Whether we’ve grown up with the crickety croons of the country or the cthonic booms of a city, most of us have an idea what rural life looks like. At least we think we do. Home on the range might be where the deer and the antelope play, but home in small-town Kentucky is a little bit edgier.
There is such a place, right about where Kentucky falls off into the lazy Ohio River and comes back up for air in Indiana, that a small group of folks call their home. It might not seem like much to the few strangers and tourists passing through, but here, a town where the rules are there are no rules… things can get a little ruff.
Nestled just off the shores of the Ohio River in Boone County, Kentucky, there is the small historic town of Rabbit Hash. With a population holding steady at 315, it’s easy to think this is a place where nothing much goes on… but that’s quite the contrary.
What the town lacks in bodies they certainly make up for in good spirits — both the ego and liquid kind. Yessir, Rabbit Hashians like a good dose of the strong stuff to round out their edges, and they all know the one place to get the best tipple in town.
That of course, is the Rabbit Hash General Store, which has been a staple of the area since opening its doors in 1831. A haven for local swillers, a niche tourist destination, and even a sweet wedding venue, this general store did it all… until recently.
Around 9 PM on a Saturday evening, sirens suddenly cut the crisp Kentucky winter air. By the time firefighters arrived, flames had already consumed most of the old general store’s roof. As the sun rose that Sunday, Rabbit Hash General was all but ash.
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Now say what you will about small-town folk, but when the goin’ gets rough, they will come together like a hungry tick to a coonhound’s back. So it didn’t take long at all for the small but mighty community to come up with a plan.
They were going to rebuild the Rabbit Hash General Store! It would be a big to-do for the small town, and it would certainly take a lot of capital, but they had all the faith they needed. Until they hit one unexpected setback.
Now it might be important to note that while Rabbit Hash is famous for its general store, it’s also well known for its unusual local politics. For the past two decades, the small town has been represented by a series of mayors that aren’t exactly… human.
Lucy Lou had been the serving mayor since she won the 2008 election in Rabbit Hash, but with the massive cost to resurrect the general store and all the stress, she knew her old age wasn’t helping anyone. It was time for her to step down.
It’s important to note that Former Mayor Lou was a dog and she was preceded by three other true-blue canines, all starting when a mutt named Goofy assumed office in 1998. Once going to the dogs, this town decided they were never going back.
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In fact, the border collie’s resignation actually set a new precedent in local politics. She became the first former canine mayor not to die while in office. As her owner Kayser relayed, “she decided to set term limits.”
And as sorry as the town was to see Lucy Lou go, especially during such a critical time, it gave them an idea. This year, the race for a new mayor could also serve as a fundraiser to help with the cost of rebuilding their beloved general store.
With that in mind, the mayoral race had stakes that were higher than ever. To raise some money and thus the roof of ye ol’ general store, each vote cost $1 to cast. And folks were goaded to vote as many times as their wallet could afford.
It certainly helps, however, that the electoral system is a bit looser in the likes of Rabbit Hash. Being a citizen isn’t required, drinking at the polls is highly encouraged, and bribery is more or less the whole point.
Now drinking and mudslinging is all good fun, but there were actually some fierce candidates to boot. Up for the seat from the left was Brynneth Pawltro the pit bull, from the right, Bossy the hen, and the proverbial black sheep, Higgins the ass!
And you bet your patootie these weren’t your normal high falutin prospects. These guys were out working on the ground floor all day to get those votes, each one promising to make the revival of the Rabbit Hash General their utmost priority.
After a long day of polling, the team of vote counters began to assemble, looking at the great task before them. Finally, as the sun dipped back into the Ohio River and the locals began to resemble a human slush fund, it was time to count.
When the polls closed, there were 8,965 ballots, which meant that with each vote equaling one dollar, the old Rabbit Hash General Store raised a whopping $8,965! That was reason enough for the crowd to go wild, however, there was still a winner to be determined.
And that she was! Brynneth Pawltro officially won the seat of Mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. Barks, clucks, claps, and nary a neigh resounded! The proud ministerial pit bull was thus donned with the formal mayoral medal.
Mayor Pawltro’s owner, Jordie Bamforth is a college student who works at an animal hospital nearby. Of course now after Pawltro’s victory, she would have to step up as an advisor, a task she said, she is humbled and prepared to take on.
With the huge success of the election, and, of course, the great leadership of the new mayor, construction soon kicked off. The locals were now well on their way to getting their ol’ stomping grounds back.
And with a lot of hard work and cooperative effort, the Rabbit Hash General Store re-opened its doors! Just one year after the fire brought down the town’s mainstay, they were once again welcoming in what seemed like the whole town. Literally.
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Despite Mayor Paltrow’s impawsibly admirable service, the real victory here is for the Rabbit Hash General Store. With such a successful fundraiser, they could re-open their doors for neighbors and friends alike.
Now anyone who owns a dog can tell you there’s nothing better than earning a few of their sloppy kisses or gentle nuzzles. But dogs like Pawltro are proving that pups can offer much more. And little Bella Burton discovered this firsthand.
To say life was unfair to 11-year-old Bella Burton of Woburn, Massachusetts, would be an understatement. Diagnosed with Morquio syndrome, Bella was forced to walk on crutches or use a wheelchair to get around.
The syndrome made it impossible for Bella to process certain sugar molecules that acted as lubricants or shock absorbers in her body. As a result, she had decreased mobility and a slew of other nasty symptoms. It affected her mood, too.
Boston Children’s Hospital
“I’m just like, ‘I don’t want this anymore,'” Bella told BarkPost. She couldn’t ride a bike; she couldn’t run. She couldn’t play the way that other kids her age did. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of Bella’s heartbreaking situation.
Since Morquio syndrome was a progressive disease, it would only get worse as time went by; it was safe to say that Bella wasn’t getting better anytime soon. But then, mercifully, her fortune started to change…
“We had volunteered up at Service Dog Project for a little over a year,” Bella’s mother, Rachel, said. And that was where Bella first met an unlikely pal: a 130-pound Great Dane named George.
Steve and KAte’s Camp / YouTube
“One day Bella climbed up with George,” added Megan Korkaras, a trainer at Service Dog Project. “And the next thing you know, his head was in her lap, and he was just looking up at her like she was the best thing in the whole world.”
BARK / YouTube
Evidently, Bella noticed George’s affection, too. “I could tell he needed me,” Bella said. “And I needed him.” Delighted, the Burton family brought George home for the weekend to test the waters. Soon enough, he became Bella’s full-time service dog—with unbelievable results.
BARK / YouTube
With George, Bella only needed one crutch because the Great Dane himself served as the other! “I lean on him,” Bella explained. “He helps me walk. If I fall, I tell him ‘Brace!’ which means he will stand and won’t even budge, and I can pull myself up.”
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This feat wasn’t just visually impressive; it also strengthened Bella’s legs. The service dog even accompanied her to weekly enzyme replacement therapy. Rachel, of course, was delighted at the effect George’s presence was having on her daughter.
“We never thought she would be off crutches,” Rachel said. “And now she will go in the yard and play, even without George. To see how much stronger she’s gotten is awesome.” For Bella, there were no words to describe her feelings to George—but she tried.
“He’s always there for me,” she said. “And whenever I’m feeling sad or something, he’s always there. He knows, he just kind of comes over and leans over me… I pretty much love everything about him.”
The unlikely duo never left each others’ sides. Even at school, George knew where all of Bella’s classes were and took naps in the back of the room while she sat at her desk! It was easy to see how this fundamentally changed the little girl…
“Bella was never really shy, but [George has] given her more confidence,” Rachel told People magazine. “She feels she fits in better with her peers than when she was on crutches or a wheelchair. She feels more confident about herself.” Naturally, Bella wanted to show her appreciation for her beloved pal.
So, her heart bursting with appreciation for her 130-pound savior, Bella entered George into BarkPost’s “Dog’s Best Day” contest. “George deserves this day,” Bella said, “because he works extremely hard.” But did this big lug stand a chance to win?
You betcha! After dubbing him the winner, the online publication rewarded George for his life-changing dedication to Bella. Their celebration of the Great Dane started at an unusual place, too: a burger joint!
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“George does not get to have people food because he is a service dog,” Bella said. But on his best day ever, all rules were waived—he got a tray of burgers all to himself! The best part? George’s best day ever was only just beginning!
BARK / YouTube
Next, organizers for George’s best day shut down an entire mountain for him and Bella. Being a playful pup, George went completely nuts, sprinting around in the snow like a madman and skipping beside Bella’s sled. It was hard to believe his day could get better…
BARK / YouTube
Bella and George then visited the canine equivalent of a candy store where George munched on treats and chewed on a bone so large there was no chance it ever belonged to an actual animal. The Great Dane was living a well-earned dream.
BARK / YouTube
“George is joyful,” Bella said of her dog. “And he’s always happy, and he’s always there to cheer you up.” Then, with all the confidence in the world, she added, “George is my best friend.”
BARK / YouTube
This Great Dane gave hope to a little girl who was struggling to enjoy the world around her because of her condition. He even helped make her stronger—both inside and out! Just watch Bella and George’s incredible friendship for yourself…