Barkley Found his Forever Family

"Remembering Katrina" recounts, through story and image, the experiences of those who joined in the monumental effort to rescue the thousands of pets left stranded by Hurricane Katrina. This series pays tribute to the rescuers and to the animals" extraordinary will to survive during one of America"s worst disasters.

Ray Champagne and Family Adopt Katrina Rescue Barkley from Best Friends. Here's the story in their words.

In June of 2006 my wife and I attended an adoption event in New Jersey, and she was fortunate enough to win a trip for two to Best Friends. I had been there twice before and have raved about it to her for several years. So in August we travelled to Kanab with no intention of adopting a dog at Best Friends. We did, however, consider the possibility of a "sleepover." As we took the tour and visited the Fairway, we noticed this cute mid size mixed breed dog that we discovered was a Katrina survivor. He was the "out" dog at the Fairway, and Tonya, the caregiver, told us he was available for a sleepover.

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So we decided to do it and took him to the cottage in which we were staying. That night we took him on a ride to Kanab, and Barkley had a great time. When we returned him to the Fairway the following morning, we asked to take him for a second night. Once again, we had a great time with him and when my wife woke up that night she saw him sleeping on the floor between our two beds. We were going to leave Best Friends the following morning, and I had promised my wife I would not ask to adopt a dog. While were eating our breakfast, Barkley was playing with his little toy squirrel. Quite frankly, I began to cry at the thought of never seeing the little guy again, and my wife asked if I wanted to adopt him. We brought him back to the Fairway and filled out the required adoption papers. After we returned to our Pennsylvania home we received a home visit and were approved for adoption.

4678538701 efa2eb5a14 oSubsequently Barkley was transported to Las Vegas and put on a flight to Newark, NJ, where we picked him up. He was frightened when he came off the plane, and obviously he had a very long and stressful day. It took us about three hours to drive home from the airport, and Barkley was a perfect gentleman the entire trip.

We have had Barkley - or as we sometimes call him "Little Man" - for almost four years, and he has brought great joy into our lives. He is the smallest of the five dogs we currently have, but in some ways he is the leader, especially when it is time to go for a ride.

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He is remarkable alert and intelligent, and he absolutely loves to hang around the kitchen in search of "people food" handouts. He does not seem to have aged a day since he arrived, and he gets along beautifully with his dog friends. After his rescue from Katrina, Barkley spent time in a couple of shelters before arriving at Best Friends a few weeks before our visit. It is almost as if destiny determined that we were to be his people and he was to be our "Little Man."