Surf Dog: A Gone Dog No More


Some dogs have all the luck. The dog in this story has had all that luck, and then some.  As a road-running stray, he captured the imagination of animal lovers in Ochlocknee, Panacea, and Crawfordville, Florida. Today, they call him Buddy and he lives with Ivanhoe and Cliff Carroll, plus various other animal friends on their spread down in Ochlocknee, Florida. But before he came to live with the Carrolls, locals in the area called him Surf Dog. A nickname he was given because he lived in the woods by the water tower off Surf Road. 

Head down on the white line

A man and woman sitting next to each other on a bench.
Cliff and Ivanhoe Carroll talking about Surf Dog at their home in Ochlocknee, FL.

Surf Dog survived on handouts and his quick wits, avoiding capture by animal control for a least a couple of years.  Ivanhoe was the director of Wakulla Animal Services, and she remembers those days when Surf was on the run, “Everybody was concerned for him.  Everyone tried to catch him, which was just not possible.”  Locals would see him running the road between Tallahassee and the coast when storms would erupt.  He was frightened by lightning and thunder, which would send him scurrying, head down, on the white line.  Sometimes for weeks at a time.  “You could get up close to him or you could try to intercept him with a hotdog, or a steak and he just had his head down in a trot going down that white line, going away from what was frightening him…”  But he always made his way back to the water tower on Surf Road.  It’s a miracle he wasn’t hit by a car. 

Surf Dog had a Facebook page

Surf wasn’t anti-social, just cautious.  He would take handouts from many of the locals and would even let some of them occasionally touch him.  The difference between Surf Dog and other stray dogs was his social media presence.  Surf Dog had a Facebook page. 

A woman in glasses looking at the camera.
Cheryl Minskey talks about efforts to capture Surf Dog when he was running, and response to his Facebook page.

“I saw him here, I saw him there, all the way to where he got.” 

Cheryl Minskey didn’t create his Facebook page, but she did become its administrator.  She says, “He would run all the way to Tallahassee…you would know that he was running, everybody started posting pictures. ‘I saw him here, I saw him there, all the way to where he got.’” Social media allowed people to communicate his whereabouts, post snapshots of him, express their fears and feelings, and romanticize his adventurous life.

Meet him at the water tower

Bill Russell lives in Ochlocknee, off Surf Road and he took it upon himself to make sure Surf Dog got a square meal every morning, assuming he wasn’t on the run.  He would meet him at the water tower and then post his “conversations” with “The Boy” or “Buddy”, on the Facebook page for others to read.  Cheryl recalls, “The Surf page kind of evolved from a page that was just tracking him to a page where we could tune in every morning and read Bill’s story about how Surf came up to him or didn’t come up to him or, whatever it was.”  Without Facebook, we probably would have never heard of Surf Dog/Buddy. 

A yellow dog and a man sitting on a bench.  They are looking at each other.
Bill Russell made sure that Surf Dog had a square meal every day. He would look for Surf at the water tower each morning where they became good friends.

He has a great life now

A yellow dog standing next to a fence with a donkey.
Surf Dog, now renamed Buddy at home in his backyard with his pet donkey.

Surf Dog/Buddy has a great life now.  He has a safe home, companionship, and lots of room to be a dog.  And when lightning and thunder strike, he has a warm, dry bed to hunker down in.  I would say that this was a good outcome of the use of social media.  But the huge difference in the outcome between Surf Dog’s story and that of countless thousands of other stray dogs speaks to the power of social media in our daily lives.  Over 4 thousand caring people bought into his Surf Dog’s online tale.  This time, it had a happy ending. 


+ posts

Mike Plummer is a content producer and editor for television at WFSU Public Media. He spent 25 years in commercial television as an art director, commercial director, promotion manager, station manager and creative services director before coming to WFSU in 2008. Mike likes to find the “unusual” or “out of the ordinary” stories in our Local Routes. He says the best part of his job is getting to know people he would otherwise probably not get a chance to meet. Mike is widowed, has two terriers named Truman and Dexter, and is constantly at war with the vines growing in his backyard.