By Rosalie Tirella
Ripples just loves to swim! Every afternoon this once emaciated pitbull removed from a Worcester drughouse takes her “dip” in Barton Brook, the namesake of Barton Brook Kennels in Leicester.
“She goes for dives!” says Barton Brook owner/director Pat Dykas, laughing. Dykas says many of the pitbulls that are picked up by City of Worcester Dog Officers and brought to Barton Brook are so out of shape and underfed that at first they can’t handle living in the country – can only “swim” in Barton Brook for “five seconds.”
“Their health is compromised,” Dykas says.
But then it only takes a few weeks of good meals, a safe place to sleep and lots of farmland in which to roll, run and walk and Worcester’s homeless dogs rebound – big time. Under Pat and her family’s loving guidance Worcester’s pitbulls, chihuahua-mixes, huskies and even Pekensese pups blossom. “They put on a pound a day,” Pat says, smiling. Soon they are being walked on the grounds by volunteers, frolicking with their peers in a big enclosed, grassy area and even – a la Ripples – diving into Barton Brook.
A country vacation for Worcester’s street dogs, abused dogs and dumped dogs. Who would have guessed that things would have turned out so well for our city’s much-maligned pitbulls and other forgotten dogs?
Things have changed in Worcester when it comes to our homeless dogs. Today most of Worcester’s inner-city stray/picked-up pups and pooches are now taken to Barton Brook to be quarantined, vaccinated, housed and put up for adoption. Pat got the city contract for caring for Worcester’s strays/pickups after the Worcester Animal Rescue League refused to do business with the City of Worcester. They cut their ties to Worcester to protest the city’s recent pitbull ordinance.
But an oh-oh moment became an aaahaaa moment for Worcester and its homeless dogs! The dogs have made out wonderfully at Barton Brook. The love, care and exercise they get from Pat – in a country setting, no less – is totally therapeutic for them.
During the two afternoons this reporter spent at Barton Brook, touring the facility, talking with Pat and meeting all the dogs, she saw happy pooches galore (Pat has about 25 or so) – pups and dogs who can’t stop waggin’ their tails!
“It’s been great,” Pat says. “It’s been a great experience,” says Pat who has always loved dogs and has been the Leicester Dog Officer for a number of years. She also has a horse and pony at Barton Brook where she and her family live, adding that she is never more than several yards away from the dogs as she lives right there on the kennel/farm.
Pat says the Worcester dog officers are wonderful to work with. She says often a Worcester dog officer is so committed to a dog, he will stay with Pat as she cleans up a new arrival – just to make sure the dog is OK.
Pat says she has been pleasantly surprised at Worcester’s commitment to its homeless dogs. The city has paid for emergency visits to Tufts and other area veterinarians for special vet care for some dogs (broken legs, etc) before Pat gets them. She vaccinates them, gets them evaluated by a dog behaviorist and takes them to a vet to be spayed or neutered.The adoption fee of a dog ranges from $175 to $275. Not bad for a pooch that is all set to go.
“It’s about stabilization,” Pat says, noting that once dogs are deemed healthy she and her family and volunteers work hard to socialize it. The dogs are exposed to children (her little grandson), men, women, bikes, tricycles, etc. “That’s our goal – to see them interacting” with people, Pat says.
It’s great walking around the grounds with Pat. She and her daughter know all the dogs – and the dogs know and love the women. The pooches come running when called, jump up for hugs and pats – and treats. Pat takes out a husky found in Worcester and gives him a treat and a hug and a kiss. She stops by the pen holding the little dogs and lets them out into the gated yard where they run, run, run – a trio of lively happy critters!
She stops at an outdoor kennel where a big pitbull and smaller dog are hanging out. “This [pitbull] is my Big Daddy,” Pat says, indicating that this Worcester pitbull has such a calm and balanced temperament that she uses him to calm other dogs down – just like the Dog Whisperer Cesa Milan uses his big pit “Big Daddy” as a therapy dog for the unbalanced dogs he has to rehabilitate. A few minutes with the big handsome guy and you see his easy going temperament. He is so gentle, this big pitbull. And he grows more loving by the day living at Barton Brook.
You almost hate to see him get adopted!
“Three of our dogs have been adopted by NEADS,” Pat says. They will be trained to help people with disabilities.
Pat is as committed to Worcester and Worcester dogs as WARL was. We know our city’s canines are in loving and capable hands.
For more information call:
508.615.1339 • 508.892.0321 or visit 305 River St., Leicester, MA 01524, www.bbkanimalhealthcomplex.com
ADOPTIONS BY APPOINTMENT