By Martie Thompson
Julington Creek Plantation resident Laurie McGovern said although her family’s relocation to Florida from Boston was sudden and unexpected, they consider themselves “true Floridians” now and find it “cold” when the temperature is in the 60s. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Laurie, husband Matt and son Matthew planned to stay in New England — until Matt’s diagnosis with genetic (non-alcoholic) liver failure in 2016 caused them to reconsider because their research showed it would be much quicker for Matt to get a needed liver transplant in Jacksonville at Mayo Clinic. Today, about four years later, Matt has had the transplant, Laurie has become very active with the community and local social media (she and a friend started the Dogs of JCP Facebook group), Matthew will graduate from Creekside this year, and they have adopted two more rescue dogs for a total of four in the family.
Q: How quickly did your move to St. Johns actually come about?
A: Within about two months, we sold our house in Boston and bought a house here. We didn’t know anything about the area except what we learned online. We moved here in February 2017 and Matt got his transplant in October of that year. For that time and a while afterwards, my only focus was for him to get better. I didn’t get the chance to meet people personally, but I joined several Facebook groups. So many people I didn’t even know reached out and offered to help. We knew at that point that we had made a good decision to move here. We felt very supported.
Q: How did you come to start the Dogs of JCP Facebook group?
A: We brought two rescue dogs with us when we moved here, Lou and Taya. SInce we’ve lived here, we rescued Ellie and Kira. Kira has an interesting story in that she was born with cinnamon roll ears and came from a rural shelter in Georgia. She was a bit of an internet sensation because of her ears and we were so happy to get her. So animals have always been my passion and, along with my very good friend Keri Robishaw, who is also originally from Boston, I started the Dogs of JCP group for fellow dog lovers.
Q: How did you get involved with Birch Island Veterinary Center?
A: I was a veterinary technician back in Massachusetts several years ago because I knew at a young age that I wanted to work with animals. Due to some physical limitations, I am no longer able to do the physical work required, which is why when my veterinarian friend Dr. Deanna Greer opened her new practice and asked me to help out, I jumped right on board. I manage Birch Island Veterinary Center’s social media accounts, event planning and miscellaneous tasks.
Q: What do you think of the local wildlife in Florida?
A: I truly love wildlife and Florida’s is much different than Boston’s! I tend to be the go-to for friends who have snakes or turtles they want relocated from their homes. I’ve helped a big snapping turtle move along from a neighbor’s home and encouraged a very long rat snake to seek out a different residence than my friend’s backyard. I’ve also stopped to help turtles cross the street and once was involved in rescuing a potbelly pig that someone abandoned at a local movie theatre. Swimming with manatees is on my bucket list and I hope to do that sometime soon.
Q: How would you best summarize your move to Florida?
A: We took a chance on a community we knew nothing about and on a surgery we weren’t sure would even happen — and it has all paid off and then some. We feel that Julington Creek welcomed us warmly and embraced our journey. We really feel like a part of the community.
Photo courtesy Laurie McGovern
Laurie McGovern with husband Matt and dogs Ellie, Taya, and Kira. (Lou is not pictured as he was feeling camera shy.)