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"Cuddles," a certified emotional support canine, is part of Larry Worthy's ministry to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Mid-South area.

"What is dog spelled backward?" asked Larry Worthy, with a wide grin on his face, still sporting red bruises from a pit bull attack in his neighborhood. "It's God."

In that attack, Worthy was able to fend off four vicious pit bulls that knocked him to the ground and chewed on him until an ambulance crew could arrive.

In the effort Worthy saved the lives of four children and his precious Border Collie-Chow mix, "Cuddles," an emotional support animal registered with the National Service Animal Registry or NSAR.

That attack marked the second time Worthy had saved the life of his six-year-old best friend.

More than four years ago, Worthy rescued "Cuddles" from a house in Frayser, in north Memphis, where she was being groomed as bait for pit bulls.

"She had broken teeth, broken ribs and heartworms," Worthy said. "An officer had picked up Cuddles off the street. She was tied up. Somebody called and reported them. They took her to the Memphis Animal Shelter. She didn't have much of a chance. They had her lined up to be euthanized. I saw her picture and God said 'Go get her. I have a plan.' God put her in my life to help people."

Worthy adopted her, and along with help from DeSoto Animal Hospital, put Cuddles back on the road to good health. He taught her to love, forgive and heal from her traumatic experiences.

Four years ago, Worthy, a Horn Lake resident, began a ministry to help lift the spirits of nursing home residents and hospital patients. Cuddles became a certified therapy dog.

"Somebody told me that I needed to take Cuddles to a nursing home. So, I took her to Golden Living in Southaven. They loved her. She was a hit. Every week, Cuddles and I began to see more and more people. Those rooms were full of pictures of Cuddles. That's how much joy she brings to people."

Worthy and Cuddles now regularly visit Wesley Meadows Retirement Community, DeSoto Health Center and in area hospital chemo wards and hospice centers.

"When we go into the patients' rooms, sometimes Cuddles will get into the bed with them," Worthy said. "My job is to make 'em laugh and make 'em smile. We ask people if they know Jesus Christ. I ask them, 'do you see that book over there? It's called the Bible. It's the instruction manual on how to live. We give them all the hope there is in the world."

Additionally, Larry and his trusted friend Cuddles trot out to greet Horn Lake Police officers each morning and provide them with bottles of cold water. She is also in every Christmas parade.

Also, on the last Friday night of every month, Larry and Cuddles are present for a special night set aside for special needs children at Southpoint Church in Southaven.

"Cuddles is like God," Worthy said. "She loves unconditionally. She loves everyone. Black, white, red, green, yellow — they are all the same."

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 62-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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