A Memphis Miracle

Several days ago, I was hanging out with the rich folks at the pool at Moore’s Mill Club in Auburn.

Lying in the lounge chair next to me was Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

We had an intriguing conversation that covered everything from World War II veterans to some of the ins and outs of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

There was one story, however, that stood out above all the rest and deserves to be shared.

Our story starts out on the mean streets of Memphis, Tennessee, in January of this year. Sure Memphis is the home of BBQ, the blues, and Elvis, but, as with any city its size, there are some seedy parts of The River City, too.

Two of Memphis’ finest, officers Chad Conley and Dwayne Johnson, spotted a stray a stray dog walking along the sidewalk.

It was evident to the officers that the dog hadn’t eaten in a while, so Officer Conley shared some of his sandwich with the rambling canine.

It didn’t take long for the officers to realize that this wasn’t just any dog. He was special.

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They named him Graham Leroy which was derived from the name of the intersection of the two roads where he was found.

Not wanting to drop him off at the Memphis Animal Shelter, Conley reached out to a former colleague, dog lover, and current Lee County Deputy Sheriff Jennifer Bosler, who, unfortunately, was unable to take him in.

“At that time, I had a foster from the Lee County Humane Society who had two puppies, so along with my three dogs, I wasn’t in a position to take in another one,” Bosler regretfully said.

With heavy hearts, the officers had no choice but to leave Graham Leroy with the Memphis Animal Shelter.

Meanwhile, 350 miles away, Bosler was worried sick that this special dog would be euthanized.

While at the shelter, Graham Leroy received a lot of tender loving care and very quickly regained his healthy form. He was neutered and, at the request of Johnson, had a microchip implanted in his leg with the officer’s contact information.

Why would Officer Johnson do such a thing for a dog he would likely never see again?

For the answer, keep reading.

It turned out that Johnson found a home for him with one of his wife’s co-workers who stepped up to the plate and adopted this special pooch, who was now simply called Leroy.

The Johnsons would often inquire about Leroy and were under the impression that he was doing just fine. It appeared that everyone would live happily ever after, after all.

At the end of April, Johnson was contacted by a fellow officer who had picked up an injured stray on the other side of town. The microchip in the dog’s leg revealed Johnson’s contact information.

Leroy was found in excess of 20 miles from his adopter’s home, so there’s no telling how long he’d been out on his own, again.

Johnson linked up with the fellow officer to take custody of Leroy.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that the same stray dog would be rescued by the same people twice in a city the size of Memphis.

Like Officer Conley said, Leroy was special.

It appeared that Leroy had been hit by a car and had an injured leg. Officer Johnson took him to the veterinarian where he was informed that his leg would need to be amputated. The cost for the surgery alone would be $800, which didn’t include medicine, boarding, or follow up visits.

Notice the injured left leg. Atrophy had set in.

Notice the injured left leg. Atrophy had set in.

Once again, they reached out to one of Lee County’s resident dog lovers, Deputy Sheriff Jennifer Bosler.

“So I told Chad that I’d contact my vet, Dr. Jere Colley of Opelika Animal Hospital. I spoke with Dr. Colley and shared with him how special this dog was. Not only had he been lucky to run across Chad and Dwayne once…but twice. That’s quite amazing considering the size of Memphis. I really felt that God placed that dog in their path both times. With that being said, he said he would help us out,” said Bosler.

She met Johnson in Birmingham on May 18 and immediately had that “feeling” about this dog. The return trip was uneventful, as was the introduction to the other dogs at the Bosler house of dogs.

He enjoyed the ride “home."

He enjoyed the ride “home.”

He got along well with the other dogs.

He got along well with the other dogs.

A couple of days later, Leroy was taken to Opelika Animal Hospital where it was discovered that he had a severed lateral nerve in his left front leg.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Jennifer Elrod on May 21. He stayed in the hospital for approximately 10 days.

Dr. Colley said Leroy did amazingly well following the amputation, which led him to believe he’d been without the use of that leg for quite some time.

At the vet, he did very well post-op.

At the vet, he did very well post-op.

It’s important to note that the procedure was performed at a discount by Opelika Animal Hospital and was funded entirely by a collection taken up by the Memphis Police Department.

Oftentimes at work, Bosler would mention the trials and tribulations of Leroy to Sheriff Jay Jones who became interested in his story.

“The first time I saw him, I figured he was a unique animal. He was in pre-op condition and that left front leg was just dangling limp. If it bothered him, you wouldn’t know, because he was bouncing around like the happiest dog alive. I learned of his background and the thought of offering to claim him did cross my mind. I’ve always admired a resilient attitude when facing tough odds, be it man or beast,” said the sheriff.

He shared Leroy’s story with Judy, his wife, so an introduction was in order. Bosler and Leroy visited the sheriff’s home in Auburn soon thereafter. Bosler was able to leave; Leroy, however, has taken up permanent residence at the Jones home.

Memphis enjoying his new home in Auburn.

Memphis enjoying his new home in Auburn.

He’s also taken up a different name. Memphis is what he answers to these days. It almost sounds as if he’s in the Witness Protection Program.

“The first time Judy saw Memphis, she looked at me and said, “I like this dog.” I knew that was it. Shoot, he had me after he ran three miles with me the first morning he came to the house. Later in the day, he came over and laid that big square head in my lap and looked up at me with his big brown eyes like dogs do. I know anyone that has ever had a dog knows exactly what I’m talking about. Well, that did it for sure,” Sheriff Jones went on to say.

Here's a current photo of Memphis, He appears to be living the good life-Aug 2013

Here’s a current photo of Memphis. He appears to be living the good life-Aug 2013

“I can’t lie, I miss the ole boy. He truly is a special dog, but I do get visitation rights,” Bosler said with a smile.

Sheriff Jones summed it up nicely by saying, “After all he’s been through, I have to believe the Almighty put him here for a purpose. If it was to inspire, then that plan is working to perfection.”

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com

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Beware of the “Silent Killer” #Diabetes

One Christmas morning in the late 1970’s, Santa Claus brought bicycles for my brother and me.  My brother, who is almost two and a half years older, already knew how to ride but I still needed to be taught. I’ll never forget my dad teaching me to ride that bike in the front yard of his Montgomery, Alabama, home that chilly Christmas morning.

My dad, Randall Fuller, was just like any other dad, albeit with one exception; he was blind.

Factor in his blindness with my stutter and it was an accident waiting to happen and boy did it ever. He simultaneously held the left handle bar and the back of the seat, took off running and told me to pedal. As a person who stutters, I have particular difficulty with words beginning with the letter S. I tried yelling “S-S-S-S-S” but by the time I got out “STOP!” it was too late. I was already lying face down in the sticker bushes.

Before losing his sight, he was a barber.

For a short period of time, he cut hair at Campus Barber Shop in Auburn.  He even cut former Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan’s hair a time or two. Although he was a devoted Alabama fan, he swept up and kept some of the Heisman Trophy winning hair in an envelope. I remember that envelope full of hair being around the house for a few years. I’m not sure what ever happened to it.

Later, he owned the Playboy Barber Shop in the breezeway of the Midway Plaza shopping center in Opelika. Perhaps some of our readers remember the pet mongoose he kept in a cage there.

My dad was also a champion coon hunter. People came from miles away just to go hunting with him. I can’t go anywhere without someone telling me about some of the late night coon hunting adventures in the freezing woods of Tallapoosa County.

Predictably, after losing his sight, he couldn’t get anyone to go with him. I can’t say that I blame them.

My dad was a diabetic. He had “the sugar.” In fact, he was diagnosed with what has been coined the “silent killer” when he was just four years old.

I’m not here to bash my old man, but the cold hard truth is that he didn’t take care of himself the way he should have. He didn’t go in for checkups, because, according to my mother, he said he felt fine. By the time he started experiencing problems with his vision, it was too late.

He did, however, immediately enroll at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, which helped him cope with his impending predicament.

In spite of his blindness, he continued to work every day, just not as a barber. He set a great example for his two boys. My dad was a flawed hero.

He would have turned 67 years old on November 16; however, this dreadful disease prematurely ended his life at 35. His boys were only 11 and 8.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

The startling statistics below come from JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)

Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans.

In the U.S., a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds; more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed each year.

Forty-one children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each and every day.

More than $174 billion is spent annually on healthcare costs related to diabetes in the United States.

Diabetes kills one American every three minutes.

November is “Diabetes Awareness Month” but we should always be conscious of the “silent killer.”

Don’t be a victim. Educate yourself. Get tested. Add exercise to your daily routine and watch your diet.

The author of this article needs to do the same.

Jody Fuller is comic, speaker, writer, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com

The Gambler…No, no, not that kind.

Usually when I write my column, I’m at home, sitting at my desk, staring at the wall.

Today, however, I’m on the 19th floor of Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, sitting on a chaise lounge, staring at the incomparable Las Vegas Boulevard.

vegas pic

Life is good, especially in Vegas.

My name is Jody Fuller, and I’m a gambler.

No, no, not that kind. I’ve been here three days and haven’t even played the penny slots, although I almost lost it all upon my arrival at McCarran International Airport.

After purchasing my round-trip tickets for the hotel’s shuttle bus, I crossed the street and stood in the appropriate line. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my wallet. I began to panic. My heart started pounding. I felt ill.

My wallet contained my driver’s license, military ID, cash, credit cards, debit cards, and much more. I began to think of all the terrible scenarios that could come from this mishap. I’m a Master Resilience Trainer for the Army National Guard, and we refer to this as catastrophizing.

I hurried back across the street, but failed to make it half way across, because the clerk from the shuttle bus kiosk was crossing the street to find me.  She handed me my wallet, and, in return, I gave her a bear hug. It’s nice to know there are still honest people in Sin City.

On past trips, I would gamble just enough to keep the free drinks coming but not this time. In fact, I haven’t even had a drink.

Still, I dropped a fair amount of money on this trip before ever leaving Alabama. I showcased at an event that could potentially lead to future opportunities, which would in turn pay for this trip many times over. On the other hand, I might not get any bookings, but that’s ok. Some risks are simply worth taking.

My gambling history isn’t very extensive.

The biggest gamble I ever made in my life was joining the Army. I was 19 years old and was headed nowhere, quickly. My future was bleak at best. At the time, I had very few friends in the military and had no idea what I was getting myself in to. It was the equivalent of going all in on a blind bet when you don’t even know how to play poker.

Basic Training

I got lucky and was dealt a winning hand from the start, and as many of you know, joining the Army turned out to be the best decision I ever made.

Although I only serve in a part-time capacity now, there is nothing greater than serving in our armed forces. The intangibles are unparalleled.

While awaiting my flight in Atlanta, the announcement was made that our flight was delayed due to bad weather.

Later on, another announcement was made stating the same; however, this time, they announced that the flight was overbooked and asked for volunteers to give up their seats.

The wait for the next flight was not very long, so I volunteered. In return, I received a voucher for the cost of my flight plus $300. I’d gambled and won.

Still, I’d yet to hit the jackpot.

The second flight wound up getting delayed, too. The frustration was setting in, and I was beginning to second guess myself.

My phone was dying and was in need of a charge, so I meandered about until I found an empty outlet.

I stood next to my phone as it was being charged and laid my usual carry-on, my handy-dandy, camouflaged Army backpack, at my feet.

The backpack drew the attention of a sweet little girl standing next to her grandmother. I heard her whisper, “Nana, is he a soldier?”

“I don’t know, Jayden. Why don’t you ask him?” Nana replied.

“Excuse me. Are you a soldier?” Upon confirmation, she smiled and said, “Thank you for protecting me.”

Jackpot!

I can’t remember how I responded but I’m sure it was goofy but heartfelt.

Once again, I heard her whisper, “Nana, can I give him a hug?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?” Nana replied.

Upon confirmation, Jayden gave this teary eyed soldier a hug.  I needed it. She was such a blessing.

There is nothing greater than serving in our armed forces. The intangibles are unparalleled.

I reached over and removed the US Flag from my backpack and gave it to her. She was so happy. I still had tears in my eyes and so did Nana.

Jayden

I gambled 21 years ago when I bet it all and joined the Army.  Some risks are simply worth taking because the payouts never end.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

A Real Man: My Father’s Day Tribute

It’s often been said that anyone can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad.

My dad was a real man, and I don’t mean just because he had a mustache.

Before losing his eyesight to diabetes in 1974, he was a barber. Since there’s little demand for blind barbers these days, he needed some help and enrolled in the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega.

Perhaps there wasn’t a demand for blind barbers, but it sure looks like one got “aholt” of me.

Upon the completion of the program in Talladega, he’d acquired the necessary skills and training to operate a business.

He didn’t open up a Fortune 500 company, but he did participate in the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind. This program provides participants who are legally blind with the opportunity to operate their own food service or vending facility. The Business Enterprise Program provides initial training for potential licensees and ongoing counseling and management services to established operators.

All operators retain the majority of the net proceeds from their facility and a small percentage goes back to the division to assist with the program’s operations and expenses.

My dad, who was completely blind, managed the snack machines at many federal and state buildings in Montgomery.

At this point, he and my mom were divorced and he’d remarried another lady who was legally blind. Therefore, neither could drive, so he had to walk to the bus stop every day with nothing but his keen senses and a walking cane and then somehow managed to maneuver his way around our capitol city.

My brother and I went to work with him a few times, but, at the time, had no idea what we were witnessing. Now, however, I’m in awe of what he did. He set such a great example for his two young and impressionable boys to follow.

He didn’t claim to be special, he just led by example. He put his pants on one leg at a time just like any other father. He just didn’t know what color they were once he got them on.

We would spend every other weekend with him, as well as a few weeks during the summer. Oftentimes, as we were loading back up into our 1971 gas guzzling Sherman tank to head back to Opelika, our dad would give us money. It never was much. If we were lucky, it was a Kennedy half dollar.

Sherman Tank

We used to get a lot of spankings but I usually had time to pad my backside before the blind man took off his belt. Hey, a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do.

Unfortunately, I didn’t always have time to pad the backside.

One day, before getting into the gas guzzler, I asked him for the money, and he yanked his belt off like Sinbad the Sailor. I got a lot of whippings when I was a kid, but there are about four of them that stand out above all the rest. This was one of them.

He taught me a valuable lesson that day. I hadn’t done anything to earn that money and certainly wasn’t entitled to it. Since that day, I’ve never held my hand out expecting something for doing nothing. I’m grateful he set me straight at such an early age.

He was a real father.

He taught us to say “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.”

For Christmas, he bought us enriching gifts such as globes, books, and encyclopedias.

He even made us eat all of our vegetables. While my brother gladly obliged, I fake moaned and groaned as I either fed them to the dog or quietly raked them into the trashcan.

Once again, a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do.

Sorry, daddy, but I still don’t eat vegetables.

Diabetes ended his life prematurely. He was just 35 years old. My brother was 11; I was a month shy of turning nine.

We weren’t with him for very long, but we were with him long enough to be forever impacted by his fatherly ways. The man knew what he was doing. He had a great father, as well. It’s amazing how that works.

Sadly not all kids have great fathers and that’s a shame. Every kid needs a father or a father figure in his or her life. When my dad died, one of my uncles picked up the slack.

Grateful that my Uncle Wayde picked up the slack , even if he did wear Daisy Dukes to Panama City.

If a father figure is not available, the mother must pull double duty. Although, incredibly difficult, it can be done. I’m grateful to have had a strong mother, too.

So, to all the dads out there, I say Happy Father’s Day; however, if you’re just a father and not a dad, the time to make that transition is right now.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

Dogs & BBQ: Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

Dogs and BBQ…and why I named her Ruby

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I love dogs and barbeque like old people love Buicks.

Several years ago, I was traveling through Memphis en route to Fort Carson, Colorado, for some high speed Army training and had a couple of hours built in to the rigid itinerary for a pit stop in Memphis.

Renowned for its BBQ, Memphis is on the bucket list for anyone and everyone who loves BBQ.

I made plans to eat at one of the popular joints that had been featured extensively on the Travel Channel.

Upon arrival at this BBQ Mecca, I was so excited. I was like a kid at Disney World. No, I was like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. No, I was more like an old person with a brand new Buick. Yes, I was that excited.

I wasn’t sure what to get, so I went with the sampler. One can never go wrong with the sampler.

Boy was I wrong!

I hadn’t been that disappointed since the unveiling of New Coke.

I’d made quite an impression with the staff and didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I politely asked for a carry-out box. Once outside and around the corner, I dumped it in the nearest garbage can.

The next day, while traveling along Interstate 40, I passed a sign just east of Ozark, Arkansas, for Rivertowne BBQ. I took the corresponding exit and made the short trek to Ozark, a small town beautifully set along the Arkansas River.

Rivertowne BBQ is located just off the square in downtown and is not to be missed. The setting was perfect. The staff was incredibly friendly, and the BBQ was out of this world.

Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

While growing up, the thought of enlisting in the Army never crossed my mind, and I certainly never envisioned getting Chyna, my beloved black lab, within a year of separation from my first stint in the Army.

It’s now been 21 years (23 now) since I raised my right hand and took that oath of enlistment that changed my life forever; furthermore, I was so incredibly blessed to have Chyna at my side for the bulk of those years.

I reiterate. Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

I had to make every pet owner’s toughest decision on July 30, 2012, but in the end, it was an easy decision because it was the right decision. Chyna was 15 ½ years old and had lived a good life.

Not a week has gone by that someone hasn’t offered me a dog or sent me a link to one needing rescued.

Although many people offered AKC registered pups at no charge, I’d planned on rescuing one from the shelter, because that was the right thing to do. That was the plan.

But plans don’t always pan out. I was never quite ready to make that leap. The loss of Chyna weighed heavily on my heart, and I was not prepared to put myself in a position to eventually go through such heartbreak again.

My article on Chyna: The Love of my Life

That all changed on Saturday, June 1, 2013, when I received the following message on Facebook from a friend I barely knew:

Hey! I know that you lost your baby a while back. My lab recently had a litter of puppies. I have sold them all except one little girl. It has been weighing heavy on my heart for the past few days to ask you if you would like to have her as a gift. She is an AKC reg. chocolate lab. She turned 7 weeks old yesterday.

Getting a dog hadn’t crossed my mind at any point throughout that day, but I immediately knew that she was the one, sight unseen.

Oddly enough, I also knew her name. It was Ruby.

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It’s a name shared by my late great grandmother, who was a sweet, smart, kind, and caring lady; and by one of our battalion’s great soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice during my first tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. Sergeant Rubalcava, known as SGT Ruby by most, was a beautiful, brave, strong, and loyal soldier.

So far, my Ruby embodies each of the character traits of her namesakes and will be a constant reminder of those for whom she is named.

I simply cannot wait to answer the question, “Why did you name her Ruby?”

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While it is of the utmost importance that we plan some things out, it’s equally important to remain flexible and to let those plans change when and if necessary.

I wasn’t planning on getting a puppy this week, but it happened. Perhaps I saved her from going to a bad home. Who knows? After just fours days with her, I feel it was meant to be. She is a blessing in every conceivable manner. I look forward to the journey ahead.

BBQ is one of my greatest loves, but be it Memphis, Carolina, Kansas City or even Chuck’s BBQ in my hometown of Opelika, AL, it pales in comparison to the love I have for my dogs, Chyna and Ruby, whose unconditional love for me was and is much like Rivertown BBQ; it’s out of this world.

If and when you lose your beloved pet, take your time in getting a new one. Don’t rush into it. You’ll know when the time is right. Others mean well and want to help but it’s ultimately up to you to know when and you will, indeed, know.

By the way, I have it on good authority that Aunt Chyna gives Miss Ruby two dewclaws up. She always was a good judge of character.

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Update: Me and my girl in August 2015

Update: Me and my girl in August 2015

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.