It’s a Ruff Life: Fresh Market Vendor Achieves Dream with Non Profit Charity

Laura Garrison

Jack wasn’t able to walk when he was rescued at six months of age. The emergency surgeries for his three-part hip replacements, needed on both hips, was mandatory in Jack’s case if he were to survive. Considered an ‘extreme circumstance’ for a puppy of such a young age, the procedures would require almost nine weeks of rehabilitation and an outlay of over $5,500 that his human, Julie Nickerson, just didn’t have. A very large price tag—and a life or death situation – for a young rescue dog with such severe physical challenges.

A number of people from the community in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Nickerson and Jack were living at the time, had other plans.

After hearing about Jack’s condition, a woman whom Nickerson had only briefly met decided to spearhead a successful fundraising campaign for Jack. This miraculous act of kindness saved Jack’s life, gave him the ability to walk and turned Nickerson’s life around.

“This was such an incredible experience that I wanted to find a way to ‘Pay it Forward’ and help others who found themselves in need of financial assistance with their rescue dogs,” says Nickerson.
It wasn’t until June of 2012 that Nickerson’s dream of starting her 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, Ruff Life, came to light. The nonprofit status was finally approved this July, thirteen months later.

“We hope to work together with other rescue organizations and pet charities to raise money with our product sales and fundraisers in our local areas,” says Nickerson. The mission of Ruff Life Charities is to provide the essentials needed to keep rescue dogs healthy and safe through assisting their families with the financial, emotional, and behavioral support after the adoption process.

“Many issues arise about a month after rescue dogs are adopted and many families struggle with needing help or not knowing what to do during these transitions. Ruff Life will provide the support necessary to keep the rescue with their new family,” Nickerson says.

The proceeds from Nickerson’s own product line, including beautifully embroidered items, which she designs and stitches herself, are also donated to local rescue organizations and to Ruff Life charities.

Nickerson is one of the featured vendors in the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market and Ruff Life will be among the charitable causes that the Market will focus on supporting and promoting over the course of the coming season.
“We’re really proud of Julie Nickerson and honored to have her and Jack as part of our Market,” says Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market Coordinator, Laura Garrison. “Julie was referred to me as ‘a great fit for us’ by the amazing women of Magni’s Munchies, our premiere vendors of high-end pet products at our Tuesday Market. Julie, like so many of our vendors, has proven to be an incredibly giving person with a huge heart. Her visions of positive contributions, community integration and love for our four-legged dependents are completely in alignment with the heartbeat of our Tuesday Market.”

For further information on Ruff Life, or to make a donation, please go to or For further information on the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market, contact Coordinator, Laura Garrison at 727-278-4285 or via email at