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Skyway dog finds a new home

The dog's former owner died after jumping from the bridge in May, taking Shasta with him.

By BRAD GOLDSTEIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 30, 1998


INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- Shasta, the Rottweiler who survived a fall from the Sunshine Skyway bridge and fascinated animal lovers as far away as Great Britain, has a new owner, a spacious new home and a new boyfriend who chews tennis balls and plastic baseball bats.

Carmen Barron, 52, of Indian Rocks Beach, adopted the dog after inquiring about the animal's plight.

An avid animal lover, Barron lives on nearly 2 acres of land near the Intracoastal Waterway. Her two-story home is like something out of Dr. Doolittle, the fictitious and eccentric veterinarian who tended to the animals of Victorian England. A red-shouldered hawk and a family of raccoons frequently visit her back yard. Her two adopted cats frolic with her housemate Hank, a 100-pound male Rottweiler with a congenital heart defect, and bass swim in her pond.

Although the adoption paperwork is expected to be completed Friday, the Pinellas County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has agreed to let Shasta stay at Barron's home.

"(Shasta) is just fine," said Barron. "She's been chasing squirrels and egrets. She and Hank are having a great old time. She's only been here a day. I did buy them both a swimming pool."

Beth Lockwood, executive director of the Pinellas County SPCA, picked Barron from more than 50 people who applied to adopt Shasta. The dog became an international sensation after she survived a 197-foot fall from the Skyway in May when her owner committed suicide.

"It's like a wildlife sanctuary," Lockwood said of Barron's home. "She's raised animals her whole life. Her daughter is in veterinary school. She's also used to Rottweilers. . . . She sounded so right."

A St. Petersburg veterinarian out on a fishing trip plucked Shasta from the Gulf of Mexico while rescue officers attempted to recover the body of her owner, John P. Radd, 44, of Lakeland. Florida Highway Patrol officers found Shasta's leash and collar in Radd's abandoned car.

As a result of the fall, the 100-pound dog suffered neurological damage to its front right paw. Animal workers also noticed Shasta had an aversion to strangers.

But with some medical attention and loads of love, Shasta has made remarkable improvements.

"She's done a 180-degree turnaround," Lockwood said. "She's not a vicious dog or an aggressive biter by any means."

During the past two months, Shasta has undergone extensive rehabilitation. She still walks with a faint limp.

Animal lovers from around Tampa Bay donated money to help pay for part of Shasta's medical bills. The SPCA paid most of the veterinary costs.

Lockwood said dog lovers from Great Britain and Canada called the Largo Veterinary Hospital to inquire about Shasta's recuperation.

Shortly after Shasta's plight made headlines, a Tampa couple and a Lakeland woman both called Lockwood claiming to be the dog's owner. After some detective work, however, it appeared Radd had owned two Rottweilers named Shasta. The first animal died in Radd's care; the second was the dog who survived the jump.

The Tampa couple decided to relinquish its claim to Shasta and have the dog placed for adoption.

Barron is delighted with her new addition.

"(Shasta) spent the night sleeping on the couch," Barron said. "I came down in the morning and found her sleeping on a pillow that said "Home is where the heart is.' "


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