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A co-worker told me the terrible news. A mutual acquaintance, Betty Jean DeFazio, had passed away rather suddenly. No further news known. That hit like a ton of bricks. Shock, she had not been ill, was not that old and was so vivacious and active; then regret for things I wished I had told her or written her, for time lost or wasted; anger that someone so integral to the dog and pet community would be taken and so suddenly.

Once I let the news sink in a bit, I got to thinking: Would it not be wonderful to do a little write-up from all the pet owners whose lives she affected. That would be a lovely special-interest story.

I first remember meeting Betty Jean when I went to investigate an “Australian shepherd” that had not been adopted yet. A co-worker had been telling me about this trio of dogs who came in — two boys and a girl — and how shy and afraid the girl was. I asked what kind of dogs and was told Australian shepherds.

Owning a rescued Australian shepherd, I was able to give her a few tips to try and win over this shy female. Many months passed and I asked the co-worker if the dogs had been adopted. Upon finding out that the boys had been adopted and only the girl remained, and that the girl was dubbed un-adoptable due to her tendency to growl and shy away from people, I determined to go and see this “troubled” dog. I brought my mom so I would not try and adopt the entire shelter and we went on an adoption Saturday. Betty Jean was working and told us a bit about the shy female, dubbed Daisy, and her situation.

After our first meeting, I determined to make this dog “adoptable.” Betty Jean and I worked together to allow me to come every night she and/or I had available so that I could spend time with the dog, slowly acclimating her to my presence. Due to this set-up, Betty Jean and I became friends talking dogs, life, whatever popped up. We told each other about plans for the holidays or funny things our pets had done.

When I was able to foster and later adopt Daisy, now named DazyMae, she was my biggest cheerleader and as thrilled as I was at the progress made. She would even tell me how DazyMae would look for me on days when our schedules didn’t mesh and I didn’t come, drooping at my absence. I think one of her happiest days was seeing that dog walk out of the shelter with a mom instead of being put down or living in the shelter forever.

What I remember most about this woman are three things: First, she had the deepest voice I think I have ever encountered. It made quite the impression. If you only heard her you would think she was growling at you.

Which brings me to the second thing: She had the biggest heart. Ask anyone who adopted from the SPCA. She would bend over backward to help you, find out things for you, make an adoption work, etc. She was just so generous. She also would take all of the “unadoptable” or “unwanted” dogs home herself and love them and give them a wonderful home and life.

Third, she was unabashedly opinionated and funny, with a kind of rough humor that just cracked me up. I could picture her holding her own in a bar fight just as well as having a nice, pleasant family dinner. Maybe it was because we are both Northerners by birth that I appreciated this forthrightness so much.

She will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.

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Karissa Godwin is from Orangeburg.

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