Hunter got along especially well with Foxey Lewis, a sociable and calm white shepherd owned by Doug Lewis. CONTRIBUTED

Hunter Lobo Graham loved Happy Hour. He’d walk into the restaurant, greet his friends sitting around the bar, and lie down on the cool restaurant floor until his dad ordered him a side of bacon or a chicken wing.

He was a husky, after all.

But to the Upper Keys community, Hunter, also known as the Keys Husky, was more than a pet. The 89-pound, brown-eyed Siberian husky, who was owned by Islamorada locals Gene and Sharon Graham, had become an icon not only at the restaurants he frequented but also throughout the community at charity events and as the “spokes-wolf” for the Upper Keys Humane Society. 

Now that community must mourn his loss. On March 4, after a year of fighting off several health conditions, Hunter died at the age of 12. 

Hunter’s early years remain mostly unknown. According to his owners, Hunter grew up on a ranch in the California desert and came to the Keys on a sailboat, where he lived with a family until they gave him up. Hunter was around 5 or 6 years old when Gene and Sharon saw his picture at a MarrVelous Pet Rescues Yappy Hour and, not intending to adopt a dog, decided to foster him for a couple weeks. Though large and intimidating in appearance, they realized that Hunter was really “a big teddy bear.”

“It was so quick. We called back and said, ‘No, no, no. Nobody else can have him. Where do we sign the papers?’” Sharon said. 

After spending only a few days with Hunter, the Grahams knew he was their pet. On April 11, 2016, the Grahams adopted Hunter.

“He made people smile,” Sharon said. “It was his demeanor, I think.”

Stoic. Calm. Steady. Social. Gentle. Cool. Regal. These are just a few of the words friends and family used to describe Hunter’s personality. 

As Sharon recalled, Hunter would often open his mouth in a wide smile, and, if he was really happy, stick his ears out sideways. Hunter seemed to like hats, according to his owners, sporting a green hat on St. Patrick’s Day, bunny ears for Easter and a sombrero for Cinco de Mayo. Shylon Martin, who serves on the board of the Upper Keys Humane Society with Gene, saw Hunter put his head in the lap of a disabled veteran and allow a child with special needs to crawl over him, put his hands in Hunter’s mouth and pull his tail without a reaction.

“He had a sense of when somebody was in distress or pain, and he reacted to it. He was really, really a very unique dog,” Martin said.

This unique dog also had some unique experiences. When his owners went away, Hunter accompanied Martin to her job as a real estate agent and private property manager. He enjoyed the luxurious homes of millionaires, met famous celebrities and athletes such as Caity Lotz and Tim Tebow, and got his photo taken with an Oscar and on the set of the television series “Bloodline.”

“All the while, even though he was amongst all these millionaires and celebrities, he constantly maintained his humble demeanor,” Martin said. “Everybody knows Hunter. We could walk into a place and be with a very famous person, the head CEO or owner of a billion-dollar company, and they don’t know who that person is at all. But they recognize Hunter.”

Hunter’s public appearances began soon after his adoption when the Grahams came home to find the husky had figured out how to open the cabinets and scattered trash all over their floor. They learned an important lesson from his misbehavior: Hunter didn’t enjoy being home alone. So, he began to go almost everywhere with Sharon and Gene. He dined with his owners at the Whistle Stop, Hog Heaven, SandBar, Snappers, Islamorada Brewery, Florida Keys Brewing and many other local restaurants. 

Hunter was drawn to people, and people were drawn to him. At the dog park, he greeted the people before the other dogs. According to Gene, Hunter seemed to prefer bar seating over a table because there were more people at the bar. Locals and visitors alike would come to greet the dog who, though in size and appearance seemed formidable, was friendly and created community with his presence. 

“People just want to be social, but I think they are a little shy,” Gene said. “And here’s a big, intimidating animal that’s not intimidating. He’s super friendly and walking around, and everybody’s like, ‘I want to go talk to that dog.’ And then they want to ask questions. I think it’s more because they want to interact, not just with the animal, but I think people just want to interact with other people.”

His constantly calm demeanor and his ability to draw people together inspired Angela Boehm, president of the Upper Keys Humane Society, to make Hunter the “spokes-wolf” for the society. 

“I’ve never met such an intuitive, kind, tolerant dog,” Boehm said. “I don’t think there was a dog that he met that he didn’t get along with, even if they were aggressive.”

Hunter helped promote adoption and raise funds for the shelter. At events, Gene tied a cup to his harness and, as Hunter wandered to greet people, they’d donate to the organization. Hunter attended other charity events with Martin, helping raise money for the American Legion, the American Cancer Society, Pawsitive Beginnings, the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys, and more. He helped raise $4,000 for the Upper Keys Humane Society in one night at the Key Largo Moose Lodge.

“We raised a lot of money because of him,” Martin said. “People would see him and come over to the booths where we were at to meet him. And then they’d donate money. So he really, really was a big contributing factor to some of the funds and stuff that we have there.”

The Grahams ask for donations in memory of Hunter to be sent to the Upper Keys Humane Society, which is a local nonprofit, no-kill, donations-based shelter. The shelter, which recently opened a new building, holds a spay and neuter clinic every Friday for feral cats and hopes to open a cat café in May to bring more awareness to the cats available for adoption. More information is at

“He had a real impact on Key Largo and Islamorada,” Sharon said. “It’ll be a long time before somebody stops asking or tells us they miss Hunter. It’ll be a long time. He made a real impact down here.”

Jacqueline Hale’s passion for stories began while crafting imaginative stories with her sister in the wooded backyard of her New England childhood, was nurtured by nights spent watching feature news shows with her dad; and was honed while serving as editor-in-chief of her college’s newspaper, The Liberty Champion, and earning an interdisciplinary studies degree in journalism, natural sciences and history. After graduating in March 2022, she set off to make her own stories, completing a thru-hike of the 2194.3-mile Appalachian Trail in August and moving to the Florida Keys to work as a naturalist in the Everglades National Park.