Pet lovers donate 1,500 pounds of dog food for shelters

Ann Hall

Isles of Capri couple Mike and Gail Cochran, who have enjoyed many good times and created many lasting memories with family and friends at the Isles of Capri Island Gypsy Cafe and Marina Bar, held their third annual birthday bash in honor of their family pet, Gypsy Sue.

The Cochrans became engaged and then later married at the cafe and bar. It was only natural that when they adopted their part bull mastiff and part boxer-mix puppy, they would name her "Gypsy." To celebrate the dog's special day, they felt the need to make the day special for others as well. The others referred to here were dogs who have no homes housed in local Collier County shelters.

In lieu of birthday gifts for Gypsy, guests were invited to bring food to donate to the shelters. The response was overwhelming. Guests arrived with their pets on leashes and their arms filled with dog food, cat food, milk bone treats and cash donations. Last year, more than 1,000 pounds of food were collected.

"This year, it looks like we have collected about 1,500 pounds so far," said Mike Cochran, "not to mention about $300 in cash donations."

Dogs of a variety of breeds and sizes gathered, with party hats, birthday favors and even a home-made birthday cake for the dogs to eat. Diane Reid, whom the Cochran's refer to as "Gypsy's Auntie Di," made the dogs cakes in the shape of twin dog paws, iced and topped with colorful birthday candles.

While the dogs visited and played with one another, the human guests got their fill of delicious assorted pizzas and cold brew provided by the Cochran's while being entertained by Jerry Pellegrino on the guitar. Some of the guests took the floor and danced among the dogs who also appeared to be charmed by the music.

"I did not think up this idea on my own," said Mike Cochran. "When I lived in Key West about 12 years ago, there was a man who owned a dog track there. He abandoned the track and the dogs. When the community learned of this, they gathered and brought enough food to feed them. Within five hours, every abandoned dog had been adopted, and now they have birthday parties for their dogs to encourage donations of food for shelters."

Being dog owners is not all that keep the Cochrans busy. Mike Cochran works with Artichoke Caterers as a marketing consultant. He also holds a 100-gross-ton captain's license for boaters. Gail Cochran is a pharmacy technician at Costco of Naples.

Plans for an even larger benefit are being discussed for next year, and Cochran said he plans to add that cat food will also be welcome.

"We are hoping to keep the trend going and up the amount of food raised for the shelter each year," Cochran said.

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