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Adele Elliott: The reincarnation of Fatty Jo


Adele Elliott



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.


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