April 20, 2013 7:09:37 PM
Life is filled with second chances. Criminals reform. Rock stars make comebacks. Sinners repent. And, after love is lost, broken hearts mend, usually to love again.
Last summer I lost my wonderful doggy-daughter, Cordelia. (Anyone who has never loved an animal can stop reading now. You won't understand.) The grief of that loss will never be completely healed. I still miss her every day and still cry when I think of her. But sometimes we are forced dry our tears and accept the reality that death is final, at least on this plane.
This week, Chris and I welcomed a new daughter into our home. It began with a message from our friend, Monica Adams. The Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society had posted a photo on Facebook of a very frightened-looking dog with the horrible misnomer of Fatty Jo. She was scheduled to be euthanized, with only a few days left.
I resisted. Well, it couldn't hurt to just take a look at her.
One day this week, I was at Coleman Head Start reading to the children. The last book I read was about animal babies. As I finished reading, I told the children that I was on my way to the shelter to look at some pets. They all had suggestions about what would be right for me.
One little girl blurted out, "A worm!" A worm is not exactly my idea of a pet. But I got a good laugh out of it.
There are people who should not be allowed in a bar because they drink too much. Some people should not be allowed in a casino because they cannot resist gambling. Animal shelters should have a warning posted with my mug shot and the instructions: "Do not let this woman in!"
The shelter is a place that could shatter the heart of Hannibal Lector or the Wicked Witch of the West. Cold metal bars divide the cement floor into sections. Row after row of sad-eyed cats and dogs yelp and bark and squeal for attention as you walk by. In the office is a sign that says 80 animals were euthanized in March, 40 were adopted. You know that you cannot save them all, and dreadful decisions must be made.
I met Fatty Jo. Even the shelter workers disliked her name. They called her Jo Jo. She was no beauty queen. This was a dog that looked like it had been designed by a committee. She was black and tan and white, in random patterns. She "wore" white gloves and boots, and the tip of her tail looked like it had been dipped in a few inches of whitewash. She had been a mother many times, according to the shelter worker, and was in need of a tummy tuck and a breast lift.
When I saw that a rear leg hung loose and useless by her side, I knew that this was the dog for me. I am so crippled with arthritis that I can barely walk. We are two of a kind.
Of course, we took her home. There was no period of adjustment. She became a part of our family in an instant. This dog has the most wonderful personality. She loves everyone, even the cat. She is always happy. Her tail rotates like a helicopter blade, so fast that it becomes almost invisible.
There was still the problem of that awful name. We gave her new life, just days before her execution, and a new name, Freda Jolie. (I contemplated calling her "worm," but quickly rejected it.) She likes it, and thanks us every day with kisses and more love than I ever thought my damaged heart could hold.
Our lives are filled with second chances, no matter the species. But sometimes we all need a bit of help to start over. Please consider giving a shelter animal one more chance. You will never regret it. A pet can heal even the most wounded heart.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.