By Carol Marsh
GREENVILLE — Amid my home’s eclectic kitchen décor, there hangs a tiny sign that reads, “Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am.”
I am always amazed that no matter what kind of day that I’ve had, walking through the valley of the shadow of stress, a wagging tail and happy bark will greet me as I come through the door, as if I were a rock star stepping out of a limousine. Few things can compare to that unconditional acceptance that I receive from my dog, and I am blessed to have such a faithful, four-legged friend.
A multitude of canine lovers can attest to the same, today, Aug. 26, as they celebrate National Dog Day.
Darke County residents have always had a special place in their hearts for their dogs. George, a white French poodle, played “Cupid” while attending the theater with his owner, Frank Butler, in 1876. Spotting Annie Oakley, George brought her a piece of apple (split from one of Butler’s trick shots). Oakley later recalled in her Autobiography, “Well, I had to send greeting to George, and George sent me back a box of candy. Well, what fools we mortals be! If that poodle didn’t lead me into signing some sort of alliance papers on August 23, 1876, that tied a knot so hard it has lasted some fifty years!”
The Butlers later adopted their beloved English Setter, Dave, who remained by their side for ten years. Dave, who, along with Oakley, cheered the troops during WWI, even wrote a book, The Life of Dave (As Told By Himself), chronicling the many adventures he enjoyed while being a faithful four-legged friend. On Dave’s memorial stone, the Butlers added their tribute, “Dave was more than some humans. He sat for weeks watching faithfully by the bedside of his mistress, and would snuggle close, tapping gently with a little paw, his big eyes burning with love would say, ‘Yes, I know: but cheer up. I am here.’ He awaits us both in the Happy Hunting Ground. His memory is one of the sweetest we have ever known.”
In Darke County, stories of four-legged friendships abound. Take, for instance, the story of Miss Pete, a red-nosed pitbull rescued by Greenville native Carla Hill Clark. Clark, a Navy veteran, and her husband, Randy, operate the BARK Animal Rescue, Inc., a local non-profit rescue group which helps unwanted, abandoned and stray dogs and puppies find good homes and proper care. In the summer of 2010, Clark responded to a concerned Union City resident regarding a pregnant pitbull scheduled for euthanization. Like a superhero, Clark saved the day, bringing the dog into her home. A day later, four beautiful, healthy female puppies were born , half pitbull, half American bulldog — one of whom was Miss Pete.
The bond between owner and dog is a very special friendship. Through that first year, after the other puppies were adopted, Clark kept Miss Pete, who had a more than a few health issues early in life, including deafness and an inability to bark. Clark patiently worked with the dog, using a whistle and hand signals; eventually, Miss Pete learned “the basics,” becoming not only a well-trained dog, but also a constant companion and member of the family. Miss Pete is also BARK Animal Rescue’s “number one” ambassador, travelling with Clark to various locations throughout the Midwest, to help in local outreach, rescue and transport of dogs to no-kill shelters, fosters, or new adoptive homes. BARK Rescue’s annual “Under the Tent” sale, planned for late September, helps raise funds for these efforts, and collections of new and gently used items are now underway.
Other organizations which have served the canine community well are the Darke County Animal Shelter, under the direction of Dog Warden and Shelter Director, Robert Bair. Since 2018, the Darke County Animal Shelter has been recognized by the Best Friends Animal Society as a “No Kill Shelter,” having adopted 299 dogs in 2020, and on track to exceed that number in 2021.
In addition, the Darke County Humane Society, founded in 1953, rescues neglected, stray and abandoned animals, and takes in both dogs and cats regularly, encouraging the community to consider adoptions, rather than purchasing puppies and kittens from area pet stores. The Darke County Humane Society also offers a low cost Feline Spay and Neuter Clinic once a month, and is currently inviting residents to support their “Raise your Paws for a Cause” Shoe Drive, ongoing through Sept. 19, which seeks to gather 2,500 pair of gently-used shoes, which helps raise much-needed funds. Gently used shoes can be dropped off at Tractor Supply, Rural King, Arcanum Hardware and the Darke County Humane Society office.
Today, as we celebrate National Dog Day, let us strive to become the people that our beloved four-legged friends think we are.
Want to learn more about George, Dave, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler? Just visit the Garst Museum at 205 N. Broadway Street, Greenville, visit the museum on the web at www.garstmuseum.org, or call 937-548-5250.
Interested in helping BARK Animal Rescue, Inc.? Just contact Carla Hill Clark through the BARK Facebook Page, call 937-423-9300, or email [email protected]
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for The Daily Advocate. Have an event or suggestion to share? She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-4314.