When a story begins with a beloved dog being stolen, the ending isn’t expected to be a happy one. However, after Brayden Morton’s Shar-Pei Darla was taken from his yard, the story wound up ending in a remarkable way.
Morton first posted on social media that Darla was taken from his yard in an older model blue pick-up truck on June, and the post was shared around 30,000 times.
He offered up some cash as a reward, and his friend offered to add in another $2,500, for a total of $5,000. His phone started blowing up, with many people trying to reach him with any information they may have had or thought they had.
Then he got a call from a blocked number. When he answered, all he could hear was what sounded like a young woman crying, but something in his gut told him this person had Darla.
“She wasn’t talking yet, I could just hear her crying and I said to her ‘listen, I’m not mad at you, I’m not anything,’” Morton said. “‘I’ve messed up a lot in my life. Let me go home, I’ll grab the cash reward for you and I will come meet you. Where do you want to meet?’”
He met the young woman at the mall parking lot, where he found her crying. He went up, grabbed his dog and asked her if she was okay.
“She just started to tell me she was so sorry,” he said. “I could tell she was a fentanyl user, because I was too. I knew by looking at her. She did tell me the people that were involved. She explained her role in it and she explained that she was doing it for the money to get drugs.
“I showed her the reward money, and I said no matter what I’m going to keep to my word, but you and I both know if I give you this money you’re dead within a day. And she just put her head down and said ‘Yeah.’”
Instead of handing over the cash, Morton offered to pay for her treatment. He got on the phone with Susan Hogarth of New Westminister House, who agreed the best thing would be to get this young woman into treatment.
At the time of writing, the young woman hadn’t yet decided if she would take it, but was meeting up with Morton for coffee to discuss it further.
Morton knows first-hand how choosing to accept help and get into treatment for drug addiction can turn one’s life around.
Originally from Red Deer, Alberta. Morton said that from a very early age he was getting into trouble and by the age of 20 was actively involved with gangs.
His first business he started was a tattoo shop, which did fairly well, but Morton said he was living a bad lifestyle.
His drug addiction began with percocet, then on to Oxycodone, and when that went off the market it was Oxyneo.
“Later on at that time, there’s a lot of people who have a a lot of misconceptions about fentanyl and how it came about,” he said. “That’s when fentanyl first started, it was about 2007, 2008. It was there, it was in the hospitals, but it was for palliative care and it became street oriented in around 2007, or 2008 and that’s when I started using fentanyl.”
He said his dad, who was an “absolute godsend” to him, was the first to approach him, knowing that something serious was going on. Morton tried to reassure him that nothing was wrong. At the time, he was heavily involved with gang activity and he said that carried on for a while longer.
He later decided to close down the tattoo shop and went and stayed with his dad on a farm in Olds, Alta.
“Things got progressively worse for me, and then one day, he literally came around the corner with a spade shovel. I’m a lot bigger than he is, but he told me to get in the vehicle and that I was going to treatment.”
That was how he initially wound up at Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre near Cranbrook. Morton was in and out of treatment a few times and said, though he wanted to get sober and to start a new life, he wasn’t yet at a place where he was ready to do what it took to attain that.
Then, in May of 2015 Morton said he was stabbed between six and eight times, had a machete stuck in his head and was shot in the leg.
He remembers coming to in an ambulance, and the paramedic was holding his head off the back of the gurney, and asked if he knew why he was there. When he replied that he did not, she held up a mirror and showed him the weapon stuck in his head.
He drifted in and out of consciousness and remembers next coming too in the hospital, and were preparing to treat his head wound. Rather than worrying about his injuries, Morton said the first thing that came to his mind was “how am I going to get high, and avoid getting dopesick.”
“In that moment, for some reason, it wasn’t the multiple trips to treatment before that, everything really became clear in that moment that I was a drug addict and I needed help and I needed to accept help.”
After taking off from the hospital and finding himself back in Red Deer, Morton decided to call Tricia Headrick at Top of the World, who said he should come back and give rehabilitation one more shot. That was on May 19, 2015 and he has been clean and sober ever since.
After completing treatment, the owner of Top of the World, knowing Morton didn’t have much to go back to, offered him a volunteer position. He worked there for a few years, before going out on his own, doing interventions all over Canada.
He know runs a company called Find the Right Rehab, which helps people find the right treatment program for them to help increase their chances of success.
In addition to the woman who returned Darla to him, there was another person whose path crossed with Morton as a result of this ordeal. Based on his description of the vehicle he saw driving away from his house, someone called him and said they saw a man in a truck of that description driving with dogs. Morton found him, but learned he had nothing to do with it.
After speaking with the young woman and getting Darla back, Morton ran into this man in the same parking lot and stopped to talk with him, discovering he was dealing with a rough situation. Morton decided to pay for a hotel for him for a week. Then, after seeing Morton’s Facebook post describing this whole encounter, a total of five friends offered to chip in and got him another week.
They then helped get him set up with a job, and he had his first day shortly after.
“I would say honestly, more than anything it was humbling and it was exactly what I needed in my life at that point in time, those people helped me immensely,” Morton said looking back on everything. “Those people don’t know what they did for me too. I have some personal stuff on the go and those people really warmed my heart and humbled me.
“I’m just as grateful for those two relationships that I made in this whole ordeal and I’m happy that I was able to meet these people.”
Morton says that he believes Cranbrook is struggling right now. Overdose rates and reports of crime and vandalism are high. However, he believes that having a negative outlook at people, rather than showing those who are dealing with unfortunate circumstances compassion and respect, does nothing good for the community.