Ryder and Xena: Former shelter pups turned Facebook celebrities

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In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, I will be bringing you a series of profiles over the next few weeks showcasing former shelter pups who have transitioned out of the shelter into forever homes and onto the pages of Facebook. For this first post, I’m sharing the stories of Ryder and Xena whose stories both start at Dekalb County Animal Services in Decatur, GA.

Ryder the Bus Dog

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On the morning of May 5th, 2014, a stray, underweight pit bull waited at the bus stop with a group of Cedar Grove Elementary school children. He boarded the bus with them, pushing his way through till he found a seat. He seemed to be a dog on a mission. The children were removed from the bus but the dog wouldn’t leave until he was finally coaxed out with food. He was back on the street. His story made the local news and caught the attention of Colleen Lazenby, owner of Diva’s Pit Bull Rescue. His story touched her heart and she sent volunteers out looking for him to no avail.
ryder dog on bus

Finally a few days later a dog matching his description came into the Dekalb County Animal Shelter and Colleen was notified. He was met at the shelter by volunteers who quickly fell in love with him and dubbed him “Ryder” for his aborted attempt at riding the school bus. After his mandatory stray hold was up, he was rescued by his new foster family. His was a foster “fail” and he now has his happily ever after with Randy Lillquist and Tony Johnson. They say he is a big baby boy who loves being in the same room with them – a little dog in a big dog’s body who loves to sit on your lap. He loves his peanut butter filled Kongs. And he loves clicker training because it usually ends in another favorite of his – treats!

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Randy & Tony say the biggest lesson they have learned from Ryder is that “No matter how he was treated before – hit by a car and left on the streets. Then got on a school bus looking for help and turned away. He still holds no grudge and loves everyone unconditional.”

Go Ryder! Be sure to check out his Facebook page!

To read more about Ryder in the news, click here and here!

Xena the Warrior Puppy

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On September 15th, 2012 a half starved, abandoned puppy  was brought into the shelter just before closing. She was given fluids and Nutri-Cal before being sent home with a caring volunteer. As the full reality of the pup’s condition became apparent she was rushed to a local vet for more immediate care.  Emaciated, dehydrated, covered with facial cuts and a skin infection – she was not expected to live.  However she, like Ryder, was a dog with a mission. She rallied and was rescued by Friends of Dekalb Animals who named her Xena after TV’s warrior princess. This wasn’t to be Xena’s only miracle. (Images of Xena before being treated are quite upsetting, so I will not include one in this post, but click here to see just how far she’s come)

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After being nursed back to health, she appeared at a fundraiser where she met a very special little boy named Jonny and his Dad. It was love at first sight. Jonny, who is autistic, finds it difficult to speak and interact with others. Xena changed all that. After Xena fully recovered she moved in with Jonny and his family. Jonny and Xena’s bond deepened and the two became inseparable and the best of friends.

xena and jonny

Their story doesn’t stop there though. The pair has gone on to become advocates for other abused and abandoned animals and are doing their part for autism awareness. They have made You Tube videos and have appeared on multiple media outlets. Their Facebook page has over 60,000 fans. In 2013, Xena was named ASPCA’s dog of the year and in 2014 she was named the American Humane Association’s Emerging Hero Dog of the Year.

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Today Xena is fully recovered and all grown up. She loves spending time with her best friend Jonny and being a spokespup.

For more information on Xena and Jonny, click here, here, or here!

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