Meet Some of Our Furry—and Scaly—Residents and Their Owners

Pets and animals in Cape Coral come in all different shapes and sizes. There are also the amazing people who love and care for them. We set out to get several different stories about the pets and animals and their owners/handlers—and we certainly found some fantastic ones!

The K9 and His Best Friend

K9 Nate is a 7-year-old sable German Shepherd. He’s the most senior of the seven K9s on the Cape Coral Police force. His handler, Officer Sean McCreary, has been his partner since Nate joined the department in 2012.

Originally from Holland, K9 Nate came to the Cape Coral Police Department as a gift from local residents Rick and Debra Burnfield. The Burnfields donated the funds to acquire Nate in honor of their late son, Nathan, a police officer who was killed in the line of duty in Pennsylvania in 2008. Officer Nathan Burnfield had always dreamt of being a K9 handler.

The K9s start their official police training when they are about a year old. All K9 police training for the department is done here in Cape Coral.

“These dogs work very hard, and it takes a lot out of them, but they are also carefully monitored and see the vet regularly,” Officer McCreary says.

Officer McCreary takes extra time off the clock to work with K9 Nate for advanced training.

“If we want him to perform above and beyond on the job, then we need to work with them outside of duty. The more training the dog gets, the more valuable they are—and the more prepared they are,” he says.

While K9 Nate is not a pet, he seems to enjoy living with the McCreary family.

“Nate loves my daughter, who is 6 years old, and he keeps a special eye on her,” he says. “I can walk by his kennel at home, and he won’t even get up, but if my daughter is nearby he’s always watching out for her.”

A day in the life of K9 Nate and Officer McCreary is never a typical day.

“Nate and I get to the department about 6 o’clock in the evening during the week,” Officer McCreary says. “We cover the entire city, and we assist the patrol officers. We can be called out for anything my dog can assist with—felony apprehension, robbery or a burglary or tracking a missing child or trying to track down a criminal that took off running. Nate is also used for narcotics detection, which is probably what we do the most.”

The Cape Coral K9s get put into dangerous situations almost daily, such as apprehending people who have committed serious crimes.

“The drug dealers don’t want to go to jail,” Officer McCreary says. “We go to the most dangerous calls because we use the dog as a tool so the officers are not as in as much risk.”

Officer McCreary says one of K9 Nate’s most important finds could have potentially saved the life of young children. During a call to a disturbance involving a firearm near Caloosa Elementary School in 2016, Nate was sent out to search for the weapon. He found the firearm, which was fully loaded, near the school’s basketball courts.

“If that gun had still been there during recess or P.E. during the school day, one of those kids could have found it in the bushes,” Officer McCreary says. “That was definitely one of Nate’s best finds.”

The Spooner Family Pets

You’ll probably recognize Lisa Spooner from television—she’s a news anchor for NBC2. Not just an award-winning journalist, Lisa also happens to be a former Miss Texas, a wife, a mom and a life-long devoted pet owner.

“I grew up with lots of pets. We always had at least one dog,” Lisa says.

The Spooner family includes dad Ron and 6-year-old Alexa, who recently graduated from kindergarten.

The family also includes Taffy, a 1-year-old banana ball python, and Bradshaw—named for former professional football star Terry Bradshaw—who is a 13-year-old golden retriever mix.

“We were living in Texas, and we found Bradshaw when he popped out from under a dumpster,” Lisa says. “He had broken bones and was missing a lot of fur,” Ron says. “He wasn’t able to be rehomed because of his injuries, so we happily kept him. He’s an amazing dog. He’s very loyal and loving.”

While living in Texas, Lisa and Ron were able to rescue and rehome 16 dogs.

How Taffy entered their life is another story.

After the family rescued and rehomed an injured turtle they found locally, Alexa wanted a new pet. Ron and Alexa ended up at a pet store when Lisa wasn’t home.

“I was away at work one day—and Ron always had pet snakes growing up—so they definitely surprised me,” Lisa says.

“I had Alexa come in to Lisa and say, ‘Look what I found in the grass!’ Lisa screamed and ran outside,” Ron says. “We had to explain we bought the snake. I don’t think Lisa was too excited.”

Lisa has since grown to love Taffy.

The entire family is dedicated to pet ownership and caring for animals.

“We don’t consider our pets just pets. They are our family members,” Lisa says. “It’s also so valuable for kids to have some responsibility and know the love and appreciation of having pets in their life.”

Fun fact: Bradshaw loves hot dogs!

The Volunteers: Demica and Liz

Cape Coral resident Demica Mattia has been a volunteer at Gulf Coast Humane Society since 2013. She originally started volunteering when a work friend suggested she come along to try it out.

“Now I’m here at least three days a week,” Demica says.

Demica has two dogs of her own: Winnie, a 6-year-old shepherd mix; and Belle Rose, a 4-year-old pit bull mix. Winnie was adopted from the Animal Refuge Center. Belle Rose was adopted from an event at PetSmart.

“I really love working with the pets here and helping out at the events. It’s really important to me to help pets in need.”

Demica’s favorite memory of her own pups was adopting them and making them part of her family.

“Belle loves to cuddle, and Winnie is just perfect,” she says. “I don’t currently have children, so my pets are my children. They’ve changed my entire life. My life would be so dull without them.”

Liz Witherspoon, also a Cape resident, decided to volunteer at Gulf Coast Humane Society after losing her beloved golden retriever, Cosmo, and she says it’s been one of the best decisions of her life.

“Where I work, Arthrex, really encourages us to volunteer. We actually get paid for an eight-hour day to volunteer,” Liz says. “I always really wanted to volunteer at a humane society, but I just never had the time. This was the perfect opportunity.”

Liz admits she’d never worked with rescue pets before coming to volunteer at Gulf Coast Humane Society.

“At first I was nervous to volunteer. I’d never been around so many different types of dogs,” Liz says. “I just want to get the word out, because the first day I volunteered really changed my life—I must have walked 30 dogs! These pets are so loving and kind. Many of them are already trained and just need to find the right home.”

Liz didn’t realize she’d love her volunteer work as much as she does now.

“A lot of people come and just look at the dogs through the cages,” she says. “But you really get to know their personalities when you walk them and interact with them.”

Liz has a lot of praise for the organization and hopes other Cape Coral residents will consider volunteering.

“Helping these dogs is so rewarding, and it’s almost a form of meditation,” Liz says. “I don’t have a dog right now, so it’s really nice to come here and get to love these ones for a little bit each week.”

If you are interested in volunteering at Gulf Coast Humane Society, you can apply online at GulfCoastHumaneSociety.org or call 239.332.0364.