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Frugal Florida man risks big money to adopt abused Nebraska dog

Steven Prawl never spends more than he has to. Yet, he traveled 1,600 miles and dropped $900 to save an abused dog from a Nebraska shelter.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s hard to miss the wagging brown tail poking out from behind deks at the Mangrove Financial offices on 4th Street and Gandy. For a month now, “Sonny” has been slowly becoming the unofficial mascot of Joel Martin’s financial business.

“I didn’t even know he liked dogs,” joked Martin. “We have absolutely fallen in love with Sonny.

“He’s like one of the family now.”

The one-year-old black mouth cur isn’t just new to the office. He’s new to Florida.

“He’s exceeded my every expectation,” said Steven Prawl, who adopted a formerly-abused dog from Kearney, Nebraska in January.  

Prawl is not exactly a flashy guy.

“Frugal,” he admits.

The financial planner says he rarely overspends on anything. So, it came as quite the surprise to everyone at Mangrove when Prawl, on a whim, shelled out nearly $300 for a one-way plane ticket to a tiny airport in Nebraska in hopes of adopting Sonny.

The shelter would not place a hold on the dog. It would not negotiate with Prawl over the phone. Even his attempts to pay a kennel fee were turned down. None of his suggestions to save the dog for him until he could arrive a week later were working.

Still, he wanted that dog.

“If it’s meant to be, it will be,” he thought.

Prawl’s mother, Sandy Justice, was initially interested in taking Sonny home herself. She lives in Kearney and went to visit the dog at her local shelter after hearing about how it had been abused. She liked him, but quickly saw the dog would be too much work for her.

“Too big for me,” she said.

Then she shared photos of the dog with her son in Florida.

“I could not get him out of my head,” said Steven, a devoted Christian who doesn’t believe in coincidences.

There was no guarantee he’d get Sonny but he prayed the animal would remain available until he arrived in Kearney.

“This was meant to be,” said Mangrove’s office manager Susan Irving.

Prawl arrived to the same wagging tail that now roams his St. Petersburg financial office. He rented a car and made the 24-hour drive back to the Sunshine State rather than flying so he could spend more time with the dog.

Their bond is already strong.

“He’s the best dog I’ve ever had, and I’ve had several” said Steven. “In Australia, (“Sonny”) means ‘gift of God’.”

Sonny has become a welcomed face around the office and, perhaps, changed the perception of his new owner.   

“Steven could squeeze a nickel so hard it turns into two dimes,” joked Martin. “For him to do something like this just shows his heart. He’s a really good guy.”

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