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Staff file photo / Betty White laughs during an onstage interview at Life: An Expo for Boomers & Seniors at the Chattanooga Convention Center in 2010.

On New Year's Day, Jonathan Shatz and the good folks at the Northwest Georgia Humane Society in Dalton, Georgia, welcomed in a boxer.

That's not unusual. Homeless dogs and cats, after all, are why Shatz and his team do what they do, like all of the other dedicated efforts of professionals and volunteers in their field.

But this dog — an all-white boxer — came in hours after Betty White's death, and the staff named the boxer Betty White after the trailblazing comedian, activist and on-screen and in-real-life golden girl to all of us.

(READ MORE: Betty White Challenge leads to spike in donations to Chattanooga-area animal shelters)

Betty White, who would have turned 100 earlier this week, returned to the headlines as the Betty White Challenge generated tens of thousands of dollars in donations to animal shelters around the area and untold amounts nationwide.

Big picture: We should embrace the challenge to be more like Betty White, a show business legend who was as kind as she was talented and as gracious as she was golden.

Imagine who else — in the public eye or in your private life — can live to be 18 days short of a century and still leave friends, family and fans clamoring for more. Maybe Dolly Parton? Especially in the calloused world of celebrity these days, where our need to put people we don't know on a pedestal is matched only by our fervor to knock them off it.

The Betty White Challenge spurred thousands of people to action.

(READ MORE: Remembering Betty White's Chattanooga connections)

"I've always loved animals and was involved with Wally's Friends and the spay and neuter efforts," local donor Myra Reneau said in a phone interview Thursday. "We try to donate [to the animal shelters], and we have worked with rescue cats before.

"With Betty White, though, she was such a trailblazing woman in so many ways, I definitely wanted to donate on that day."

Donations like Reneau's reached area facilities that were more than happy for the support. The two shelters in Chattanooga received more than $35,000 in donations.

"I can't imagine how much was collected across the country," said Shatz, who said his organization took in more than $7,000 and was still receiving some snail mail gifts.

For comparison, Shatz said in a phone interview Thursday that $1,000 in gifts this time of year was normally a good week. As for the impact this influx of cash can have, well, think about the vet bills the Northwest Georgia organization shoulders every month — about $10,000, according to Shatz.

(READ MORE: Betty White, TV's Golden Girl, dies at 99)

"[Donations] started to trickle in right before and then on her birthday it was non-stop," said Shatz, who has been leading the Northwest Georgia Humane Society for almost four years. "We were thrilled."

The Northwest Georgia Humane Society certainly has plans for the windfall, considering it has opened a new building. And after doing roughly 400 dog and cat adoptions in previous years, Shatz said 788 pets were adopted from the organization in 2021.

So it was a great start for 2022, thanks to Betty White.

As for the boxer who shares the star's name?

That Betty White was adopted on Monday — the day our Betty would have been 100.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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