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Christian McPhate

Surprise reunion

Profile image for By Christian McPhate
By Christian McPhate
Nolan Barta, right, shows his joy in seeing some of his old friends after his mother, Karen Barta, threw him a surprise birthday party Sunday at North Lakes Park in Denton.Christian McPhate
Nolan Barta, right, shows his joy in seeing some of his old friends after his mother, Karen Barta, threw him a surprise birthday party Sunday at North Lakes Park in Denton.
Christian McPhate

Boy, dogs from litter he helped save meet again during birthday celebration

Nolan Barta was a friendless boy until he met Sweetie.

The 12-year-old wasn’t particularly awkward or unsociable. He’d just spent more time in the hospital than other kids his age.

He’s had 20 surgeries since he was 4 years old. He was born with a weak immune system. He’s currently battling fungal sinusitis, a fungi that invades the body of people with low immune systems and infects the sinus cavities.

His father, Nathan, found Sweetie on the side of the road and brought her home. She was a cattle dog mix, and the kind of dog who’d wait all day for you to return. But she became more than a dog to Nolan. She became his friend. And when he found out she was pregnant, Nolan was determined to care for her and her 10 puppies until his parents and the Denton Human Society found each of them home.

“I made a promise to Sweetie that I would save her and all her puppies’ lives,” Nolan told the Denton Record-Chronicle in October. And he kept true to his promise and saved Sweetie and all her puppies, finding homes for each of them, though he kept one for himself.

It’s a familiar story, a boy and his dog. But on Sunday, the next chapter of the story unfolded when the dogs reunited with their savior at his surprise birthday celebration at North Lakes Park.

Kathy Barta said she wanted to do something special for her son this year because no friends his age attended his birthday party last year. She figured reuniting him with the puppies that are now dogs would be the perfect birthday gift for him.

She was able to track down seven of the dogs’ owners. Skid, now known as Maximus, was one of Nolan’s favorite dogs, but his owner canceled, unfortunately, at the last minute because of a snake bite.

Friends, family and the dogs’ owners awaited underneath a pavilion for the birthday boy to arrive. The dogs, all brothers and sisters, sniffed each other, some of them wagged their tails, others growled threateningly. It took a while for them to adjust.

Nolan showed up with his father at about 3:30 p.m. He was surprised and approached cautiously, looking at each dog hanging close to its owner. He reached down and petted a few. “Hey boy,” he said. “Hey girl” to another.

A few members of the Denton Humane Society attended. They recalled fond memories of Nolan’s dedication to his dogs. For example, when Sweetie went into labor, Nolan stood by her side and asked “mama dog to go ahead and have her puppies.” But then she kept birthing more and more of them. He told her, “That’s enough. No more.” She didn’t listen and birthed 10 puppies that litter.

Nolan greeted each dog, hugging some of them, laughing with others and calling some by their previous names. He looked excited but held his cool.

Hot dogs were served as well as cupcakes. Nolan’s mother had a dog-bowl-inspired eating contest. Each contestant had to keep hands behind his or her back, lean forward and devour the food in a dog bowl. Nolan was the clear winner, but three other boys who participated won an award as well.

CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @writerontheedge.