A Gem of a Dog

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A Poisonous Encounter

The next morning revealed that though much of the town was devastated, the Elsworths' house, which is a mile from the beach, was barely damaged. Skip picked up a chain saw and began to cut his way through fallen trees to clear the main road so he could join the recovery crews.

A month after Katrina, Skip was still on disaster duty, and the Elsworths had taken in a firefighter colleague of Skip's, Ryan Jenkins, his wife, Rhonda, and their two children, Jett, 8, and Madison, 6. The Jenkins family, who had lost everything in the storm, parked their FEMA trailer on the Elsworths' lot.

One sweltering evening Misty and Rhonda began clearing the many fallen branches that littered the property as a result of the storm. Little ones Ashlyn and Madison helped their mothers while Dalton and Jett played cops and robbers. Jewels tossed around her own stick. Suddenly Jewels bolted across the yard, knocking the girls away from a small shrub. "She ran into them at full speed," says Misty, who was shocked that the dog was misbehaving.

After slamming into the kids, Jewels dove headlong into the shrub. "She got out of the plant and took off, shaking her head," Misty recalls. The little girls were crying, Jewels was running in circles, and Misty was chastising her.

Then the dog dropped what Misty thought at first glance was a stick. Misty looked again: There, in upright striking position, was a baby copperhead, about 14 inches long, with its distinctive banded, camouflage-like markings. As Rhonda tried to move the children away without startling the poisonous snake, Misty yelled for Skip's uncle Paul Malley, who raced over from the adjoining property, where he lived.

"He got a shovel and killed the snake," reports Ashlyn, breathlessly recounting the experience. "Jewels saved me and Madi." Adds Dalton, "Jewels is cool."

Continued on page 3:  Mississippi's Hero


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