LEBANON, TN (WSMV) – For 30 years, the Barry Family have lived in a quiet area of Lebanon.
“It’s a peaceful neighborhood even for the animals,” said Allen Barry.
For the last 11 years, their son’s dog Della was raised there like their own child.
"This was, by all means, a human in a dogs body. that's how special she was,” said Tina Barry.
Tina describes Della as family and a very smart dog too. Della would even sleep in her son’s bed with him. “If he was here he would tell you, she had one pillow, he had the other. She literally has pulled the covers up over her and laid her head on the pillow next to him."
Allen adds, "We always joked that she needed a chair at the table because she would sit and have better manners than some kids do."
That’s why it was devastating when the Barrys got a knock on the door Friday afternoon from their neighbor, frantically telling them Della had been shot.
“I really didn’t know what was going on other than going to discover,” said Allen.
The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office confirm Mitchell Tarpley has been charged with intentional killing of an animal, aggravated animal cruelty, and reckless endangerment.
According to their incident report, Tarpley was at his mother’s home unloading picture frames from his truck when a small dog ran on the property. Tarpley said in the report that he was able to scare that dog away by yelling. He then goes on to say that Della moved towards the property and was about 12-15 yards away from him as Della began to bark and growl. “Mr. Tarpley said that he could not run from the animal as he has an allergy to dogs that requires him to carry an Epi Pen and he was beginning to experience this reaction. Mr. Tarpley told me that he drew his weapon and fired once at Della causing it to exit the property,” according to the report.
But neighbor Charles Mason was outside and believes this may have been premeditated. "He had no business being over here in my opinion and that's the only reason I think he came over here was to shoot the dog. He's been saying for 3 or 4 years he was going to do it," he said.
Mason was outside on his front yard by his tool shed when he saw Tarpley kill Della. "I wouldn't put it past him shooting me, honestly. When he pulled that gun, I saw the gun in his hand…I couldn't believe he shot the dog, I was traumatized. I really was." He added, "the dog wasn't charging him like he told the police that it was. I think he would've got by with that too if I hadn't have been out here."
Even with Tarpley charged, it still leaves that Barrys without their Della.
“We usually cry about it whenever we talk about it because she was pretty much like a child,” said Allen.
A tragedy even more painful for Allen and Tina as their son Jay, Della’s owner, passed away in October 2019. "She was just a part of my family since I lost my son last October, just a little piece of him that I could hold on to.”
One memory keeping the Barry family going is a picture Tina was given as a Christmas present of her son and Della, she held close as we talked to her about the painful loss.
Tina, speaking of the picture, said, "It means more to me now, because I don't have Della. I don't have neither one of them. Unless somebody knows how I feel, that dog was with my son from the time that he was waned from his mother. And since I don't have him, she was the only thing left that I can hold on to of him."