GREAT FALLS — Hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs across Montana are waiting in shelters for their forever families, each with a story. In Chinook, there’s one particularly resilient dog who has had quite a journey in a short amount of time.
Just five weeks ago Barney, as he’s now called, was just skin and bones - the Lab/Rottweiler mix weighed just 42 pounds. He was rescued by PAWS in Chinook, thanks to a tip from a dog-loving good Samaritan who saw Barney laying on someone's porch in bad shape.
“The part that makes Barney’s story worse is that he was on a porch. He had a home. There was another dog on the porch that was perfectly healthy. This was not a case where Barney was just out in the wilderness and didn’t know how to fend for himself. And I don’t know what to say about that,” said Alissa Hewitt, PAWS of Chinook Shelter Manager.
According to Hewitt, the vet’s best guess is that Barney hadn’t eaten in months, and the outlook was bleak.
“He didn’t move for quite a few days. He just laid there. But there’s always been so much light and life in Barney’s eyes. When we were at the vet that night, the vet had recommended, which we totally understand, the most humane thing to do was put him down and we understand that we get that absolutely. But I said hey, in one week if he is deteriorating, if we can’t do this, we’ll have this conversation. We’ll talk about that absolutely but let me try. It was pretty heartbreaking. I said what do I do buddy? And he wasn’t done. And how do I say yeah he’s done, if he’s telling me he’s not done. How do I do that? I can’t do that,” shared Hewitt.
Barney spent days not moving, laying in a bed in the shelter. Then one day that changed. Barney was standing, waiting for Hewitt at his gate. “I of course immediately started bawling because he was standing and waging his tail and he was super excited to just be here,” Hewitt said.
Slowly but surely Barney is getting stronger through walks, special food, medications, and being allowed to just be a dog. He's had some help in his recovery journey, thanks to a new special friend, Fancy, a stray who came to PAWS a few weeks ago. She is around six months old.
“They have such a strong bond and I think Fancy has been part of his healing,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt hopes that Barney and Fancy will be adopted as a pair, once Barney gains more weight.
“We learn so much more from them then each other. Barney has every reason in the world to not be okay with us and we would understand completely if he bit our faces off, we would totally understand, we’d still be here for him. But he hasn’t been that way. You can feel how grateful he is. He just wants to run and play. That’s all he wants and we try to give him that every single day,” said Hewitt.
Barney isn’t ready for adoption just yet. The vet hopes to get Barney up to around 70 pounds before he joins a new family. So far, he’s gained 15 pounds since arriving at PAWS.
He will need a home that can handle the financial responsibility of higher end food and possible continued medication needs. Both Barney and Fancy need a lot of exercise and the opportunities to go on adventures and see new things.