Mastiff inspires a growing non-profit organization

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Amanda Travis, co-founder and executive director of Bo Paws-It-Forward, is pictured here with Bo, the inspiration behind her non-profit organization.
Bo Ogopogo Travis

Cleo the English Mastiff was in bad shape.

Her body kept shaking, she had stopped eating, and she seldom let anyone get near her.
Although she was just a concerned neighbor and not her animal guardian, “Liz” could not stand to see this once strong and playful pooch become an emaciated shell of old herself.

She knew that action needed to be taken.

Without judgement, Liz reached out to Cleo’s human companion, a single mother who had fallen on hard financial times. She told Liz she wanted to do something for her sick dog but knew she could not afford the hundreds of dollars in veterinary bills needed to diagnose and treat this mysterious ailment.

Working together, they found a small non-profit organization in the region that offered one-time grants to help animal guardians offset some of, if not all of, the cost of veterinary treatment in order to keep humans and their pets together and to prevent unnecessary euthanasia.

They quickly filled out an application with Bo Paws-It-Forward and hoped for the best. At the time the application went through, the small non-profit had only been active for a few weeks but the volunteer staff of a handful of family members worked quickly to make veterinary care accommodations for Cleo.

X-rays soon revealed that there was a massive blockage that kept her from eating. The contents of the blockage consisted of plastic bags and a few diapers.

With the obstructions successfully removed, Cleo’s guardian allowed Liz to adopt the dog. Liz said she felt it was befitting to change her name to “Halo” because she had so many angels looking out for her.

One of the heavenly creatures who played a major role in her second chance at life was a fellow English Mastiff named Bo Ogopogo Travis. Although he was not alive when Halo had her brush with death, the kindness of his soul is what prompted his guardians to establish the non-profit in his name.

“I thought just because he is no longer living does not mean he cannot continue to make an impact on this world,” said Amanda Travis, co-founder and executive director of Bo Paws-It-Forward.

When Bo came into her life nearly seven years ago, she was not looking to bring another animal into her household.

Still reeling from a series of losses that included cats that had been with her since childhood, a 14-year-old English Mastiff named Sequoia who elicited so much joy with her goofy antics, and a number of hospice pets she cared for as a volunteer at a local rescue organization, she did not feel ready to open herself back up to the prospect of having to say goodbye to another beloved member of her family.

“I just didn’t think I had it in me to do it again,” she said.

When her husband, Buddy, started to toss around the idea of adding a new dog into their small pack, she tried her best to rid him of the thought. In hindsight, she said his refusal to listen allowed her to open her heart in ways she never could have imagined.

“Sometimes your spouse knows what is best for you,” said Amanda.

In October of 2016, Amanda met Bo for the first time and immediately fell in love.

At 6-weeks old, Bo was already a “gangly” boy with unique features. He had a long ski-slope nose, a protruding lip, and an underbite so big you could stick your fingers in-between his top and bottom teeth. Amanda noted that it just allowed him to show off a few more of his superpowers, such as the ability to slobber all over the place.

When she held him in her arms, however, she was overcome with the strangest sensation.

“Something told me that we wouldn’t be together long,” she said.

Throughout her life, she has held hundreds of animals in her arms. Growing up on an acreage of land just outside of London, the Russell family had cats, dogs, guinea pigs, a pot-bellied pig, mice, and a mini-horse courtesy of her sister’s involvement in 4-H. When Amanda and Buddy Travis moved to Columbus, they raised even more animals in their apartment and eventually their current home in Pickerington. She said not once had a thought similar to the one she had when she held Bo crossed her mind.

“It was surreal and I thought I was going crazy, but I trusted it,” she said. “I swore that we would love him as hard as we could for as long as we could.”

And that is what she and Buddy did.

For nearly three-and-a-half years, they provided Bo with as much love as they could give.

In turn, he gave them as much love as he could give by reminding them of the simple joys in life and the need to reach out and make connections. His friendly and caring spirit even extended to every other human and animal he met – including the fellow canines in his day care classes who may have been intimidated by his size.

Amanda said they were lucky to have this “gentle giant” in their lives – and extremely fortunate that she and Buddy could afford to pay for his care.

Like many large dog breeds, Bo was diagnosed with Wobbler Syndrome, a neurological disease that affects their spine in the neck region. Because his activity levels at the day care were so high, the muscles he developed through play masked his condition until it was too advanced to be treated surgically. Amanda estimates they spent over $15,000 paying for hydrotherapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, and anti-inflammatory drugs to help his disease from progressing further.

“And that was with pet insurance,” she said.

Despite his disease, Bo never gave any indication that he was in pain or that anything else was amiss. But when she and Buddy found Bo hiding in the hallway in July of 2020 unable to move freely, they knew something was seriously wrong.

An $8,000 exploratory procedure at the emergency animal hospital discovered that not only did Bo have a rupture in the lining of his stomach but he also had small nodules that they believed to be cancerous. The doctors said even if they could repair the stomach lining and even with a course of cancer treatments, they put the chances of a successful recovery at less than 10 percent.

“We didn’t want that for him, for him to go through that and to be in pain all of the time,” said Amanda. “So we had to make the hardest decision of our lives.”

Even though pandemic restrictions were in place, they were able to come inside the hospital to tell Bo how much he touched their lives and to kiss his sweet, slobbery face one last time.

In the midst of her grief, Amanda latched on to an idea to start a non-profit organization to honor his memory. She said his gentle spirit had always been so inspiring to her and Buddy and they wanted to do something to ensure that his kindness lives on even after his death.

By the end of the year, Bo Paws-It-Forward was granted tax exempt non-profit status.

Initially, the organization was to help lower income families who had large breeds in the Pickerington area offset the cost of basic needs and surgeries if necessary. Then the idea expanded to most dogs in the Columbus area, and then cats throughout the state. Then came an application from a pet parent in Florida who needed assistance after the pandemic threw a wrench in her financial situation.

“Bo Paws-It-Forward has evolved and gone far beyond what I ever imagined,” said Amanda. “I couldn’t be happier with this turn of events and I hope we are able to continue evolving and serving.”

Due to the generosity of local animal groups, care clinics, and animal lovers throughout the country, as well as fundraising drives from businesses such as Germain Toyota of Columbus, Bo Paws-It-Forward has been able to help dozens of dogs and cats with medicine or surgeries and saved hundreds of dollars in medical care cost for their partners.

They have even prevented unnecessary euthanasia and pet-guardian separation, a primary goal of the organization.

There are currently three one-time grants offered at the non-profit for guardians facing hardship: the Giselle Grant, which has a maximum award of $200 that covers the cost of vaccines, heartworm testing, spay/neuter, microchip and dental procedures; the Bo Grant, which has a maximum award of $500 (or on a case-by-case basis) and covers non-basic medical costs such as surgeries, physical therapies, and procedures; and the Elwood Grant, which has an average award of $200 and covers the cost of approved, professional veterinary behaviorist evaluation.

In addition to the grants, Bo Paws-It-Forward also offers pet loss support services and is in the process of creating a service for veterinarians who are struggling with mental health issues.

“Our mission here is to offer support and resources to those who need it and we will do so with empathy and without judgment,” said Amanda. “That is the way Bo loved, that is the way all dogs love, and that is what we will always strive to be.

“All we want to do is continue to be worthy of his kindness and to make him proud. I like to think that he would be.”

For more information on Bo Paws-It-Forward, including applications, eligibility requirements, or how to donate, visit their website at bopawsitforward.org. They are also on Facebook and Instagram at Bo Paws-It-Forward.

Previous articleJarvis named new Madison Township trustee
Next articleBeloved Bo inspires charity for ailing pets

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.