Born to Run: Betsey’s Thanksgiving Story of Healing and Determination


 As happenstance owners of a medium-sized white and brown pitbull mix named Betsey, the Barrick family of Byng, Okla., wasn’t expecting to be so thankful for an abandoned dog who worked her way into their hearts and into the middle of their daily lives.

Charles Barrick explained that Betsey had been left behind when a family moved away and didn’t take her along. Another neighbor began feeding Betsey, but wasn’t prepared for the cost or the commitment.  When she asked if Barrick and his wife Doris would take in Betsey, the couple didn’t hesitate.

Animal lovers who have been married for 61 years, Doris and Charles Barrick have taken in many animals, with plans to add even more.

“We were given a rooster named Trump and, after I get everything fenced, I’ll be bringing in some goats and a female mule,” Charles Barrick said.

Barrick, who served as mayor of Byng for 24 years, retired from a long career in industrial education, the past 26 years of which were spent at East Central State University in Ada, Okla.

Although Betsey had been abused and neglected for much of her life, she was good natured and was settling in nicely.  She had been to Ada’s Arlington Animal Clinic for shots and to be spayed. She had a new pen and a dog house.  Things were going well until the day she went missing without a trace.

“When I went to feed her, she was nowhere in sight,” Barrick said.  “I looked everywhere I could think of, but she was nowhere to be found,” he added.

Several days later, Barrick received the call from Dr. Stephanie Rollins at the Arlington Animal Clinic that would eventually bring Betsey back home – but not just yet.

Barrick learned that Betsey had been attacked by another dog on a rural road where she lay helpless for many hours with major injuries from stem to stern.  Almost unrecognizable as anything but flesh and bone, the three-year-old dog was near death when a passerby stopped to help.

“Considering the shape she was in, it’s amazing she even let someone help her,” MSC Vet Tech Instructor Debbie Reed said.  “She probably didn’t have the strength to protest, but being lifted off the pavement – no matter how gently – must have been extremely painful,” Reed added.

After consulting Dr. Katelyn Tyler from the vet tech program at Murray State College, the doctors agreed that Betsey’s best chance was being transferred for treatment to the college in Tishomingo.  Dr. Tyler felt the opportunity to be cared for by students and professionals in the program would be Betsey’s best hope for recovery.

“I had worked with Dr. Tyler on other projects and knew this group was up for the challenge,” Dr. Rollins said.  Saving Betsey was going to take an extraordinary effort, and I knew she would be in extremely good hands with the vet tech professionals at Murray State College,” Rollins added.

Betsey’s initial surgery lasted more than four hours, with staff and students in attendance.  Photographs documenting the injuries are not for the fainthearted.  Bone and flesh were at once ground together and pulled apart.  Tendons were torn and veins exposed.  Unlike all the king’s horses and all the king’s men who couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again, the MSC vet tech team pushed and pulled, stitched and repaired until Betsey was back in one piece.

“Mr. Barrick wasn’t willing to accept that Betsey would be unable to recover.  He didn’t want her to be euthanized.  He instructed us to do whatever was necessary for her,” Tyler said.

“This was a dog so gravely injured that survival seemed unlikely, but we had to try and save her.  It’s our job.  The owner wanted her home, and I felt our students could benefit greatly from working together as a team,” Tyler said.

Recovery was slow and additional procedures needed to be performed, but, with time, attention, love and professional skill, Betsey soon began to show signs of life.  Her wounds began to heal, and she began to eat.  She stood up.  She licked one of her caregivers.  She was coming back to life and thankful for a second chance.

When the Barricks learned how well Betsey was recovering, they called it a “…GOD blessing.” When Dr. Rollins heard that Betsey was almost ready to go home, she called it “a miracle.”

After spending 12 weeks with caregivers from the Murray State College Vet Tech Program in Tishomingo, Okla., who became lifesavers, Betsey was almost as good as new. 

Gathering together to bid Betsey farewell, staff and students watched closely as she wagged and wiggled her way through a maze of dogs and students, stopping for a pat or tidbit at almost every turn.  With cakes and party hats for all, it was almost like a scene from the P.D. Eastman book Go, Dog, Go!  It was a dog party!  It was a big dog party!

It has been a long road for Betsey, but it was a journey the staff and students at Murray State College will never regret or ever forget.

“Teaching from textbooks is vastly different than teaching by example, and learning is different when there’s an actual animal involved,” explains MSC Vet Tech Instructor Laura Sandmann.  “This group of students who traveled with Betsey on her road to recovery will not forget her.  It was an incredibly profound lesson about what being in this profession means to us all,” she added.

The Barricks say Betsey has regained full use of her legs and loves to run.  They call her a sweetheart.  They know she’s been to the brink and back. They recognize a miracle when they see one. 

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