Cute dogs will grow on you, just ask the Kelly Plantation Garden Club.

Dogs need comfortable safe homes and depend on humans to provide that for them in return for their unconditional love that flows from every eager eye and every thumping tail. Sometimes however, things go awry and dogs find themselves in abusive situations, abandoned to the elements of an often frightening and unfriendly world. Alaqua Animal Rescue in Freeport, a no kill animal shelter, strives to take these heartbreaking stories and turn them into fairy tales ending with heart bumping tails-a-waggin’. 

Alaqua has developed a program for selected prison systems whereby frightened, emotionally scarred dogs are made whole and happy again.  Selected dogs spend six weeks with pre-chosen inmates who stay with them 24/7, love them 24/7, and train them in a program known as the “Unconditional Love Project.” Alaqua has one established program within the prison system and two newly opened programs at Calhoun and Washington County Correctional that are desperate for fundamental equipment to house and train the dogs.

Enter Kelly Plantation Home and Garden Club in Destin, which decided to dive in and collect needed items from their club members and community members. 

Garden Club President Maryann Paul created and placed a collection box at the Kelly Plantation Owners’ Club house for several weeks.  A request for donations was placed in the Kelly newsletter and items began to flow in.  The collection period ended the last of October so all collected items have now gone to Alaqua to be distributed into the Unconditional Love Projects within the prison systems that participates in this program. 

Incredibly, the items that were collected filled an entire SUV to overflowing. To help give the dogs a safe, warm and comfortable new beginning, the group collected dog beds, crates, leashes, collars, tennis balls to chase, treats used as rewards in training, soft warm blankets and squeaky dog toys that will have to be hidden after lights go out. The Yoga group at Kelly provided money to help buy needed medicine for the dogs. I’m not sure if the LSU basketball was for the dogs or the inmates.

 Anyone wishing to make additional donations can drop off gently used items at the Airport Vet, 900 Airport Road in Destin.

  Laura Hall is a long time Destin resident. She writes about gardens and other local topics with her dog Annie.  Got a good topic, contact her at