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The Long Journey Home: Three Dogs’ Adoption Tales

Autumn, Mackenzie, and Barney find forever homes after their rescue

  • Autumn (left) cuddles with her new "sister," Belle. HSUS

  • Mackenzie's new favorite pasttime is running. HSUS

  • Barney sleeps every night with his stuffed sheep "Lammy pie."

by Joanne Bourbeau

If dogs could talk (and type), Autumn, Mackenzie, and Barney could probably write a book about their adventures and how they were adopted following their rescue from a hoarder in Arkansas last year.

The Humane Society of the United States was contacted in July 2009 by the Caledonia County Sheriff's Office after two Arkansas fugitives were found and were facing criminal animal cruelty charges. Tammy Hanson and her husband, Bill, fled Arkansas in 2006 before the sentencing hearing on her conviction for 20 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty after nearly 500 starving, diseased, and dead dogs were found at their facility "Every Dog Needs a Home." Read more about the case and about Hanson's sentencing »

The HSUS and its volunteers spent weeks at the property caring for the animals until they could be transferred to other shelters for adoption.  Here are three follow-up stories about dogs who were adopted after the rescue.


When Lesli (last name withheld), a shelter volunteer and former director of behavioral services, met Autumn at the Rutland County Humane Society, she instantly liked her.

At the time Lesli had two ailing dogs of her own at home, and Autumn was extremely skittish, especially with men. Autumn was eventually placed, but escaped from her new home after a few days.

Lesli went door-to-door with other volunteers trying to find Autumn. Shelter staff combed the woods and even used the dog that Autumn came in with to help find her. Autumn was missing for more than 10 months before they received an email from Pete Bloodworth.

Pete's cat, Phat, prefers breakfast on the porch. He had started noticing that the food was consistently being cleaned up by another visitor, and he decided to install a wildlife camera to catch the thief on videotape. He noticed from the pictures that the dog had a collar and tag, but he couldn't make out any details. He contacted the local humane society, and Lesli set up a live trap on Pete’s property, catching the frightened dog after only three days.

Help a dog in need of a home—pledge to adopt your next pet »

Lesli had told herself long ago that if Autumn was ever found, she was bringing her home and never letting her go. That's exactly what she did. The pooch spent the entire drive from Pete's house to hers between the front seats, staring at her the entire drive. She stuck to her like glue from the minute she took her home.

At first Autumn was extremely defensive and aggressive with Lesli's other dogs, but after she tested positive for the tick-borne disease anasplasmosis and was put on treatment, she became a different dog within 48 hours.

"She gets along great with my four other dogs, and she's making some progress with the cats," said Lesli. With lots of love and positive reinforcement, she will approach people now.

"Every time I look at her, I wish I could get inside her head. I feel like I'm the lucky one," Lesli said.


Alyce and Bob Wood were asked by The Central Vermont Humane Society in Montpelier to foster Mackenzie after they took her in for placement. Mackenzie was traumatized. She lay on the floor in the back of their car and didn't move during the short ride home.

"It took one week before we could get her to go outside on her own," said Alyce. "She would become scared by noises and hide behind our shed under our kayaks. I remember crawling under the kayaks to get a leash on her to get her back inside."

Alyce admits that she and her husband had no intention of adding a dog to their family of two miniature schnauzers. But their two dogs were very good with Mackenzie.

One year later, Bob takes Mackenzie running on the weekends. Now Mackenzie climbs into his lap when he sits in his recliner. She is eating well and is learning how to play. Her favorite pastime is running. And Mackenzie no longer hides on the floor of the truck.


Barney, a playful, engaging golden retriever/terrier mix came into Mary's life after weeks waiting for a new home at The North Country Animal League. He was sweet but anxious, and couldn't seem to connect with the many potential adopters who, having heard about his hard luck, stopped by to meet him.

As a volunteer, Mary would occasionally take a dog home when the shelter was closed in order to give them a little extra care. Barney came home with her for a weekend visit, and the rest is history. 

Barney immediately became the "home security system" for her homestead, and became a friend to roommates, Betti, a golden retriever, and Wilson, a former shelter adoptee cat. Barney loves his daily long walks in the woods with Betti, sleeps every night with his stuffed sheep "Lammy Pie," and tries never to leave Mary's side.

Joanne Bourbeau is senior state director for Vermont and New Hampshire.

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