In the movie “50/50,” a young man copes with cancer with the help of an adopted greyhound.
Joe Giordano, 84, of Decatur doesn’t need a movie to tell him about the breed's healing powers.
Giordano was physically injured and emotionally devastated in March when a pit bull mix attacked his greyhound, Oreo, as he walked her on a Decatur street. In the struggle, Giordano was dragged into the street and bitten. Oreo lost so much blood she had to be euthanized.
"It was a horrendous experience," Giordano said. "It took me a month to get over the bruises. I was depressed because I was so attached to that dog."
The retired CDC manager said he's getting back to normal now, thanks to physical therapy and the adoption of a new greyhound, Cocoa.
“It took five years off his life,” said his companion, Jeannie Norris, “but we’re getting those years back with Cocoa.”
On March 11, Giordano took Oreo for her nightly walk and reached the corner of North Candler and Sycamore streets near behind Towne Square, the condo building where he lives.
Giordano said he noticed another dog relieving itself in the nearby bushes, but never saw the dog race across the street.
Before Giordano knew it, the dog clamped its jaws on Oreo’s neck, refusing to let go even when its owner ran up and tried to pull it off, Giordano said. Giordano said he yanked on Oreo’s leash but the pit bull yanked back.
“I was pulled into the middle of the intersection on my belly,” he said. “Blood was all over the place.”
Finally the dog released Oreo and the man and woman who owned the attacking dog took it away. Giordano said the man returned with a vehicle and drove Giordano and Oreo to the , where the greyhound was put down.
According to a police report, the owners of the pit bull mix said they were walking the dog when it broke free and darted across the street. Later, police said, the owners had that dog euthanized. The dog owners could not be reached for comment.
Giordano didn't press criminal charges but reached an out-of-court settlement with the dog owners.
Giordano was taken to the emergency room and went through physical therapy. At home, he was cranky and irritable.
Giordano has loved greyhounds for years. Before Oreo, he owned one named Julie that helped him cope with the death of his wife in 2003. So after three or four weeks of recovery from his injuries, he knew what to do.
"I said, 'I need to get out of this and the only way is to get another dog.' "
In early April he visited a Southeastern Greyhound Adoption kennel and noticed a red brindle -- a striped, rust-colored greyhound.
The greyhound was the oldest in the bunch and Giordano worried she would spend the rest of her life in the shelter. He took her home. Online research shows Cocoa is about eight years old.
Today Giordano walks Cocoa several times a day, usually passing the spot where Oreo was attacked. The exercise does both of them good, he said.
Cocoa was shy at first, but is becoming more confident with each day. And Giordano said he feels much better – an opinion Norris confirms.
“Joe went downhill after Oreo,” she said, “but he’s coming back with Cocoa.”
Fox 5 Atlanta ran a story about Giordano in the days after Oreo died. You can view it on the Fox 5 website.