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For SPCA volunteers, Sadie's adoption is bittersweet

SUWANEE -- The Georgia SPCA has lost its celebrity, but the organization couldn't be happier about it.

The dog that became such a rock star that she has a Facebook fan page, a thrift store named in her honor and was the de facto grand marshall for the Run for the Rescues 5K race this spring has a new home.

Sadie, a 3-year-old pit bull mix, was recently adopted by John and Robin Byars of Suwanee. The Byars family went looking for a new dog after their own dog of eight years, Sophie, passed away from a medical condition.

After John Byars first noticed Sadie on the SPCA's website, he was intrigued by her, he said. And after the couple returned from a vacation, he arranged to visit Sadie. At 3 years old, she appealed to the Byars because they didn't want to go through the "puppy phase" again. Her size, about 30 pounds lighter than Sophie, was also a plus, John Byars said.

But Byars would have never guessed that Sadie was rescued from a dog fighting ring in Talbot County, and has lived at the SPCA shelter and U.S. Canine, a rehabilitation center in Buford, for nearly three years.

Volunteers at the SPCA said it took a long time to acclimate her to everyday surroundings like being around people and other dogs. They were convinced she had made significant strides when she wore a Hawaiian lei and rolled around on the pavement before the Run for the Rescues event in March.

"She behaves really well, doesn't bark much. They had her trained up pretty well," said Byars, who is retired from the U.S. Forestry Service. "I don't know why she stayed there so long."

The SPCA will host a party at 6 p.m. on Monday to celebrate Sadie's new life.

Volunteer Kathy Hemmings knew Sadie as well as any animal at the SPCA, and sponsored her for the last year. Hemmings said Sadie's adoption offers a renewed optimism for other dogs to be adopted.

"Sadie's story will help people stay motivated to not give up on the animals that it sometimes takes a little longer to find the right home for," Hemmings said. "In a perfect world every dog would have a home, and every home would have a dog."

Added SPCA executive director Jane Stewart, "We could not be happier ... She got a wonderful home."

Now aware of Sadie's celebrity status, and how the SPCA used Sadie to help market the facility and generate exposure at fundraisers, Byars said he's open to bringing Sadie back to SPCA events.

"There's all kinds of people who care about this dog," he said.

A Byars family member for about two weeks, Sadie has transitioned well.

"A family dog becomes part of your family," Byars said. "I hate to even use the word, pet. She follows me everywhere I go, almost like a shadow."

Byars said his family enjoys outdoor activities like backpacking and hiking, and eventually would like to take Sadie with them.

Until then, the next obstacle is to improve relations with the family's cat, Romeo.