in the Hamptons for a week, and attending a “black-tie affair” with actor Alex Baldwin. “This was all due to Joey and the exposure he got me.”

Joey was indirectly responsible for another change in Jacki’s life. Jacki had spent most of her life training dogs in obedience but, thanks to Joey gaining notoriety in the Bahamas and Florida, she started receiving numerous more training requests including ones specifically for show. In addition, the folks whom she worked with in show business introduced her to a German dog sport called Schutzhund. She’s now a certified international judge and travels all over the United States, Canada, and Germany judging Schutzhund trials.

I have a life-long history of animal companions, including dogs, cats, horses, ducks, rats, ferrets, lizard, snakes, fish, and a frog named Fred.

Jacki seems to have been destined from a young age to work with animals. By age five, Jacki was training her own dogs and even walking her neighbor’s dogs. At seven, she was also competing full time with her first horse, and later she spent four years exercising horses on a race track. In 1989, Jacki joined the National Guard, where her passion for animals continued to shine. While serving the United States in Operation Desert Storm, she adopted and obedience-trained three stray dogs. After her years of service, Jacki met her husband Charlie and traveled the world while continuing her professional dog training.

How did Joey come into Jacki’s life? While she was serving as the president of the Grand Bahama Humane Society, Joey was brought into the shelter. A lady who was driving down the highway saw him laying on the side of the road and thought he was dead. When she realized that he was still alive, she picked up the three-week-old-puppy and took him to the shelter. “Joey is what they call a ‘potcake’. That is a stray dog in the Bahamas. They call them this because they would throw out the bottom of their pots after cooking to the wild dogs, and they called that a potcake.”

An experienced pet foster parent, Jacki took Joey home and began bottle-feedings because he wasn’t big enough or strong enough to eat on his own. She never intended to keep him. Once he was strong enough to eat on his own, Jacki brought him back to the shelter. But Joey stared at her as she turned to leave. That stare caused her to scoop him back up and take him home.

Joey's appearance in Marley & Me
Joey’s appearance in Marley & Me

In some ways, Joey is just a normal pet that liked to make trouble. Jacki recalls how he used to run circles around one of her German Shepherds when they would go to the beach. Jack would never go in the water and Joey knew this. Joey would tease Jack, and when Jack would start to chase him, Joey would just run into the ocean. This went on for months, happening almost every day, until one day Jack got fed up with Joey and ran into the water after Joey. “He caught him and almost drowned him. Joey never teased him again!”

Joey is very conceited about being a star, but he deserves the fame. He’s made a lot of money in his years. We still keep in contact with many friends in the Bahamas and Florida that were made thru Joey.

In other ways, Joey is a remarkable dog. As I noted at the start of this article, he changed Jacki’s life by getting them into show business. While Jacki was the President of the Grand Bahama Humane Society, a company from Florida was hired to make a music video for them. The star of the video was “Amigo”, a feral potcake that the shelter had caught, tamed, and socialized. As Amigo’s friend, Joey was invited to star alongside him in the video. Things took off from there.

Jacki notes that days on the sets were long but easy because of Joey. Other dogs required several takes, but not so with Joey. They liked him on set because he learned quick.

I like to think that he has changed many lives in the education classes. All the kids loved him and they really paid attention when he was there. Sometimes while I would talk, he would just walk around from kid to kid letting them all pet him. Hopefully this turned them it to good responsible pet owners, compassionate and mindful people. I truly believe he understood what he was doing and tried to make a difference.

Joey has served Jacki as more than a show dog. When Joey was about two, Jacki started using him as an education dog. She brought him to schools at least once a month. “Joey was very good with all kids, especially the special needs ones. One school was for only Down Syndrome kids. Joey was very patient and kind around them.” Joey was so popular that Jacki would frequently receive letters requesting another visit, and they’d always be addressed to Joey.

Joejoey_servicebadgey also helped Jacki with her vertigo. She trained Joey to balance her and then got him certified as a service dog. “When I fly, my vertigo flares up and sometimes I have severe cases where I’m very dizzy. He always stayed close to me and kept me in check.”

The role of a service dog is a dignified position, and most of the time Joey lived up to this status. Jacki recalls one time, however, when he was very sick and threw up everywhere. “That was a little embarrassing, but we got through it, and once we got on the plane he was okay.”

Joey also served as Jacki’s personal protection dog. “When I had him in the car with me, you could not touch me from the outside.” She also trained him to bark if anyone honked the car or wore orange (as in a safety vest).

Joey is strong, confident, cocky, and you either love him or hate him! He’s one of the smartest dogs I know. You show him something once and he’s got it for life.

I recently visited Jacki at her home near Lincoln. It should be no surprise that both her work life and recreational life continue to revolve around dogs. For the past six years, she has held a position with Animal Control. She’s also currently a member of several dog clubs, and with her husband continues to busily train dogs for Schutzhund. The two also remain involved with rescue, with four of their dogs being from shelters.

joeyAs for Joey, he’s now sixteen, and has a hard time getting around. “He’s now deaf and half blind, but he’s still the alpha dog in the house of three other dogs. They all greatly respect him.” During my visit, he made an appearance, but then returned to his bed to sleep. He’s given so much of himself over the years that he deserves now to live the pampered life.

Has a pet changed your life? We’d love to hear your story! In particular, we’re seeking stories about cats, birds, horses, and exotics. No matter what type, animals can make a difference and we’d like to share those ways.


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