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Slam Daddy’s surprise

Chapman gets a puppy for his birthday

Something unusual happened to Patty Matuszewski’s party of four while they were vacationing on St. George Island about
a month ago.

It had not been the easiest of two years since a nightmarish day, July 6, 2019, when her 42-year-old son Jereme Ryan Anselm was driving his girlfriend Cassie’s father’s car to take it in for an oil
change when a tire dropped off the side of the road, and in the sudden
confusion, the vehicle hit a tree. He was killed instantly.

Cassie’s 4-year-old son Chapman in the backseat had
to be airlifted to a hospital in Evansville, Indiana, where he spent his fifth
birthday recuperating.

Chapman missed out on a birthday party last year due to
COVID-19, so this year they wanted to give the second grader something special to
celebrate. Since what he most wanted was to go to the beach, Patty, Cassie Thompson,
Chapman, and Chapman’s father Shane got into Patty’s 4Runner and took the
11-hour trip from Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky.

Patty and husband Mark know the island, they’ve come down here for at least
a dozen years. Mark stayed home with the couple’s three rescue dogs – a black Labrador Retriever, a Treeing Walker Coonhound, and a
mixed breed – in Ballard County, where the retired couple lease their land for growing row crops,  and Mark farms his duck hole for fun, flooded in agreement with the state for several months to help waterfowl migration.

For Chapman’s birthday, July 8, the four enjoyed a meal at
the Owl Café and after returning to their place at 300 Ocean Mile, they went
down to the beach before retiring for the evening.

“I’m an old lady so I had to go back to go to bed,” said
Patty. “I headed back and while I was spraying my feet to wash the sand off, I
noticed a box beside my 4Runner’s door. The winds were still up a little from Hurricane
Elsa so I didn’t think much of it ‘till I heard a whimper from the box.

over to check the box out, there was a slight opening in the top of the box for
air and one puppy was trying to wiggle his nose through. I thought ‘Omigod
there’s puppies in there.’” she said. “I don’t know if I was horrified or sick at what I
saw, but definitely caught off-guard.

“After we got over the shock, we thought ‘Who’s going to do
that?’ We gave them water real quick, put them in the apartment and then went
to find some food for them,” she said. “Cassie, Shane and Chapman came up, but
the only one who was excited was Chapman.”

Turns out Jared Willett, 26, of Carrabelle, had dropped the
six pups off there, and a seventh one days later at the Ho-Hum RV Park outside Lanark Village. He was later arrested on seven first-degree misdemeanor charges of animal abandonment,
and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning, Sept. 2 before County
Judge Gordon Shuler.

“I would just like to know why he chose my vehicle?” Patty
wondered, after learning about the arrest from their friends, Angela
and Larry Troy, at Island Outfitters.

Traveling down through Alabama had taken Patty’s party past
familiar territory. “Thank goodness we passed the Humane Society on our many
treks to St. George Island, we go past it all the time,” she said, and so she was well aware of the no-kill shelter’s policies, and the sympathetic views of the people

“Knowing that the areas were animal-friendly made it easy to
take them there,” she said. “I did call them first and they told me to go ahead
and bring them in.”

Karen Martin, the shelter director, said the facility will
either adopt a dog out, or transfer it to another rescue. “As a Humane Society
our primary concern has to be public safety, so if we end up with an aggressive
dog, we can’t in good conscience adopt that dog out knowing it might hurt
someone or a child,” she said.

As for euthanasia, “the only time is if there is overt
aggression or their physical condition is so far gone we can’t save them,”
Martin said.

The half-dozen minus one that Patty brought in July 9 “were
fine, they were well-fed and well-socialized,” said the shelter director. They’re named Justice, Hero, Liberty, Patriot and Honor.

“We kept one,” said Patty. “Chapman picked which one he
wanted for his birthday, which was hard for him since they were all so sweet.
Saint George was the name he chose for the puppy, who is precious and spoiled

“We considered the puppy a gift from heaven,” she said.

After the family handed the puppies over, they continued on
with Saint George to Oysterbones, where “we got all kinds of really neat things, a dog bed, toys, leash and all that,” said Patty. “He was such
a cute little puppy.

“It’s how you raise a dog, not the breed itself,” she said. “They’re
so misjudged.”

Fairly or unfairly, pit bulls, themselves a mixed breed,
have an inflated reputation that is enticing to some, but can hinder their acceptance
by others.

“There are certain kinds, blue nosed, red nosed, blue pit, these
people who breed have their own language,” said Martin, providing some insight
into why Willett, who told police he was a breeder, had rejected the litter of

“Many of them had blue merle marking, an indication it
(bred) with a Catahoula,” she said.

“Go to any shelter website you’ll see pit bull after pit in
their shelter,” Martin said. “People think they sell but a lot of time they can’t.
People don’t want them.

“They can’t get insurance for their home, or the landlord
won’t allow them,” she said. “They’re strong dogs, headstrong, high energy, and
they don’t fit into certain households. So they give it to a shelter or it’s dumped
on the side of a road. They end up in shelters and they sit there and they get euthanized.

“The last thing anybody needs to be doing is breeding pits,”
Martin said. “He (Willett) could have
driven here at night, put them in a safe pen overnight until we got there the
next day. There’s no excuse for dumping any animal anywhere when the Humane Society makes available safe haven.”

Martin’s staff had little difficulty adopting out
the entire boxful, plus the one at Ho-Hum. “We named him Rebel and
he was adopted by a wonderful couple out of Havana,” Martin said.

Back in Possum Trot, Kentucky, where Chapman lives, Saint George is fitting right in. The two share a secret hideout, somewhere on the farm, only they know where it is.

In the precious few early childhood years they shared together,
Chapman had grown close to Jereme Anselm. “People had a hard time pronouncing it, so he
got nicknamed by his football team and classmates as ‘Slam,’” said mom.

“Slam Daddy, that’s what Chapman always called him,” Patty said. “The puppy we believe was a gift from Slam Daddy who also loved dogs.”

She still has her moments, but to fill the void of her son’s
death, she’s helped start Slam’s Outreach, a 501c3 nonprofit, in keeping with the work of her son, a union carpenter in
Paducah, known for his outgoing nature.

“Jereme was always trying to help people, it was just his personality,”
Patty said. “That’s what we’re doing and that keeps me focused. We’re trying to
start a soup kitchen and emergency shelter.

“We’ve been hit by floods and ice storms, and people didn’t have
places to go. It is something we need in our county,” she said. “You get a
small county like ours, we got to help ourselves.”

Just as Slam’s life will live on helping others, it
lives on in Chapman, in the form of a no-longer abandoned puppy.

Patty said Cassie
called her the other day and shared something unusual she’s noticed in Saint George’s blue eyes that remind her of her lost love.

“She said ‘this puppy has a lazy eye just like Slam,’” said
mom. “My son had baby blue eyes like this puppy and he had kind of a lazy eye.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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