Apr 27, 2007

Barney RIP

This morning marks the first anniversary of Barney’s death. One year ago on a beautiful Friday morning I held my 14 year old Toodle (Terrier/Poodle) in my arms and felt his spirit slip silently away as the Vet injected him with a powerful drug. I never bothered to ask what it was.

I found Barney at the pound in 2000. He’d been incarcerated for two months in a cage that was so tiny, his tail had to be amputated after his ordeal. He was 8 years old when his previous owner abandoned him. The moment my pooch and I met we fell in love. I was with a friend, but Barney chose me and I happily let him.

Neither one of us had an easy time of it. I had never owned my own dog before, and no one bothered to tell me that some abandoned doggies suffer so much from their ordeals that they are never quite the same again. My magnificent pup suffered from acute separation anxieties. He was also a fear biter. One trainer told me that Barney's combination of problems would be extremely hard to resolve. Over time his behaviors did get better, but we could never quite trust him with strangers or children.

For everyone's safety, he was placed under permanent house arrest, allowed outdoors for only a short time to do “his business,” and always under strict supervision. When strangers came to my house, I placed Barney in my car in the garage, telling him we were going to “Washington,” or “Philadelphia,” depending on the length of the visit. Content to be confined in an area that smelled of me, and protected from the sight of strangers, he would go to sleep and wait for the house to empty again.

Soon after I adopted him it became apparent that Barney was afraid of strange men who approached him from behind. He’d drop on all fours and shiver with fright. My wonderful Toodle, it turned out, had been beaten to the point where he refused to bark. For two years my pooch was silent, never uttering a sound.

Then, one day he barked, a short, truncated sound. He promptly dropped to all fours, expecting a beating. It took him a few more months to figure out that I would never lay a hand on him. He then unleashed his voice in all its lusty glory. It turned out that Barney was a barking virtuoso whose tiny throat could generate magnificent canine sounds. The Barnes weighed only 35 lbs, but he could bark as loud as a pack of hunting beagles.

Thankfully my house sits apart from its neighbors.

Even though Barney led a tough emotional life, his last six years were fairly happy. I gave him shelter and love, and he gave me all of himself - a lopsided trade if ever there was one. In those early days, Dad would often shake his head when he witnessed Barney’s anxieties. My pooch would lick at one spot until a sore would develop (an Elizabethan collar took care of that problem), and he would wander endlessly in circles in front of us, rubbing himself against me each time he took a turn around the coffee table.

Dad would shake his head and say, “Any other person would have put him down long ago. But no, you're too stubborn.” My persistence with Barney, and insistence on giving him a good life, changed my relationship with my father. We became closer than ever, and I think Dad had a newfound respect for me, especially towards the end when he saw how much Barney had changed and how content he was with me.

At this time last year I was at a conference. On my fourth day away, Barney did something he never did before. He walked down the circular stairs to the basement. Suffering from arthritis, he slipped, falling down the length of the stairs and paralyzing his rear. I was able to grab an early flight back, and return in time to hold him one more time. During that one hour visit, with an IV drip limiting his movement, and confined in the small space he so detested, he still showed his indomitable spirit. Slyly he stole a kleenex from my hand and began to play with it, as you can see from the photos.

But it became painfully apparent that Barney would never walk again. My last living image of him is outside, held by the vet, the sun shining on his curly white fur and a breeze ruffling his muzzle. Barney tried to stand, faltered, and then sighed, as if to say, “Go ahead, make your decision. It’s time.” I hardly felt Barney’s life spirit leave him, so peaceful was his ending.

It’s been twelve months, but my heart is still raw from missing him.


Marius said...

Oh dear, I'll try not to cry as I sit here typing. Ms. Place, thank you so much for sharing this with your readers. A few years ago, I lost my beloved Chow Cyprus. He was hit by a car. I received the news from my parents on a cold December day in Buffalo (during finals week!). I was deeply affected by his death, and, to this day, I cherish all memories of my beloved Cyprus. He was a great dog.

I hope others learn from you. It bothers me that people abandon or abuse their pets. These are living things that experience basic emotions--hunger, thirst, fear, motivation, and so on.

Ms. Place said...

Thank you, Marius. Your words are comforting. Cyprus sounds like a wonderful dog if your memories of him are still so vivid.

Tripp said...

It's hard to let go of a good friend.

One of my girls, Guinness, had to be put down after a rough battle with liver cancer.

Her bowl is still on the floor in the pantry. I never could bear to pick it up and put it away.

That was almost 3 years ago now.

It does help to share those memories though -- and reflect on what we've learned from the relationship.

Thanks for sharing yours.

jinxy said...

This post made me cry. It made me think of my first dog, bought as a gift for me when I was only a few months old. She was a black cocker-spaniel, and she was mean as lightning to everyone but me. That dog worshipped me and I returned the favor until I was thirteen years old. She collapsed and died on a warm day while I was at school.

About 3 months later my dad gave me a Harlequin Great Dane who was a runt (relatively speaking). She lived to be 10 years old, giving birth at 9 years old, after we had lost all hope of her being able to have a puppy. The puppy was given to my brother.

The puppy has grown into a massive dog, and since my brother has died, he now lives with my parents, and will live with me when I move this summer.

But as a person who has only ever had 2 dogs, I know how much it hurts to lose a friend you have had so long. I admit that since my great dane died, I really had no intentions of ever having another dog. But my brother loved this dog and he makes me feel closer to him. I couldn't see him go to someone else for anything.

As for people that abuse their pets, they should all have to endure what they put those animals through and I for one volunteer to inflict the abuse, it just makes me so mad.

But it is wonderful that you helped that dog live a happy 6 years.

BML said...

That is so sad! For a dog to be beaten until he's afraid to bark is just terrible.

Linda Merrill said...

waaaahhhh!!!! So sorry about your pup, Ms. Place. There's got to be a special place in hell for child and puppy beaters. I still miss my dog Wiggy (dachsund) and sometimes still look for him at my parents house, even tho he's been gone for many years. Those pooches really get in, don't they?

Big Fella said...

Those of us who are capable of loving the animals in our lives, live a much richer life than anyone else. Those who would abuse an animal, are one of the lowest forms of life, and they will suffer for it.

Lynette said...

oh dear, i am sitting here crying on a beautiful day while my animals are gathered round me.

what a heartbreaking, uplifting, joyful, touching, moving, lovely story and what a great spirit you are to have kept your sweet puppy and not given up on him.

He was 8 years old when his previous owner abandoned him ~ that makes me ill, but then i think of how he must have been treated there and i am glad. that little dog had many good years because of you. you are a great, good soul. bless you. and thank you for sharing this story.

i am off to hug my little Betty, sweet Bill and big Mo. my animal children and i love them dearly.

Moi ;) said...

Oh, How Sad...... :( He was so lucky though to have had you to love him for many years. I have to say that I love "Washington" and "Philadelphia" LOL.

He looks like he had some Bichon in him, that is what my Poochr is...

{{{{{{{Ms. P}}}}}

Ms. Place said...

Yes, Moi, he had Bitchin' Friskie in him. That's what I attracted me to your dog!!