When she’s not busy managing the affairs of the world’s most famous dinosaur, Barney & Friends executive producer Karen Barnes spends her time running an adoption service for dogs. The former Wall Street attorney and VP at Fox Kids took it upon herself to help the homeless canine community after a family tragedy changed her life.
Barnes adopted her first dog about six-and-a-half years ago, when the untimely death of her sister-in-law left her brother as the sole caregiver for four dogs. To make his life easier, Barnes agreed to take one pooch off his hands and found herself the proud owner of Dusty, a well-trained Sheltie. Two months later, she took a stray that had followed her and Dusty home to the local dog pound. Fearing her new friend would be put down, Barnes told her business partner (who also happened to be a dog lover) to retrieve the foundling for her. And before she knew it, Barnes had another canine pal taking up residence. Needless to say the 100-lb. Akita named Barkley was something of contrast to tiny Dusty.
Barnes looked after Barkley for four months before finding him another family. During that time she got involved with a network of rescue groups and learned everything she needed to know about finding homes for down-and-out dogs. ‘I was so bonded with Dusty, I couldn’t imagine him being in that situation and I wanted to do something,’ she explains.
Since helping out Barkley, Barnes has personally fostered and found homes for between 25 and 30 dogs of all shapes and sizes. One of her most recent success stories involved a pure mutt named Frodo. While caring for the pooch, Barnes was approached by a couple who’s 12-year-old autistic daughter had seen Frodo’s picture on a dog rescue website. ‘She printed it out and carried it in her pocket for three weeks before she met him,’ Barnes says. The girl’s family adopted the stray almost two years ago, and Barnes still receives thank you e-mails and pictures every few weeks.
Despite the happy endings, Barnes’ dog-saving exploits have never been easy. She once rescued a huge Rottweiler from an abusive owner by luring it into her SUV with a treat and driving 40 minutes to a rescue shelter. When she got there, the dog was in need of surgery to remove a big piece of bamboo it had swallowed and Barnes footed the bill. The Rottweiler, named Bella, was eventually placed in the home of a man who’s own Rottweiler had died nine months earlier.
Barnes now lives in Dallas with two dogs and two cats. Between rescue missions, she’s keeping busy preparing for Barney’s 20th anniversary next year. The goal is to one day retire to California’s Napa Valley, open a winery with her friends and make dog rescuing her full-time job.