Teacher Chooses to Live in Car Rather Than Give Up Rescue Dogs

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When English teacher Hillary Barrows couldn’t find work after returning to her native land, the UK, she was forced to live in her car.  She could have stayed in emergency housing, but she refused to surrender her dogs in order to do so.  Out of sheer desperation, she started a fundraiser and lo and behold – it was a smashing success.  She was even offered a home in a cottage on a 10-acre dog sanctuary!

“I can’t believe it. In three days I’ve gone from sleeping in an Asda car park to living in a bungalow in the middle of a country kennels. It’s wonderful.”

Hillary is from London, but lived in Europe for seven years as a private tutor, teaching people English.  She rescued her dog Robbie from Mallorca, Spain, where he was very badly treated.  Cleo was only three months old when she found her wandering the streets of Italy.

The tutor faced difficult times in France; clients refused to pay Hillary, forcing her to sell her jewelry to get back home to the UK.  But she had no money and no place to go.


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Hillary applied for government assistance, but because she had been out of the country for so long, she was ruled ineligible.  The Canterbury City Council told her she could be put in emergency housing, but she would have to surrender Cleo and Robbie.

She could never do such a thing – those dogs are the most important things in the world!  It was January, and she and her dogs had to live in her tiny Alfa Romeo, slowly bleeding her meager savings dry.

“My life was so miserable.  If it hadn’t been for Robbie and Cleo, I don’t know if I would have been able to carry on,” she said. “There were nights when I would sit in my car and cry and my dogs would put their heads on my lap and comfort me.”

After months of living in a grocery store parking lot, and not knowing what else to do, Hillary started a GoFundMe page.  Last week it went viral, bringing in over $15,000.  But in the meantime, while she was at a McDonald’s where she would go to take sponge baths, a dog trainer approached her and gave her the offer of a lifetime.


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“Perry walked up to me and said that he had been told about my plight.  He’s generously let me and the dogs move into a cottage in the middle of his estate, and he’s even said that I can start working for him if I want,” Hillary said.  “I couldn’t believe it, he’s just been so kind to me.  Everybody has, I can’t thank people enough for the generous donations or kind messages of support.”

Perry has 10 acres of land in the country that serves as a dog-walking center and sanctuary.  It’s ideal for Cleo and Robbie.

“Now everything has turned around and I’m on top of the world. I’ve been here since Sunday – it’s been unbelievable sleeping in a proper bed again,” Hillary gushed.  “Of course, the dogs sleep on there with me, but it’s brilliant. I really feel like I’ve won the lottery.”


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“There are loads of best bits about being in a house again, but the bed is definitely a wonderful thing.  Also, having hot showers is brilliant. And I’ve finally been able to clean my car.  The dogs are happy, too – you can see it in their faces.”

Because she was given more money than she could have imagined, Hillary wants to make sure she pays the kindness forward.

“One thing that struck me is that I was not alone in my struggle.  So many people left kind messages about wanting to help because they themselves were in the same state I was in.  We couldn’t get rid of our dogs – they are our children. So now I want to help others, as much as I can.”

To donate to the fundraiser or read more of Hillary’s story, click here.


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14 thoughts on “Teacher Chooses to Live in Car Rather Than Give Up Rescue Dogs”

  1. This is an amazing wonderful loving woman, and I am so very happy everything turned out well for. As a dog lover myself I would do the same thing myself with my two dogs,…I would never surrender them..

  2. The world is moving toward understand that many of us find our animal companions to be as important as children would. The laws are slowly adjusting to prosecute those that mistreat animals. I want dog, cat and similar companion potential animal owners to have to have tests to qualify as animal custodians!

    • WHAT?!?!?!?! This is an insane statement. We aren’t tested to qualify as parents/human custodians. We are just allowed to reproduce whether we have the means or ability to love and care for that new person. I love my dogs as much as the next person and I couldn’t think of life without them, but to have some kind of test or tests to see if we qualify? I’m not sure we’re on the same page.

      • Anon, I would say that you have no clue as to how alleged ‘humans’ actually treat animals. I’d say potential adopters need to take lessons by some of those I’ve met personally at our shelter. It is astounding the ignorance some people have regarding the treatment and even rudimentary things like proper nutrition and exercise of a pet. I’ve seen things like people screaming at both cats and dogs, pulling of leashes, striking animals – even feeding them table scraps! Are you f’n kidding me? So many human foods are not only unhealthy, they are also life-threatening! Maybe testing potential adopters is a bit much, but I am all for sizing up the individual as to their knowledge of being a caretaker and giving them the true, positive way in dealing with issues. If one doesn’t want to learn proper animal guardianship, I am all for refusing to allow them to adopt. The ignorant ones are the reason(s) so many animals are left at shelters, or worse, tossed out like garbage.

  3. How ironic to see this story at this point in my life. I think that’s where I will end up, living in my car with my dog’s. Every day I worry about being homeless, I’ve had 6 surgeries in 2 1/2 years, problems with my hip that they cant figure out which causes walking,sitting or even laying down to be painful. The numbness in my right hand and leg is back, and I have to get my skin checked every couple of months because of skin cancer.
    My whole life (49yrs) I have worked full-time,supported myself,my ex, given every family member with a hand out whatever they needed (even a used car). I have done volunteer work,and as my friends will say I get as much joy giving to people as the person who is on the receiving end. I haven’t lived a perfect life but have been seeing a therapist for the last 3 1/2 yrs who has helped me more than I ever thought possible so that I can get through my past and move on,I even tell him I will be a homeless bag lady with my dogs.
    One of the worst things for me is knowing that if it weren’t for my grandmother my son and I would be homeless already, but if it kept her around another 91 years I would gladly do just that,because it’s not just being homeless that is a constant stress, it’s the fact that I will lose the only person who ever cared for me unconditionally, EXCEPT for my dog’s. I will never give up my fur-babies, all rescued. The last rescue has now become my service dog,to have to give-up the comfort,love,affection from my babies would devastate me.
    Steve is doing what he feels is best,and I admire that he didn’t just dump the dogs like so many people do,they didn’t ask you to buy/rescue them. And all they ever ask for is a little food,water, and attention. Compared to the happiness they bring me when I am in my darkest depression,the unconditional love and loyalty I will be homeless if it comes to that,because other than my grandmother and my son my family sure never treated me as well as my dogs.

  4. Good for you! I spent some time on friend’s couches and living in my car and a tent when I could not find an apartment that would take my dog. And now, years later and in better positions, as a landlord, I never discriminate against dogs or cats in my tenant applications. Heck, the dogs usually do much less damage than the people!

  5. “We have not to gain his confidence or his friendship: he is born our friend; while his eyes are still closed, already he believes in us: even before his birth, he has given himself to man.”—Maurice Maeterlinck From “My Dog”


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