Granny never turned away a stray. She lived on a farm in Richmond next-door to her daughter’s family, and between the two, any injured or lost animal that came their way was never homeless.
Bobbie Jean Jones, who insisted on being called Granny, helped injured wild animals recover before releasing them; she took in abandoned cats, dogs and chickens — even horses that would have otherwise been sent to a meat factory.
Her home is on a dead-end street, which her daughter, Karen Southworth, said makes the property a common “dumping ground” for unwanted animals.
One day a few years ago, a neighbor watched someone throw a young dog out the back of a pickup truck. Granny could tell he was injured with scrapes and road rash, but when she tried to help, he wouldn’t let her near.
“He sat there at the door and growled,” Southworth said. “She just said they were going to have a ‘come to Jesus’ talk. She said, ‘I am treating your wounds, I am giving you a home, I’m getting ready to take care of you, and this is not going to happen.’”
Nasty in name only
After Granny told the dog, a pit bull, to “stop being nasty,” his temperament changed completely. He let Granny clean him up and take him to the vet to get vaccinated and neutered, but the name stuck: Nasty.
“She refused to change his name once the nastiness went away,” Southworth said. “She said, ‘I can’t change his name because he comes to Nasty, and I’m not going to do that to him.’ So, we just left it Nasty, even though there was not a nasty bone in his body.”
The only reason he growled was because he was scared, she said.
Soon, the 73-year-old, 70-pound woman and the young pit bull became best friends. Granny, who was beginning to lose her eyesight, would bring Nasty to sit with her on the porch at night because he made her feel safer. He had his own chair next to hers.
“Nasty turned out to be the most awesome dog for my mother,” Southworth said. “He was there, protecting her.”
Southworth said her dogs and Granny’s would often wander between the two homes, playing together. But Southworth’s basset hound and Nasty didn’t get along well, so Granny had to do something to keep them separated. That’s when she called Saving Sunny, a Louisville-based nonprofit dedicated to rescuing dogs and assisting pet owners.
Saving Sunny sent Shannon Smith to Granny’s farm to help set up a pen area with a doghouse where Nasty could stay.
Smith, a self-proclaimed dog lover, founded Lexington Pit Crew, an organization similar to Saving Sunny, in 2013. A few years before that, she and her family adopted a puppy from a local animal shelter that they had been told was a black lab.
As their puppy grew, Smith said it became clear he was more of a pit bull than a lab. She said she sometimes sensed that other moms judged her for keeping a pit bull in the same house as her four young children, but she knew how patient and friendly the dog was with her family. That was when she decided she needed to become an advocate for the breed.
Lexington Pit Crew provides foster homes and adoption services for pit bulls and other bully breeds, which are often unwelcome in shelters. With guidance fromSaving Sunny, Smith was able to expand her organization and help abandoned dogs find their “forever homes” in the Lexington area.
When Smith met Granny, she offered to bring food or help Granny get Nasty his vaccinations. But Nasty already had all his vet paperwork, and Granny refused to take more than she needed.
“When she refused to take that food from us, I was not going to back-talk her,” Smith said. “She knew what she wanted, and she was just a really neat lady. We appreciated what she did, so we wanted to step up for her and in her honor.”
Nasty loses his momma
Then, Granny became sick. Southworth said she often worried that Nasty might hurt her mom if he got too excited or accidentally knocked her over.
“She would open the front door in the morning, and it scared me because she was on blood thinner,” Southworth said. “She would open the door and say, ‘OK, Nasty, you’re going to have to step back because I’m going to come out and move you.’ He would literally step back and wait until she unhooked him and then walk with her to the pen.”
About a year and a half ago, Granny died.
Southworth said she and her family were devastated, and she could tell that “a piece of Nasty’s heart was gone.”
Even without Granny, Nasty would sit in his chair on the porch, as he had with her. Whenever he heard a sound from inside, he would perk up and look for Granny, Southworth said. For more than a year, Nasty was waiting and looking for her.
“I just didn’t know what to do,” Southworth said. “I wanted more for him, and I know Momma wanted more for him.”
Southworth remembered the help Granny had gotten from Saving Sunny and Lexington Pit Crew, but she couldn’t remember the names or how to contact them.
One day, when she was trying to decide what to do, she went to her mom’s house and sat in her chair, asking for help. Then, like a miracle, she said, she opened the drawer in the table next to the chair and found a memo book. Inside, Southworth found the contact information for Shannon Smith.
Smith received the call from Southworth the same night she had just learned of a hoarding case needing attention. Still, Smith said, she knew she couldn’t turn Nasty away, so she contacted Saving Sunny.
A new home for Nasty
Meanwhile, Nasty tested positive for heartworm. To help pay vet bills and other training fees, Smith set up a campaign called “Help for ‘Granny’s’ boy” on GoFundMe, raising more than $1,000 in the first two months.
Stanford resident Jennifer Williams came across Lexington Pit Crew on Facebook a few weeks ago and saw a post about Nasty. His and Granny’s story caught her attention.
Williams used to have a pit bull named Daisy, who died two months ago. She wasn’t quite ready to adopt again, but she wanted to do something to give back to the breed.
Nasty arrived last weekend at Williams’ 80-acre farm, with horses, cattle and plenty of room to run and play.
“He’s just kind of a laid-back dog,” she said. “He seems to be doing just fine; he’s very well-behaved.”
Williams also has a beagle named Gypsy, and the two dogs get along well, she said.
Right now, she doesn’t plan to keep Nasty long-term, but she said she might change her mind. Because of his “sweet disposition,” Williams said she doesn’t think it would be hard for him to find a forever home with a good family.
Williams was adopted as a child, and she said that might be why she has a heart for fostering. She hopes to offer her home in the future to other pit bulls who would otherwise be euthanized.
Southworth said she knew that finding Nasty a new home was the best thing she could do for him. She said she could feel her mother telling her, “If he can’t see my house, he’ll learn to separate.”
“I just felt like I was giving away a part of my mother, but I thought, no matter how many of us are loving him, he’s always going to look for her.”
Now, Nasty has everything she wanted for him: a friend, a great mom and a place to run.
Emma Austin: 859-231-1455