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Saturday, October 23, 2010

My baby, Barney

So adding to my life plate, as an animal lover, I picked up the most likely furry, four-legged friend... My dog, Barney.

Wriggling his whole body with his ears pressed back, Barney greets me at the door every day after I come home from a long day of work as if to tell me, “I’m so happy you’re home.”

He’s not perfect by any means, but all in all, he’s a good dog.

I met Barney about five months ago, before I even knew his name. Quietly, he stared up at Darrell and I, almost like he was already defeated with life. We were the only people there looking for a pet at that moment.

I bent down to get a better look at him through the wire cage and he seemed to perk up.

“Thanks for noticing me...

I looked over to the cage on the left and noticed a smaller puppy; brindle in color. She was adorable and excited to have me pay attention to her.

“What about her?” I asked Darrell. We brought the little brindle puppy into the “play” room, which only consisted of a couple chairs.

Brindle puppy flopped around the room; her skin so stretchable, it could go for miles. So cute, but we had to go back and check out the other dog we were drawn to, who wasn’t at all enthused about being cooped up.

Darrell and I both commented on how Barney didn’t seem to have a bark like the other dogs, not once since we had arrived at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter looking to make our family a little more complete.

The brown puppy wandered around the playroom, more interested in how to get out than us, I think. Every once in awhile he would come over to us and bring himself up to our level by placing his front paws onto Darrell’s lap.

We noticed the scar on his forehead.

“Wonder where he got that?”

Probably before he came into the pound, according to the dog attendant, who said the brown puppy had been stray and about four or five months old. Still a puppy but not a young one.

I was a little unsure about bringing home an animal with no idea where he came from. It was such a huge responsibility.

We brought Barney back to his cage, and I was ready to go.

(Pounds make me cringe sometimes. I know a little more first-hand about what happens to those little animals, because I write about one for work often.)

Darrell and I, still a little unsure about taking on the challenge of a puppy, began to walk out, until we heard the strangest howl or bark. I’m still not really sure which one it was but it was distinct.

It was the brown puppy, which looked more pathetic than when we first arrived. I began to really notice his rib cage, like an old fashioned washboard, it rested just beneath his coat. He was standing now with eyebrows furrowed up in that puppy-dog expression saying, “Can I come with you?”

The day we got to bring Barney home from the vet's office. Poor guy. Newly neutered and needing some TLC. May 17, 2010

Again with the howling bark. Darrell walked back over to Barney’s cage. I could tell his decision was becoming more easily swayed by the brown puppy’s attempt at gaining a new home than I was.

“Are you sure we should get a dog right now?” I asked Darrell. He bent down next to the brown puppy, and almost seemed to take on the pup’s wishful-ness.

“I don’t know, do you want him?”

How could he ask me that? Of course I did, but he would only be “our” dog for a couple more months. And then he’d be “my” dog when Darrell was supposed to leave in two months.

I fold. We signed his papers at the front desk and were so excited to have the brown puppy come home with us that day.

“You can pick him up on Monday at the vet’s office,” the front desk lady said.

What? I can’t have my dog now? Oh, right. I just bought a puppy for $60, plus hundreds of dollars in vet bills, food, toys, a crate, dog beds, and gas to take the dog somewhere nice for a walk. Great.

Darrell and I walked out of the shelter not really sure of what we had just done. The brown puppy was heading to the vet’s office to get neutered and looked over to make sure he was in decent health.

“Did we just really get a dog?” We really did. Nervous? Excited? We both rushed over to Petsmart and bought food, bowls, a crate, and a few toys. We were 98 percent excited and maybe two percent scared… Or maybe 98 percent: “what did we just do?” and two percent excited.

But now, I can’t imagine coming home from a long day of work to an empty apartment.

Barney has been my constant companion through and through. He knows when I am sad — he leaves the room when I cry to give Mama some space… Or he just can’t stand the sniveling — and knows just how to make me laugh.

We love to watch television together and he cuddles with me at night. (Hope he adjusts to not sleeping with me in the bed when Darrell gets back…)

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”
— John Grogan, Marley & Me

(Barney and I watched this movie together on the couch last night. I think he sensed how sad I was watching it, because he scooted in real close to me and laid his head on my lap. Barney reminded me a little of Marley, because Barney is a handful and can be a pain at times but he is a great dog.)

Barney, healthy and happy, hiking at Raven Rock State Park.

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