I got home about noon Monday. As I fiddled through my keys outside the door, I could hear my dog, Peanut, inside. His yelps and barks meant he knew I was there.
When I opened the door, he came bounding down the stairs and onto the arm of the couch. I leaned over and took him in my arms. I hugged him a little harder that day. I was very happy he was there – and he seemed to share the feeling.
I had just arrived home from the funeral of Jeannette Christos, a wonderful friend to my wife and me; a selfless woman who gave her life to save the lives of neglected, abused and abandoned animals.
Jeannette Christos founded Tri County Humane Society 20 years ago. The organization that serves Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties has been located in the former Boca Raton city animal shelter since 2001.
Tri County is different from most shelters. Animals there are not euthanized as a matter of course. It is a “no kill” shelter – as Jeannette demanded it be — and that is why my wife and I are longtime supporters
It’s hard to believe the woman with what appeared to be boundless energy is gone. At age 67, she succumbed to cancer – quickly, I’m told. I guess it is true. I can still find emails from Jeannette from as recently as June.
Peanut, did not come from Tri County, but we believe he may have been a puppy mill dog – something Jeannette hated. A few years ago, she brought in more than 30 dogs from a puppy mill in Missouri that was closed down. And after Hurricane Katrina, she and Tri County workers went to New Orleans to save the animals left behind when their owners died or were removed from the area.
I remember seeing one of the dogs. He had a worn leather collar around his neck with the name of his owner on it. It’s said that his master did not survive the disaster.
We brought Peanut to the shelter many times to mingle with the other dogs. We tried to help in small ways – donating food, toys, blankets, towels and other necessities.
I remember covering the City Council meetings a few years ago when a group of people tried to remove Jeannette as head of Tri County. They were viciously critical of the way she ran the facility, but, in the end, Deputy City Manager George Brown found the shelter had done no wrong.
Even Jeannette admitted Tri County is not a beautiful place. And yes, Jeannette was gruff. Everyone who knew her said she had a temper. But it could not hide the goodness in her heart. The tough veneer was just her way of protecting the dogs and cats that came through her door.
And they came in broken and battered, burned and often near death. She saved thousands.
Jeannette was one of the busiest people I have met. But when our adorable Maltese Medessa died a few years ago, Jeannette retrieved her at the animal hospital, put her in a small casket and allowed mourners time to reflect in the parlor of the house behind the animal cemetery next to Tri County. Medessa is now at rest in that sanctuary.
When a pet dies, it’s said that he or she crosses “the Rainbow Bridge” to their heavenly eternity. At the funeral, Jeannette’s friend, Diane Laverdure, read a tribute saying that Jeannette has crossed the Rainbow Bridge “to be with your four-legged friends. Rest assured that your legacy will live on in the hearts and souls of every animal that will receive a chance to live and be loved because of you.”