ORANGE PARK, Fla. - An Argyle Forest man doubted he would ever see his beloved dog, Barley, again after the dog ran away from home 14 months ago.
Kenneth Freel admitted he lost hope as each month ticked by without any sign of the three-year-old pit bull. Luckily for Freel, he was wrong.
On Friday, he and Barley were reunited at Poochie's Dog Park in Orange Park, where the dog has been staying since he was found in March.
"Unbelievable," Freel said of the reunion. "I never thought I would see him again, and it's just amazing,"
Like his owner, Barley could not have been happier with the turn of events. But the dog's tail wasn't always wagging out of control.
Megan Huttula, who works at Poochie's, was on her lunch break March 17 when she found the dog near a fast food restaurant in Orange Park.
"I saw a dog that was being shooed off by people in the parking lot," Huttula recalled. "I pulled over and he jumps in the car and I took him to work."
The dog was in bad shape. He was emaciated, dehydrated, covered in fleas and suffering from heart worms. He didn't have a collar or microchip, or anything to help find his owners.
Mange had eaten away at much of his coat, leaving him almost completely bald. But the dog's appearance became the inspiration for his new nickname.
"He was bald," Huttula said. "I was like, 'Bruce Willis is bald,' so it stuck."
A bath, shelter, steady meals and medical treatment helped lift the dog's spirits. But even though he got along well with other pets and kids, he was still without a family by mid-May.
So Poochie's staff posted a new video of him on social media May 21 in the hopes of finding him a home. As luck would have it, Freel's neighbor recognized Barley and Poochie's contacted him.
"When she first told me, I was skeptical because I thought after this long I think it'd be hard to realize if it was him or not," Freel said.
The story was the same for Barley, who didn't seem to recognize his owners at first. But after a few lps around the fence and a few familiar scents from his mother's purse, it was all kisses.
Freel and his wife said their children will be thrilled to see the family dog return home -- after 14 long months in the wind.
"It's going to be a little more crazy now," Freel said. "At least it will make it fun."
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