In a way, it all started with Barney. He wasn’t Pam’s first rescue dog, but he was the first one she had to fight for, and the first one who needed a whole lot more than a new home.
Barney was brought into a rural shelter after being hit by a car. When Pam first laid eyes on him, he was lying on the concrete floor of a shelter kennel with broken legs, lacerations and in severe pain. When she asked why he hadn’t seen a vet, they told her there no funds for vet care in the budget. He also wouldn't 't be euthanized to put him out of his misery. Barney would have to wait 5 days- the county holding period for stray dogs wearing a collar when brought in.
Five days. No pain meds, no antibiotics, no relief.
Pam was in her early days as an animal rescuer and Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation was not yet incorporated as a 501c3. She had no resources other than her personal credit card and a passion for animals. None of that mattered when she looked at Barney, a brown-eyed beagle/basset with long ears, a big chest and short, broken legs.
It may have been in that moment that Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation found its soul. What happened next with Barney illustrates better than any explanation I could give what lies at the center of an organization that has grown thousands strong in its twelve years of existence.
Pam offered to take Barney to the vet, but was told she couldn’t- against regulations. He would just have to wait until his owners came to claim him, or his stray hold ended in five days when he would be euthanized.
That wasn’t an unacceptable answer.
And so she bundled Barney up and walked him right out of the front door, promising on the way out to surrender him if his owners ever appeared to claim him. Her helper for the day, another fierce animal advocate named Virginia Kincheloe, held the door for her and told the shelter staff to go ahead and call the sheriff’s department if they felt it necessary, and to direct them to the closest vet’s office because that’s where Barney would be.
To complicate matters, Pam was due on a flight leaving in just a few hours and would be gone several days- another obstacle that might stop most of us in our tracks, or cause us to say, “I would if I could, but I can’t.” If you ask Pam, however, “Can’t” is also an unacceptable answer. She left Barney with the vet, gave them her credit card number, told them to give him whatever he needed, and to expect her back in four days.
As it turned out, Barney needed a lot- including amputation of one back leg and surgery on the other, in addition to many weeks of strict cage rest to allow his broken pelvis to heal. During all of that healing, Barney settled in at Pam’s house (or more accurately in the yard he loved) and became a permanent resident.
That was 1999 and Barney went on become manager of security, champion deer-spotter and an
|This was Barney's standard greeting.|
For almost 13 years his only vet visits were routine, but in the fall of 2011, Barney opened his mouth to howl and we noticed something that didn’t look right. It turned out to be oral melanoma- cancer. The tumor was removed and Barney visited the oncologist for melanoma vaccines. Research promised the injections would give him an extra year to lie under cars in the driveway, paw at us for belly rubs and hold his white-tipped tail high.
We got almost 2 years, and during that time Barney learned to wag his tail when he heard the word, “cancer.” It usually went something like this: “Barney, you’ve got cancer, you can have my pizza crust,” or “Give that beagle an extra carrot, he has cancer.” Thump. Thump. Thump.
In the last few months we watched him fade- choosing more and more to remain on the porch, and spending most of his time sleeping. The day he lost interest in carrots, was a particularly sad one and the giant Costco bag of carrots still sits in the fridge because nobody yet has the heart to give them to the other dogs. Sorry guys, give us a minute to grieve.
In spite of his fading, Barney was content and calm until his very last day. He wagged his tail, searched out the best dog beds and ate canned food with some measure of excitement. Even on the last day, he didn’t skip a meal. He was, after all, a beagle.
The moment we were dreading came suddenly, and was not one ounce less painful than we anticipated, but it was over quickly. After a day of uncharacteristically nervous behavior, Barney began to have a series of grand mal seizures and it was abundantly clear that it was time to let him go.
And so he is gone, and with him a piece of our hearts and a chunk of LDCRF history. It has taken me a week to write this and it will take a lot longer for me to stop expecting him to greet me by flopping onto his back at my feet when I come home, or to stop listening for his unique, 3-legged clickety-clack of toenails on the bedroom floor at night.
We won’t forget Barney and neither will the organization he helped to find its soul. Barney will live on in every lost or broken dog or cat who finds its way to a new life through Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation, inspiring us always to do more and do it better.
Thank you, Barney, for making us all better people, for showing us what we can do, and for bringing me here. It has worked out pretty well.