For the last four years, a dog named Buggy has lived at VCA Terrill Mill Animal Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, after being rescued from a van with other malnourished and abused animals. When no one else at the clinic could even get near Buggy due to his understandable aggression, then-kennel-assistant Ashton Barron made a vital connection. This sad-but-deserving dog became so important to Ashton that she created a nonprofit organization called Paws For Paul Inc in memory of her father to raise funds to build him a home—a real home—that all dogs deserve.
A dog existing without love or a true home
Three years ago when Ashton began working at VCA Terrill Mills, she served as a kennel assistant for the boarding facility to monitor and care for animals after treatment. “That’s when I met Jester, who I renamed Buggy, a mixed-breed, black-brown dog who now weighs about 48 pounds and is 11 years old,” explains Ashton who now serves clients as a veterinary assistant. “For my safety, staff told me to stay away from Buggy who was tucked away in the back of the kennel area. Seeing him there was so sad and depressing at first—but we eventually created a special bond.”
Dr. Lee Izen owned the clinic when Buggy was first brought in by a client, and was the only person who could touch Buggy before Ashton began working there. Ashton was told that Buggy couldn’t be around children or other dogs, so he was basically unadoptable. Even though no one could touch him at first, Dr. Izen still let him stay at the animal hospital—let him live.
“We just clicked, and now I am his person,” explains Ashton. “Buggy lets me lie down with him and give him food, and he’s progressing. Now he has muscle mass, an enjoyable spirit and tolerates people. And my love for him keeps growing. The only thing I have ever wanted for him was his freedom from pain, sadness and kennel life.”
Two sad situations inspired an inspired nonprofit
In addition to Ashton’s devotion to Buggy—and all things furry and four-legged—she lost her father William Paul Barron Jr. to multiple myeloma in October of 2020 at age 58. “It was a really hard time for me,” shares Ashton. “I’m sad I only had 11 months with him before he passed, but he’d definitely suffered way too much, so I’m glad he could finally find peace. While he was ill, we repaired our relationship after spending a lot of time apart through the years. When I came out to my parents, he supported me and never once questioned me. He was always there for me and saved me when I was in trouble.”
After her father died, Ashton realized she now had a dual purpose—to do more for those with cancer and to help special-needs pets. “I discussed the idea with my mentor in our animal hospital, Dr. Timbrala Marshall, who previously served as our medical director who has since left the clinic to serve a corporate position as Director, Veterinary Equity Inclusion & Diversity Programs for VCA in Los Angeles,” shares Ashton. “I told her, I want to make Buggy a retirement home and raise money for cancer. The idea grew, and I was determined to get it done.”
In November of 2020, Ashton founded and serves as the president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Paws For Paul Inc, which is a true combination of her two driving passions. Dr. Marshall encouraged and supported Ashton in her mission and now serves on her board of directors.
When Ashton’s father died, instead of sinking in, she took her grief and put it into raising money for multiple myeloma, the cancer her father had, and to rehome Buggy, shares Dr. Marshall. “To help raise needed funds, we involved VCA’s Todd Sanders who serves as a Regional Operations Director who shared a link to support a matching grant for Paws For Paul.”
Dr. Marshall says when Ashton first worked at the clinic as a kennel assistant she handled the work with so much pride. “Ashton also took on the role of risk and safety instructor for the clinic. Now Ashton wants to study to become a registered veterinary technician, which I support. She’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever met—her smile, energy and passion. The clients love her, too.”
Fundraising for Paws For Paul
Paws For Paul raises funds to: 1. To provide a sanctuary for unadoptable animals otherwise condemned to euthanasia or a kennel. 2. To offer an emergency fund that will assist two pets per month experiencing financial hardship. 3. To host an annual event to collect a yearly donation for The Multiple Myeloma Foundation.
Ashton initially raised money through campaigns on Facebook to cover the opening costs of starting the nonprofit. “I needed to purchase a business laptop computer and start the website, which I did on my own,” notes Ashton. “I received a lot of support online and through my family.”
Through the matching grant from Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, 1,697 participants took the #PawsOnBlackFriday pledge in the fall of 2021, which raised $16,970 for Paws For Paul. These funds will help build a dog sanctuary for Buggy. The grant from Healthy Paws Pet Insurance chose Paws For Paul as its sole recipient this year.
“I’m determined to make ‘the lost ones’ my number-one priority, while also backing our researchers for multiple myeloma awareness,” stresses Ashton. “I believe there will be a cure for one of the most aggressive forms of cancer—one I witnessed firsthand—and I want to be a part of helping find that cure. We recently held our first fundraiser concert in memory of my dad.”
A real home for Buggy on her family’s land
Ashton says her mother Lynn Cloud is her biggest supporter. “Buggy’s home will be built on her land. It will be his dream resort with a human bed, sofa, Wi-Fi, mounted TV, automatic feeding and watering system, and a fenced-in yard for the real life he deserves.”
Ashton wants to make Buggy’s place one he will love and where people can spend time with him in his home. She’ll visit regularly, but her job is 30 minutes away from this land and her home is 45 minutes away.
“Buggy will live on the land that was my parents’ land, Ashton’s too,” shares her mother Lynn. “Ashton has had a hard road in life, things not working out for her along the way. During those times, she wasn’t in her passion as she is today. Now she works where her love is, and her gifts are a supernatural occurrence.”
After Ashton’s father died, rather than fall into a depression, Lynn says Ashton took the pain and turned it around for good. “To me, this is also about the rescue of my child who I love so much, and I knew I was being called to support her. There’s kindness in her soul, and her compassion knows no bounds.
Ashton’s brother Blake Barron who’s an electrician will help build the new home for Buggy beginning in January. “My greatest accomplishment will be building this dog’s real home,” concludes Ashton. “To some he might be a dog with a bad reputation, but for me he’s family. I want everyone to know that every pet deserves a second chance no matter what deficits life has thrown their way. It’s important to know that the dog in the back that cannot hear, see or walk is always first in line with us.”
Now that Buggy will soon have a home, Paws For Paul funds are helping the next special-needs pet, a Dachshund named Ethel who was rescued from a puppy mill and in horrible shape. While she’s a senior dog with many deficits that come with old age and previous poor care, especially blindness and glaucoma—Ethel now has Ashton on her side doing everything possible to give her a life as a real dog, too.
To learn more and support Paws For Paul Inc., visit www.pawsforpaul.com and like @PawsForPaul on Facebook.
““I’m determined to make ‘the lost ones’ my number-one priority, while also backing our researchers for multiple myeloma awareness.””