ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – The mother of a man killed late last month in a motorcycle crash in Mayport is asking for the public's help to find her son's therapy dog.
Kasey Whilden, 24, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Reed, 42, were killed Oct. 20 on Mayport Road when a van turned into their path, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Whilden was living with Reed, a mother of two teenagers, and her family took in the dog after the crash but, the next day, decided to give Bubby up for adoption.
“They could have left him in my son's apartment until we got down there. I was down there less than 48 hours after it happened,” said Rodriguez, who lives in Monroe, Virginia.
She said she is angry and hurt that Bubby was given away, and she's been trying desperately to track him down on social media.
“My son's dog should have been at the funeral with us. He should be with us now,” Rodriguez said. “It would mean the world (to get him back). It is a part of my son that we would have, that his daughter would be able to see. His daughter turned 1-year-old the day before we laid my son to rest.”
Reed's stepfather, Jerry Bessel, told News4Jax that at the time of the crash he did not know Whilden's family or even what Whilden's last name was. He said he tried to contact the FHP troopers working the crash to help get in touch with Whilden's family, but he never heard back from the troopers.
"We gave it away because we have a dog here, and we had people here in mourning, and it was just disrupting our whole household," Bessel said. "We just had too much going on here. The dog was barking, running in and out of the house, bringing dirt in the house."
He said there was a long line at the animal shelter the day he took Bubby up there, and he met a couple outside the shelter who took to Bubby right away and said they had a big backyard. He said he knew, at the time, that giving Bubby to them was the right thing to do.
He said he doesn't have a good description of the couple, but he thinks they were driving a Camaro.
"I don't know where the dog is, and that's about all that I can tell you," Bessel said. "As far as I know, he's taking good care of the dog."
Rodriguez said Whilden suffered from anxiety and depression, and Bubby was his therapy dog.
“Bubby was what got him through a lot of situations and kept him going. I know there were times when my son lived in his truck with his dog. As long as he was with his dog, life is good,” Rodriguez said. “You could see him wrap his arms around Bubby and the tension and stress would just go away.”
Rodriguez said her son was a free-spirited man who worked as a subcontractor burying cable lines underground.
She said Bubby, a Rhodesian Ridgeback-pit bull mix, might have a scar on one of his front paws from a cat scratch. She said he weighs about 75 or 80 pounds and is a sweet dog.
“I'm 5 foot 2, and his head comes to my hip,” she said. “He's got a lot of white on his chin and his chest, but he's got a break in there where it is tan, (and) ... his ears always stand up.”
The head of Animal Care and Protective Services said the department is actively trying to help Rodriguez find Bubby and has even checked records and surveillance video to see if the exchange was caught on camera. So far, they have not been able to track Bubby down.
“I just want him to come home,” Rodriguez said.
She asked anyone who finds Bubby or knows where he might be to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.