Photo: Larry Worthy and Cuddles at the Olive Branch Wesson House. The pair share unconditional love throughout the area, from hospitals to nursing homes and special needs schools. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
About seven years the lives of a Shetland sheepdog and a Hernando man became forever intertwined.
Today, Cuddles the dog teaches his friend Larry Worthy and most everyone the importance of unconditional love, goodness, and trust.
Cuddles and Worthy met under the most horrible circumstances. Cuddles was called a “slaughter dog” among dog fighters in the hood of Frayser and North Memphis, meaning they would let other dogs chew on the little puppy until killed.
Police found the dog fighters and broke it up, but the little sheepdog was left with broken teeth, broken ribs, and was basically a skeleton of herself.
“They said she had the highest number of heartworms they had ever seen,” Worthy said.
The fighting dogs were put down and the puppy was about to meet the same fate.
“I’ve always been involved in animal rescue and so forth,” Worthy said. “They sent me a picture of this puppy, I looked at it and my heart broke that anybody would do anything like that to an animal.”
Worthy was told the dog couldn’t be saved, but he wanted to try, so he took Cuddles and proceeded to find a veterinarian willing to try. A vet was found and after several weeks of treatment Worthy was finally able to bring Cuddles home.
A dog beaten and bruised had lost her trust of humans, but Worthy was able to restore that trust.
“I let her know that she would never have to worry about being hurt again,” Worthy said.
Now, Cuddles and Worthy visit with people wherever they can, including special needs schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, meeting people, spreading goodwill and comforting those needing a kind paw.
“She now has a federal ID, she can go more places than I can go,” Worthy said. “It’s such a blessing that God gave me this gift to be able to share with people. She’s been teaching me and all of us. There’s such a general warmth and a feeling that she gives.”
Worthy can share several stories of the comfort and goodness Cuddles has offered, including an encounter with the family of a dying father in hospice.
“The father had cancer of the liver and pancreas and there were three small children,” Worthy explained. “While the nurses prepared him to go to Heaven, the nurses looked over at Cuddles and she had the three small children down the hall, by herself, comforting them. Cuddles knew her mission and exactly what she was there for.”
Worthy also tells of a time while doing his Bible study that Cuddles came up to him and put her paw on the Bible. Larry took a picture of it with the caption, “Will you read the words in red?”
Worthy has made copies of all of the photos taken with Cuddles, including that one, and said that particular photo sends a special message to youngsters and their parents.
“Children don’t know the words in red and some parents don’t even know the words in red,” Worthy explained. “But I tell them that the words in red are the words that Jesus said. And kids will say, ‘Really? If those are the words Cuddles read, I want to read those words, too.’ That’s a message in itself.
Through everything Cuddles has gone through in life, the lessons taught and the gifts shared are so important in today’s world, Worthy said.
“The purest love, unconditional love, and forgiveness,” he said. “How can anyone forgive after what Cuddles has been through? We can all learn unconditional love and we can all learn to trust. It’s so hard, none of us knows today how to trust. It’s hard to forgive, but it’s a great message in itself and she’s teaching all of us.”