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His dog was stolen, then he found the thief. But instead of calling the police, he got her into rehab.

"One day, I hope she looks back on this story and it motivates her to help somebody else," Morton said. "We need to advocate for each other."

His dog was stolen, then he found the thief. But instead of calling the police, he got her into rehab.
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Brayden Morton

Brayden Morton was working in his home office on June 18 when he heard a disturbance near his gated backyard. Peering out the window, he was shocked to find that his 3-year-old Chinese Shar-Pei, Darla, was no longer lounging on the back deck. Morton dashed downstairs just in time to see a truck speeding off with Darla inside. "I immediately started running after them," the 35-year-old told The Washington Post. Unfortunately, "they were gone" before he could catch up, he said, adding: "I couldn't believe what had just happened."



Morton, who lives in British Columbia, immediately contacted the police and local officials issued a news release about the lost dog the same day and pledged to keep a lookout for her. However, Morton knew he needed to do more. "It honestly felt like my world had just come crashing down on me," he said. Determined to do everything he can to find Darla, Morton shared the incident on Facebook in the hopes that it would reach other residents of Cranbrook. "Please share and help me. A blue older model Ford truck just pulled up behind my house and took Darla," he wrote, offering a reward of about $4,000 to anyone who could return her home safely or provide information regarding her whereabouts.


Morton explained that he decided to include the financial incentive because "this is my dog and I love her. This isn't stealing a bike out of my garage; this is much more serious." The post quickly gained momentum and Morton said by the following morning, he "had something like 497 messages. I was getting leads from all across the world. It was crazy." After a few dead ends, the next day he received a call from a young woman.


"She was just crying on the other end. She couldn't even talk," said Morton, who quickly sensed that the caller had Darla. "I said to her, 'Listen, I've messed up a lot in my life, and I've been forgiven for a lot of things I did. I'm not mad at you.'" The woman—who doesn't want her name to be made public—asked him to meet her at a nearby gas station. Morton promised to bring the reward money (to which a friend contributed an additional $2,000) and drove to the spot. As he pulled up, he saw a 20-year-old woman holding Darla on a leash. "It was one of the most overwhelming feelings I've ever felt. I was elated," he said of the moment he spotted his dog.


Once Darla was safely back in his arms, Morton focused on the young woman across from him as she wept uncontrollably. "She is just a kid, and she was standing there bawling. I went and gave her a hug, and I said, 'It's all right,'" he recalled, adding that within minutes of talking to her, he "could tell that she was a fentanyl addict, like [him]."

Morton—who has been sober since May 19, 2015—struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager. "I was in out and of treatment 16 times. I was the hopeless addict who was never supposed to get better," he said. "Going to treatment was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, but it's also the most enlightening experience I've ever had." Once sober, Morton volunteered at the rehab center he attended, and in 2018, he became a clinical drug and alcohol interventionist. He has since dedicated his career to helping addicts get sober and has also created a free service called Find the Right Rehab, to assist people with choosing a suitable treatment center.


After Morton shared his story with the woman, she told him her own, explaining that she had been living on the streets for several years while relying on sex work to fund her drug addiction. She wanted to get help, he said, but was terrified. "When you're a fentanyl addict, your number one fear is detoxing and getting clean," Morton explained. The woman told him that she and two other people stole Darla and planned to sell her online. But then she came across his post on Facebook, and "couldn't live with herself," Morton said. "She told me she's a dog lover."


After speaking to the woman for about half an hour, Morton took out the reward money and said: "I know if I give you this money, I'm going to hear about you dead in the next day or two." He explained that he was worried she would use the money to buy drugs and would eventually overdose. Instead, he offered her another option. "I'm going to take this money, and I'm going use it to pay for you to go to treatment. I'm going to give you the opportunity to help yourself," Morton told her. The woman accepted his offer and Morton contacted Susan Hogarth, the executive director of Westminster House Society, a nonprofit organization and addiction recovery program for women and girls, to enquire about their 90-day residential treatment program which costs about $22,000.


"Brayden is going to support her while we get her funding in place," Hogarth said, adding that the organization relies on several streams of financial aid, including donations. "We will do whatever we can to get her well. [Morton's] heart is truly in it. In this whole situation that happened with him and his beloved pet Darla, a normal person would be angry, but his anger just melted off of him as soon as he noted that this girl was so sick."

"One day, I hope she looks back on this story and it motivates her to help somebody else," Morton said. "We need to advocate for each other."

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