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Injured dog whose owner killed on bicycle while pulling her in a trailer reunited with family

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Reunion of Jenda Cotton Ava

Jenda Cotton and her daughter Jessica were reunited with her late son's dog, Ava, at the Charleston Animal Society on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Ava was riding in a cart behind Kristopher Cotton when they were struck on U.S. 17 in Adams Run by a car. Cotton died and Ava, who had extensive injuries, has been recuperating at the Animal Society. Brad Nettles/Staff

A reunion outside the Charleston Animal Society on Saturday involved a wounded dog, bittersweet tears and a vociferously wagging tail.

It took Ava, a 7-year-old Labrador-Pit Bull mix, mere seconds to recognize the family who'd driven from Upstate New York to retrieve her from the animal society. Ava's owner had been riding a bicycle on Savannah Highway in the Adams Run area on Aug. 31 when he was hit by a vehicle and died.

When they were struck, Kristopher Cotton, 36, had been pulling Ava on a small trailer as they road-tripped from New York to the Florida Keys. She suffered a broken jaw and deep lacerations. Her brain swelled. 

However, outside the animal society on Saturday, Ava approached Cotton's mother, Jenda Cotton, and sister, Jessica LaFever. She'd barely sniffed them when her tail suddenly wagged with vigor, and she rubbed her sleek brown fur, still marred by gashes, against them in a greeting of familiarity.

"I told you Granny would come to get you," Cotton said. "You want to go home?"

Kristopher Cotton

Kristopher Cotton, 36, of New York, and his dog, Ava, were on a bicycle trip to the Florida Keys when they were struck by a vehicle on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, on Savannah Highway in the Adams Run area. Cotton was killed and Ava suffered serious injuries. Cotton's family and friends are raising money for funeral expenses and Ava's veterinary care at the Charleston Animal Society. Provided

Cotton described Ava as her son's "girlfriend, partner, companion, everything." She and LaFever thanked animal society staff and first responders who saved Ava's life and urged people to support Toby's Fund, which helps the animal society provide the kind of care Ava received. 

Anyone who wants to donate to the Cotton family can visit the Love for Kris page at Those who wish to help fund Ava’s veterinary expenses can visit

Several dozen first responders, animal society staff, members of the nonprofit bicycling advocacy group Charleston Moves, and other well-wishers lined the animal society's front walkway see Ava off on Saturday. Charleston Moves members gave the family a bundle of white flowers to leave at the site of the crash.

Contact Jennifer Hawes at 843-937-5563. Follow her on Twitter @jenberryhawes.

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