Bart Finds His Best Friend

August 4, 2020


As a Care and Enrichment Technician at the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, Jamie B. has many daily interactions with the dogs undergoing treatment in the incredible program. 

Jamie was attending to her day-to-day duties when two dogs arrived at the BRC from our temporary shelter. 

“I remember seeing [them] both in quarantine when they arrived and thinking how cute they were—especially Bart since he has the “heeler speckly” look,” Jamie B, tells us. “I remember taking off Bart’s collar from the [temporary shelter] and putting a new one on, he was not thrilled with this!”

Jamie was there for that significant moment to mark Bart’s next step on his journey, but they would go on to play a much bigger part in each other’s lives beyond a collar change.

Bart’s Rescue

Bart had been on a long journey before he reached the BRC.

In April 2018, at the request of the New Mexico District Attorney and Union County Sheriff’s Office, the ASPCA assisted with evidence collection and the removal of nearly 120 animals from an “animal sanctuary” established by the Dreampower Foundation in Clayton, New Mexico. Our expertise was required for several other aspects of the case including forensics, medical care, sheltering of animals, investigative support and legal support.

failed animal sanctuary in New Mexico

Animals in kennels when our team arrived on the scene in Clayton, New Mexico.

Upon arrival, the animals were found to be living in deplorable conditions. Many appeared to be suffering from medical issues, injuries and neglect. Dozens of dogs were found running loose throughout the property and some of them were in ramshackle kennels without access to fresh water. Now rescued, this was the beginning of their new lives. 

ASPCA team prepping rescued dogs for transport

Our team preparing to transport the rescued dogs.

Bart and the other animals were transported to a temporary shelter to receive critical care and behavioral enrichment and treatment. 

Many animals from this case were fearful, including Bart. He showed mild to moderate fear at the temporary shelter as he was known to pace, hide and look for an escape—but he showed glimpses of social behavior. He would cautiously approach familiar people for treats and could walk a short distance on leash. 

“Due to Bart’s overall fear level and sensitivity to environmental stimuli at the temp shelter, he was selected for the Behavioral Science’s Team, Mini Rehab Center program (now known as Cruelty Rehabilitation Center) within the temporary shelter,” says Lauren Zverina, Manager of Fearful Dog Services, Behavior Sciences Team. “Once he was housed in a slightly quieter area and started to receive more consistent handling and training, he gradually showed some behavioral progress. He learned how to touch his nose to a person’s hand for a treat. He also started to relax enough to play with some other dogs—always a glorious breakthrough to witness when working with this sensitive population.” 

Bart at the Mini Rehab Center

Bart in a kennel at the Mini Rehab Center.

In the nearly five months at the temporary shelter, Bart continued to make slow progress.

“Although we started to see hints of a more relaxed Bart, we knew he still needed to continue to build positive associations with a variety of people, places and situations before being ready to be placed in a home. The BRC was the perfect pathway for the next step in his journey,” Lauren recounts.

Bart at the BRC

In September 2018, Bart and another dog were transferred from the temporary shelter to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Weaverville, North Carolina. Bart arrived with some basic skills, but he still had a lot to learn.

“He would swing between mild and moderate fear during initial treatments and when introducing novel people,” says Emilia Moncayo, Behavior Rehabilitation Specialist at the BRC. “If he was very scared, he sometimes pulled hard on leash or fled through thresholds.”

Bart at the BRC

Bart at the BRC. 

Bart was sweet, quiet and reserved and wasn’t very playful with other dogs, but he certainly benefited from working with them. With the dedication of BRC staff and helper dogs to show him the way, he progressed through treatments and graduated at 12 weeks.

“He became a nice helper dog for dogs who were earlier in treatment, especially the ladies!” Emilia reveals. “It was very nice to see him ‘pay it forward’ to other dogs that needed our help.”

Pay the Love Forward

Jamie’s companion dog, Lucy, passed away in January 2019 from cancer. As any pet parent would be, Jamie was heartbroken, but pushed through the pain to open her heart to a dog that needed her.

“It was difficult to come home and not have a dog around,” confesses Jamie. “So, I wanted to explore the option of fostering one of the graduates from work. Bart had graduated the rehab program but due to the ongoing legal case, he wasn’t eligible to go to a partner shelter and be adopted. I brought Bart home to foster him on February 15, 2019.”

Bart and Jamie

Although Bart had graduated, he was still learning to overcome some fears. Jamie welcomed him with the kindness and gentle approach he needed to thrive.

“It took about a month for him to want to come out of his crate and spend time with me,” Jamie recalls. “I remember the night he jumped onto my bed, after his night-time potty break, and didn’t want to get off when I got into bed! After that night, he really started to seem more comfortable around me.”

Months after his graduation, Bart has progressed significantly. He has been hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway and even hung out at some local bars in Asheville.

Bart going on a walk in the woods

Bart is also learning to enjoy the company of his fur sibling—a three-year-old cat named Chance. Bart now wags his tail at him rather than avoiding the feline.

Bart sleeping on a bed

The once fearful student now “pays it forward” too! Bart often goes to work at the BRC with Jamie to continue his role of helper dog to other canines going through behavioral treatment. 

He’s Home 

Bart has come a long way from the dire situation he was rescued from. The legal case was resolved in November 2019, and the ASPCA received custody of the animals from the case. 

Jamie found out on her birthday that after nine months of bonding and love as a foster caregiver, she could officially adopt her sweet, best friend Bart. 

Bart at home

“He’s gotten me through a lot of life hurdles over the past year and couldn’t imagine not having him,” Jamie says. “He’s a very chill dog who loves to hang out with me while I watch Netflix—belly rubs are of course involved! His nicknames are endless – Bardi B, Bartimus, Bubba, Bartimoose to name a few!”

Bart at home
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