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A Tale of Two Survivors

Vietnam vet says he continues to learn about loyalty, kindness and perseverance from his hero dog, a Hurricane Katrina rescue

On March 27, 2006, Mitch Barnett decided to spend the day—which just happened to be his 57th birthday—doing something he loved. Despite the cold weather, he was planning to head to the beach to go surfing. But he had a change of heart (“I came to my senses,” he jokes), and he decided to stay inside and do some channel surfing instead.

That one, simple decision ended up being a real life-changer.

After spending hours watching animal shows on the Discovery channel, Mitch was inspired to celebrate his birthday by making a trip to North Shore Animal League America to look at dogs up for adoption.

One of the first animals that caught his eye was a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Hound mix, an adult female that Animal League America had rescued from Hurricane Katrina. When Mitch learned of the dog’s heroic struggle to survive the storm—and also that she was battling heartworm and other medical issues—his admiration for her grew even stronger.

“I considered myself the ultimate warrior,” says Mitch. “I survived the caves in Vietnam, but I was small potatoes compared to this hound.”

The medal-winning veteran had no doubts that this was the dog for him. “It was so obvious that almighty God was telling me to take care of his great Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Hound for him,” Mitch says. “I filled out the adoption papers and left the shelter with my best friend, whom I named Katrina after the hurricane she had survived.”

In December 2011, five years after Mitch brought Katrina home, both once again displayed incredible courage and strength; Katrina survived a battle with cancer, while Mitch overcame a series of mini strokes caused by high blood pressure.

Today, Katrina and Mitch remain the best of friends and a testament to the capacity of both man and Mutt-i-gree to overcome any challenge. As Mitch says, “It’s hard to put my feelings about Katrina in words. She is my very best friend. Since day one she has enhanced my life. Everyday I learn something from her about loyalty, kindness and perseverance.”

Are you thinking about adding a best friend to your life? Please click here to find adoptable pets in your area.