In the eyes of Hadley Barbie, and countless others, pets are family. They are not “just” a dog or a cat, They are a loved member of the “pack.” So when Hadley was thinking about what she wanted to do for her 4-H Leadership Project, she knew it had to be something to memorialize her best friend and companion, Gus, the Golden Retriever she lost last September to stomach cancer.
She and Gus had spent a few summers in the show ring at the Marias Fair where he proudly showed off his many wonderful talents and skills parading around the dog arena for his “mom,” Hadley. The twosome captured ribbons and certificates and many, many “what a beautiful dog” comments as well.
Remembering those wonderful times, Hadley’s choice for her Leadership Project was an easy one, clean-up and re-do the dog arena and make it special, just like Gus.
Hadley, the daughter of Peter and Kathleen Barbie, will be a sophomore this fall at Cut Bank High School. This is her sixth year in 4-H and this is her first Leadership Project.
“The leadership project you pick is all about doing something for your community, getting younger members involved and learning what it takes to be a leader,” explained Hadley.
And that is exactly what she did when she took on a project at the Marias County Fairgrounds, sprucing up the dog arena, tearing down the old, beaten up fence and refinishing the bleachers in that area.
“We sanded down the bleachers and then stained them all and it turned out really well. They look so much better than they did.” she said. “That same day, we tore down the old fence and will be putting a new fence up.”
Hadley knew she was going to need some donations to help her buy the supplies and the new fence she would need, so not only did she seek out some potential donors from the local business community, but she also applied for a 4-H People Partner Grant.
“I applied for the People Partner Grant by writing out a nice letter telling them about my idea and the vision I had for the dog arena,” Hadley said. “It seemed like I waited forever to hear back from them. The day I got their letter in the mail I was so excited that I was given some grant money.”
The 4-H People Partner Grant awards recipients up to $500. Hadley received $300, which she has earmarked for the new fence at the arena.
Along with that money, Hadley solicited support from businesses and was over the top thrilled with how “supportive everyone was,” she said. “The first three businesses were on board without any hesitation. I would like to thank the community and all the businesses who donated to my project. They were all amazing and so generous. They all helped me obtain my goal for this project.”
When Gus, Hadley’s Golden Retriever, passed away last September, she was devastated. “We had such a good friendship and bond. He was such a great show dog and was more than just a pet to me, he was part of our family. I really miss him,” she said.
Loving and missing her best friend was what drove Hadley to want to do this project. “It was something I wanted to do for Gus.”
Her fellow 4-H friend, Camille Bradley, who put her 4-H People Partner Grant to work last year beautifying the Parkview Center in Cut Bank, told Hadley she should apply for the grant.
“Camille put the idea in my head after I helped her with putting the flowers out at the Parkview Center last year,” she said. “I am really glad I did.”
Hadley loves being involved in 4-H. “It has taught me a lot about hard work, being organized, being a better public speaker and I have made lots of friends in 4-H. It is crazy how everything is connected and the kids you make friends with in 4-H end up being in other school activities with you too.”
Hadley knows her project would never have gotten off the ground had it not been for so many people. “I just want to thank Kari Lewis, our Extension Agent, the four-county fair, all my partners and helpers and every sponsor. They all helped me so much and were so supportive along the way.”
Hadley is really excited for people to see the new look the dog arena will be sporting when at next year’s fair, show dogs grace the ring once again. She knows in her heart, Gus would be proud.