Originally created 04/12/98

Rescue zoo accustomed to craziness



CALHOUN, Ga. -- Susan Littlejohn manages a stable full of stars.

Black Jack the donkey, with his straight back and long, somber face, appears in the Atlanta Passion Play, bearing Jesus into Jerusalem on his back, and will take part in two Palm Sunday parades. "He's so elegant on stage," Ms. Littlejohn says proudly.

Petunia, the flirtatious black pig, is the main attraction of the annual American Diabetes Association Kiss-the-Pig promotion.

The frisky, brown, de-perfumed skunk Stinker, Fellow the llama and Pup Pup the trained dog are all in the production of Carnival at the local high school.

They and about 200 other animals were outcasts until they came under Ms. Littlejohn's protective wings. Now they live, convivially for the most part, at the Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds in Calhoun, between Atlanta and Chattanooga, in a barn plastered with animal posters and decorated with animal figurines. Together, they make up Aunt Susan's Rescue Zoo.

On a recent morning, it was a zoo, all right. Two little boys on a field trip from the Learning Tree, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Dalton, squawked at Larry, Moe, Curly and George, four wild turkeys taken in by Ms. Littlejohn after their mother was shot. A petite brunette walked carefully by with Miss Noah, a white dove and an Atlanta Passion Play performer, on her hand. Charmin' the chinchilla, named after the toilet paper, escaped and scrambled through the straw to a close encounter with Daffy the Duck.

A crew of half a dozen mentally disabled men from the Gordon County Training Center, who use the petting zoo as a job site three to five days a week, arrived to spread wood chips. And two gardeners dropped by to beg for free "natural fertilizers" produced by Ms. Littlejohn's hordes.

Unfazed by all the activity, Ms. Littlejohn took time to offer up an accordion concert to the children from the Learning Tree. They sang lustily along, sitting in a half-circle on wooden benches, as Ms. Littlejohn cranked out I've Been Working on the Railroad, You Are My Sunshine and Jesus Loves Me.

Ms. Littlejohn, 48, grew up in Rome as an animal lover -- a trait she acquired from her father, an electrician who "picked up every stray in the world."

For information, call (706) 629-0222 or write to Susan Littlejohn, c/o Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds, 1061 Liberty Road, Calhoun, GA 30701.