Barkley House offers haven for animal patients, owners

Thursday, May 6, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:20 a.m. CDT, Thursday, May 6, 2010
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Barkley House offers out-of-town clients a place to stay while their animals receive long-term care at the veterinary school.

COLUMBIA — Shelli McGregor would do anything for her dogs.

“My dogs are my children. I will do whatever I can for them to provide them with the best quality of life and care,” she said.

That includes spending time at Barkley House, a program run through the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Barkley House, conceived by veterinary oncologist Carolyn Henry, offers out-of-town clients of the veterinary school a place to stay while their animals receive long-term care at the veterinary school.

The house is a room at Stoney Creek Inn that has been retrofitted for animal care so that pets can stay with their owners. The room includes supplies needed to care for recovering pets and literature on pet care, as well as a back door opening onto a lawn for the dogs to use.

College of Veterinary Medicine spokeswoman Tracey Berry said the room is rare in veterinary medicine, and she isn't aware of any other such facilities.

The plan for Barkley House is to build a house with fully furnished suites for clients to stay in. The intent of the facility is to alleviate the stress of the situation for animals and owners.

The room at Stoney Creek Inn has other benefits as well.

“The Barkley House room at Stoney Creek is valuable not only to our clients but is providing us with the chance to test this concept,” Berry said.

Barkley House is run through private donations. A portion of the price paid by guests of the Barkley House room is donated to fund the project as well. It is estimated that the construction and maintenance of an entire house could cost up to $1.8 million.

One of McGregor's nine boxers, Brach, was found to have an inoperable mass on his spinal cord five months ago.

The doctors told her that Brach’s time was limited, but McGregor was not ready to give up on her 8-year-old pet.

She searched and found a board-certified neurologist, Fred Wininger, at MU to consult for a second opinion.

The only problem was that McGregor and Brach live in Blaire, Neb., five or six hours away from Columbia, and Brach would require radiation treatments for several days at a time.

For McGregor and her family, Barkley House became a comfort in a stressful situation.

McGregor said Brach was initially depressed and declined fast when she left him for treatment. When she saw how bad he had gotten, she knew she had to find a way to stay with him during his stay at the veterinary hospital. McGregor says she thinks staying with Brach has helped him heal.

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