Jess Dunne jumped in her car on an autumn morning in 2015 and raced nearly 100 miles to Brooklyn to save a dog’s life. The animal was scheduled to be euthanized that afternoon and Ms. Dunne — who co-owns North Fork Roasting Co. in Southold — felt compelled to act after reading a call for help online.
After she arrived at the animal shelter, two workers there started to cry; Lazarus, a pit bull-boxer mix with a dark patch of fur over his eye, was about to be put down.
Ms. Dunne and the 1-year-old dog met in a back room; he licked her cheek and crawled into her arms, she recalled. Through tears, she agreed to adopt him.
What followed was a year and a half of “stressful days,” “loving moments” and tension, Ms. Dunne said in an interview last week.
The dog, which she and her partner, Jennilee Morris, renamed “Knox,” became too much to handle.
Ms. Dunne said he was a “mush” around them and their other dog, a sleepy chocolate Lab named Sinatra.
But with smaller dogs and animals, Knox became aggressive. The pair tried training, but feared what Knox might do to another dog, or to Ms. Dunne’s young niece or nephew, if he acted up.
“He’s a great dog with us but he’s got some serious aggression to a lot of other dogs,” she said. “I fought for him since day one.”
After months of soul-searching, Ms. Dunne said, she came to the conclusion she had hoped to avoid: Knox had to find a new home.
Through their vet, the pair learned about Spirit Animal Sanctuary, a center in upstate New York that cares for troubled and unadoptable animals. There, Knox would receive training, socialization, yummy meals and lots of room to run — far more room than the couple’s Greenport apartment could offer.
“It kills me, this decision,” Ms. Dunne said Friday. “But I already saved him once. I feel like this a chance for me to save him again.”
The sanctuary needed $7,000 to take Knox in, pay for his initial training and feed and care for him for the rest of his life. The women were able to pay part of this fee, but were reluctant to ask for help to cover the rest. Still, they knew they had to find Knox a good home.
They set up an online fundraiser for Knox and put a money jar on the counter at the coffee shop. Within days, thousands in donations from friends, acquaintances and other East End restaurateurs flooded in. The couple reached their $5,000 goal in less than a week. Ms. Dunne was shocked by the overwhelming support her community showed.
“Jenni and I were both like, ‘Oh my God,’” she said.
On Sunday, Ms. Dunne and Ms. Morris traveled with Knox to the upstate sanctuary. They toured the facility, full of happy, barking dogs. It seemed like the right spot, she said. Ms. Dunne said her tearful goodbyes and left her pet behind.
“It’s just hard saying bye to him, you know?” she said. “It’s definitely bittersweet.”
They arrived back on the North Fork Tuesday and called the sanctuary to check in, she said, reporting that Knox has apparently already made two friends there.
Though he may not be in their home anymore, the couple has decided to maintain Knox’s presence in their business. This weekend, a special new coffee called Sanctuary Blend will hit the shelves at their Main Road café. It’s a mix of Nicaraguan and Ethiopian sidamo coffee beans with “chocolate nutty notes and bright citrus at the end,” Ms. Dunne said.
The coffee — “light and dark, just like his markings,” she said — comes in a bag decorated with a portrait of Knox by artist Kara Hoblin. Proceeds from each $16 package will be donated to the sanctuary where Knox now lives.
“It’ll be nice for other animals to get the donations and for other good to come from it,” Ms. Dunne said.
Courtesy photo: Jess Dunne with Knox, a pit bull mix she adopted from death row at a Brooklyn animal shelter. Despite training, Knox remained too aggressive toward smaller dogs to keep, she said.