Our first featured employee is James. Just don't call him that, because only his mother is allowed to use his real first name. He has worked at Gulf Coast Humane Society for twelve and a half years and if you have spent any time at all here at the shelter, you surely know him as “Luckey,” which is actually his last name.
Luckey has always felt a strong kinship with the animals who come through GCHS because he himself is adopted. A native Floridian, he was born in Polk County to a mother he doesn't remember. Unable, or unwilling, to care for her two offspring, she gave up two month-old Luckey and his seven year-old sister, “Chillie,” to the State. They were soon separated and spent time in different foster homes before they were reunited by Dianne Luckey, who had found them in a catalog of children available for adoption. She brought them home to Fort Myers, where they both remain. As he spoke of Dianne, the only mother he's ever known, I could sense the appreciation and affection he has for her. He said he was very lucky to have been adopted by a “very nice lady.”
When I asked him what brought him to GCHS, there was both sorrow and glee in his response. When he was fifteen, he said, he had a dog named “Nails.” But after Luckey received a referral notice from school for being late to class, Dianne brought Nails to GCHS and surrendered him as punishment. To this day, there is still great sense of loss in his voice as he recalls the incident. But soon after, Dianne and Luckey visited Nails at the shelter. And one visit was all it took, as he was instantly infatuated with the place. Witnessing the controlled chaos - the barking, the excited faces and the wagging tails, his overloaded senses convinced him right then and there this was where he belonged. Unfortunately, he was too young to work here. So, at 16, he got his first job at the Broadway Palm Theater where he was a “runner,” keeping the buffet trays filled for patrons. But the furry creatures at the shelter were never far from thought, and his very next employer was GCHS. Although he never again saw Nails, Luckey never forgot him. He likes to think his one-time canine companion found a terrific forever home and lived a long, wonderful life.
While Luckey enjoys all the animals at GCHS, he absolutely loves dogs. In fact, he says, he likes dogs more than most people. But fellow workers and volunteers are the exception, as he truly enjoys interacting with all who help care for the shelter's temporary guests. A big part of the satisfaction he gains from his work as a kennel tech is knowing that almost every one of them will find a loving home some day. “We're here,” he emphasizes, “to get them adopted.” Thinking back on his years here, he proudly recalled the time he was presented with an award in 2007, naming him the “Most Dedicated Employee of GCHS.”
When he's not working, Luckey enjoys long rides on his bicycle and fishing in the fresh-waterways of Fort Myers and Cape Coral. His favorite fishing holes are near Cape Coral High School where he casts for his preferred quarry, large and small mouth bass.
I asked him what he would like others to know about Luckey. “I try to do my best, my word is my bond. I'm just an average Joe.” Average Joe, maybe, but not an average employee. I see him as the quintessential “Mr. GCHS,” with a huge toothy smile and an animated wave or thumbs up as a greeting for all who come to support shelter's the mission. No matter what his duties of the day are, cleaning kennels, doing laundry, caring for new-comers in intake, or carting a bin full of lively puppies between buildings, he lives up to enviable standards of hard work and dedication, to both GCHS and the abandoned pets who reside here, with which he shares that deep-seated natural bond. Whether they are here a week or a year or more, they are lucky to have Luckey in their lives.