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A memoir of second chances, healing, and how rescuing a dog rescued me
Having never had a dog of his own before, Don was not prepared for what it meant to adopt one of the most behaviorally difficult rescues in the shelter. But something about Barbie, a mutt that everyone had given up on and so fearful and unresponsive that she was within days of being put down, convinced Don to open his home and his heart for the first time to a canine companion, changing both of their lives forever.
Interspersed with Don’s most poignant memories of volunteering at his local animal shelter, The Mutt for Me follows the many misadventures of Don and Barbie on their mutual journey of growth and healing. You’ll see Barbie transform from the terrified, despondent recluse to the lively and almost always well-behaved dog she is today.
As the first-time dog dad of a pup in need of significant behavioral development, Don shows that with enough love, patience, and dedication, anyone can provide a home to a rescue animal. The Mutt for Me is a heartwarming story about how our pets have the capacity to transform and heal us as much as we can do the same for them.
Don Hughes was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, before moving at an early age to a Chicago suburb called Lake Zurich. After graduating high school, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from the University of Illinois, followed by a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He began working on political campaigns in Illinois right after college, starting out as a volunteer by walking precincts, stuffing envelopes, and attending fundraisers. Eventually he worked his way up to paid staff jobs on the Senator Charles Percy reelection campaign in 1978 and the George H. W. Bush campaign for president in 1980. The highlight of his political career was being elected at age twenty-seven to the Palatine Park District Board of Commissioners. Following graduation from the Kennedy School, Don focused on shaping public policy in the areas of health care, insurance, behavioral health, and Medicaid at the state level until retiring in 2020. He served as deputy director for policy and health care policy advisor for Arizona Governor Janice Brewer, overseeing a staff of ten policy advisors. He was responsible for reforming the behavioral health system, expanding Medicaid, innovating health care, and improving insurance practices. In 2017, Don found his true calling volunteering at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control West Shelter as an adoption counselor. In 2018 alone, he helped more than 275 dogs and eighteen cats find their forever homes.