As Americans, we enjoy the blessing of freedom, and this week many of us will gather with family and friends to celebrate our nation's independence. Appreciating freedom looks and feels different for everyone.
For me, it's being able to dedicate much of my life to saving animals. One such animal, a dog named Barin, suffered greatly due to owner neglect before coming to Palmetto Animal League, but that's just the beginning of his story.
About two years ago, Barin was hit by a car. His owners told authorities they didn't have the money to take him to a vet, so he was tied up outside with two broken legs for months on end. Barin's bones healed improperly, leaving him with two badly deformed front legs.
When he arrived at PAL, he could only crawl on twisted and mangled limbs.
Our first effort in helping Barin regain freedom of movement was to get him fitted for a pair of leg orthotics. After more than six months of trying to get the ineffective braces to work, we knew we'd have to find another way. Barin is a "noble fighter" (hence his name) and this setback seemed to only strengthen his resolve.
"I visited Barin every day for about three months," said PAL volunteer Ann McDonough. "Over time he would hobble outside with help from PAL staff and I would play a 'find it' game with him using his favorite food - cheese."
Generous donors stepped up and provided Barin with a custom-built cart from Eddie's Wheels. The result has been nothing short of a miracle.
The first time we put Barin in his cart, he took off eagerly, exercising his right to run that had been taken from him so long ago. To me, it looked and felt like freedom in its purest form. In that moment, everyone watching experienced the kind of overwhelming joy that makes your heart skip a beat.
"For the first time in a year and a half, Barin was able to stroll with the best of them," said McDonough. "You could see, right away, a confidence that hadn't been there before."
Barin's determination to triumph over emotional scars, his refusal to surrender to a broken body - it's the stuff of history books. To me, nothing symbolizes independence quite like this once broken shelter dog who found sweet freedom in standing up.
Barin is finally ready for his next level of freedom - finding a home and being part of a family. You can meet him Monday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. at PAL's No Kill Adoption Center located in Okatie's Riverwalk Business Park.
Amy Campanini is president of Palmetto Animal League.