Local woman fights to get her dog back

Carole Barrett and Roofy have reunited, but it was a long, hard battle

REUNITED<br>Carole Barrett went through a double mastectomy with the help of her dog Roofy, her “lifeline.”

Carole Barrett went through a double mastectomy with the help of her dog Roofy, her “lifeline.”

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Carole Barrett smiled widely, her cheeks glowing, while she held her beloved miniature schnauzer, Roofy. Just days earlier, sitting in her living room, tears had streamed down her face.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see my dog again,” she said, pausing while Roofy licked her cheek.

But here she is, the same old Roofy—the only changes Barrett’s noticed are a bad haircut and a long scar on her underbelly. When the dog, which Barrett calls her best friend, returned home on Friday (Oct. 24), the two had been apart almost a month.

This isn’t your everyday dog-owner reunion story, however. This one’s got misdiagnoses, mysteries and a lawsuit, not to mention possible national TV coverage. And Barrett’s still not sure if she’s solved the mysteries yet. The story is complicated and left Barrett confused and angry.

When 56-year-old Barrett, a petite woman, underwent a double mastectomy and spent three days in the hospital this summer, it was the longest she’d been away from her youngest “child,” 2-year-old Roofy.

“She wouldn’t eat,” Barrett said from her kitchen table last week. And when she returned home Roofy wouldn’t leave her side. “I cried and she licked my face. She was my lifeline, my happiness.”

While Barrett was in the hospital, her husband, Dan, told her Roofy had mated with their male schnauzer, although she later was told during a visit to her regular veterinarian that Roofy wasn’t pregnant, just fat.

But Barrett had done her homework, reading up on the breed, and on Sept. 27—a Saturday night—Barrett noticed Roofy was showing signs of labor and her breathing had become shallow. So, she jetted off to the North Valley Emergency Veterinary Clinic, on the Skyway in Chico, the only place she knew to be open at the time.

After explaining the situation—and the previous vet’s diagnosis—the vet technician, Megan Graham, took a swab test, ran it under a microscope and returned with bad news.

“They told me she was dying,” Barrett said. The diagnisis: Roofy had pyometra, a disease that causes the uterus to fill with pus. The options: operate to try to save her life (and pay almost $3,000 up front), or put her down. The recommendation: She probably wouldn’t make it through the surgery anyway, so it was best to put her down now. (Barrett asked the vet to keep Roofy overnight to give her time to gather the cash, but was denied.)

As Barrett and her daughter, a high school student, sat in the exam room saying goodbye to Roofy, Graham came in with a third option. She was willing to get the surgery done—in Magalia, where she works full time at the Magalia Pet Hospital—if Barrett would sign Roofy over to her.

“If she lives,” Graham told Barrett, “the dog belongs to me.”

Graham hand-wrote a contract onto a blank piece of paper and, believing she was doing what was best for her dog, Barrett signed.

“It was a horrible weekend,” she recalled.

Christine Fixico, manager at the North Valley clinic, had a slightly different version of Barrett’s story. She said no diagnosis was made because Barrett declined further tests, so pyrometra was just a suspicion.

At 10 a.m. the following Monday, Barrett’s phone rang. Graham was on the other end. Here’s Barrett’s account of the conversation:

“I delivered six puppies,” Graham said. “But I couldn’t save them. Roofy is fine.”

(Surgery took place at North Valley.)

Barrett was in shock. She’d believed Roofy was pregnant, but trusted the veterinarian to know better than she. “Please let me have my dog back,” she pleaded, to no avail. “You said she was going to die.”

When Barrett’s husband called Graham later that morning, he offered to rain gifts upon her in return for the dog. “We’ll sign over our Jeep Cherokee to you—no questions asked,” he said. “Or I can borrow $10,000 from my 401(k). Just please give us our dog back.”

“That’s not an option,” Graham replied.

Barrett got herself a lawyer, who told her the contract wouldn’t hold up in court because she’d signed it under duress. But despite legally serving both Graham and the North Valley clinic, neither had responded. Barrett contacted the local television station, KHSL, which ran her story Monday, Oct. 20. The Barrett home phone immediately started ringing off the hook—and a lawyer representing both other parties finally made contact.

But still no Roofy.

“I just don’t understand,” Barrett said, holding back tears. “I offered that girl anything I had—I said, ‘I’ll give you my car, I’ll give you anything in my house. I just want my dog back.'”

Then Inside Edition called. They’d seen the KHSL story and wanted to do their own. They’d fly out on Friday (Oct. 24) and interview Barrett that afternoon.

With the camera crews in her front yard, a car drove up, the door opened, and none other than Roofy jumped out and made a beeline for Mom.

“I was crying and she was licking my face,” Barrett said. She recognized one of the women in the vehicle as Graham. “I was trying to thank her, but she didn’t have much to say. She shut door and drove away.”

Barrett called her lawyer, who hadn’t heard a peep from Graham or North Valley by press time. Roofy’s return is a mystery to Barrett.

Graham did not return a phone call made to the Magalia Pet Hospital. A check with the state Veterinary Medical Board showed no marks against North Valley, and that Graham is not a registered vet tech.

“How can a veterinarian not know that a dog’s in labor when I can tell from reading this book?” Barrett asked. Now that she has Roofy back, though, she said she’s not sure what will happen with her lawsuit, or whether she’ll be expected to pay for her dog’s surgery.

“Megan felt that with the media’s one-sided representation of this case, this was one of the only ways she could try and reach some kind of agreement with Ms. Barrett,” Fixico said.

The mystery remains, but for Barrett, just having her baby back is resolution enough.