Some people go on vacation to get away from everything and everybody, and some people bring everything and everybody with them.

Our story begins over 35 years ago when the Jisa family — Mom Judy, Dad Wendell and children Wendy, Sarah, Wendell and Danny — headed south to Florida for a family vacation and a chance encounter with a little lost dog.

Arriving at their destination in Panama City, they settled in anticipating visiting with friends from Riverside who had moved to the area and doing what people typically do on vacation in a sunny area.

But things didn’t go exactly as expected. During a walk around the area, Judy Jisa happened upon a lost dog. A true dog lover, she brought the dog back to her hotel, only to be told the family needed to get rid of the dog or find another place to stay. 

Instead of letting the dog wander away, the search was on for an animal-friendly place in Panama City. The new vacation place turned out better than the last one, and thanks to a little lost dog, now named Panama, the family had a great vacation.

The following year, more friends of the Jisas trekked down to Panama City, and as word spread of the fun times being had, the group going to Florida increased in size. One year it numbered up to 80. 

The Jisa family vacation to Florida has seen the younger generation grow up, marrying and bring their young families to the place where they had fun in the sun as youngsters, sharing many of the same experiences.

The year 2018 was no exception. While we were here keeping winter wear handy, the Riverside Gone South group was settled into their condos, facing the gulf and donning their swim wear to go down to the pool. They celebrated their Easter together with their own traditions, some old, some new. Easter egg hunts on the sandy beaches?

And Panama the dog? Well, he lived to be 15 years old. While he adjusted to our weather around here, he still preferred Panama City, Florida.

Judy Jisa credits Panama the lost dog for the family finding a new place to vacation, which turned out to be better than anticipated. I somehow think the little dog was grateful. Just a happy wag of his tail and he had a new home in the North and the South.