CONYERS -- In biblical origins, "Gabriel" was an archangel known as the messenger of God, and that seemed to fit a little stray puppy being nursed by Lori Todd.
"He really is a miracle puppy, and it was a blessing that he survived," said Todd, who is a teacher at Young Americans Christian School.
Gabriel, along with two siblings, was found when just a few days old by Rockdale Animal Care and Control. The puppies were stuck under a tool shed on wooded property in north Rockdale County.
Gabriel's siblings did not survive, and there was not much chance of Gabriel making it either without his mother or finding someone who would bottle feed him. Animal Control Shelter Manager Ciji Baker contacted Todd, who is a co-founder Hometown Animal Rescue Inc., a local rescue organization.
Todd said the puppy had not yet opened his eyes when she took him in. She did around-the-clock feedings in the beginning and took the puppy to school to make sure he was well fed.
Her students took to the little puppy and named him Gabriel Susej. "The last name is Jesus spelled backwards because dog is God spelled backwards," Todd explained.
Gabriel is now 4 weeks old and full of energy just like any other puppy.
And as the Gabriel in the Bible was God's messenger, Todd said the little puppy also has a message to tell.
"I hope his story helps to educate people to think before they get a pet and about the obligation that is involved," she said.
Gabriel's mother was a stray dog that the property owner discovered several years ago, but he never could capture her to bring her to Animal Control.
"It turned into a nightmare of having puppies and the ones he was able to catch he would get rid of but he could never get all of them at once," Baker said. "So the female would get older, get pregnant and have another litter."
Gabriel's mother remains elusive as Animal Control officers and the property owner are still attempting to capture her, Baker said.
Todd said her fear is that pets will be given as gifts this Christmas without much consideration of the responsibility of pet ownership. Consequently, the pets will either be abandoned or dropped off at Animal Control.
"Within the week after Christmas, Ciji is going to get tons back in the shelter. Then about the June time frame people will have a 6-month-old puppy that nobody has taken the time to train it, and those will show up in the pound, too," Todd said.
"People portray Animal Control as being the bad guys, but in reality the bad guys are irresponsible pet owners."
The U.S. Humane Society discourages people from giving pets as gifts this Christmas because the recipient may not be ready for the commitment. The Humane Society encourages adoption from a local animal shelter where the recipient can be involved in the selection process.
Both Animal Control shelters in Rockdale and Newton counties offer pet adoption.
Rockdale County lists animals available on its Web page at www.rockdalecounty.org, under the Emergency Services Department section. Information on pet adoptions at Newton County Animal Control can be found at www.co.newton.
ga.us, or by calling the shelter at 770-786-9514.