In March of 1996, my former husband decided we needed a dog. A puppy, specifically.
Actually, he said Devin needed a dog….. “A boy needs a dog. A boy needs a dog.”
Devin was 3 and a half and I was pregnant with Conner.
I love puppy breath and I love those sharp little puppy teeth, but nobody was fooling me…
A boy may need a dog, but you know who would get the dog? The pregnant mommy. That’s who would be cleaning up dog poop and that’s who would have to train the dog and that’s who would have to feed the dog, etc…
By April I’d had enough of the whining and begging to get a dog. (And Devin had asked about it a couple of times too.) I relented. Were we going to get a puppy from an animal shelter? Nope. Devin and his father wanted a Dalmatian. (And yes, of course this was around the time 101 Dalmatians came out.)
We went and picked the puppy out of a litter and paid for him, something I had never done in my life. Of course all puppies are adorable, but I did think this one was especially cute.
In deciding on what to name the puppy, I consulted the baby name book I was thumbing through while choosing Conner’s name. Berkley? Devin’s Father laughed and sarcastically said, “How about Barkley?” Done! Barkley it was.
Devin’s Father had not remembered that puppies are a pain in arse. They piddle where they shouldn’t. They chew on things. Sometimes they cry at night. Devin’s Father did not enjoy these puppy behaviors and quickly backed away from puppy care.
Anyone want to take a guess as to who Barkley’s caretaker was? I’ll take Pregnant Mommy for $100, Alex.
Now I’m not saying it was Barkley’s fault, but shortly after the puppy came to live with us…. Devin’s Father left for greener pastures. (And someone named Anna.)
So here I was, pregnant, had a 3 and a half year old, and was now caretaker for a puppy I did not want in the first place.
You know what happened? I became Barkley’s person. That dog loooooooooved me.
The feeling was not always mutual. This dog chewed everything. Not just typical puppy chewing, this was chewing of Biblical Proportions.
This dog chewed the kitchen cabinets.
He chewed on the downspouts for my rain gutters and when it rained they looked like sprinklers near the bottom.
He chewed my flower pots.
He chewed up a light bulb and I actually cut my fingers getting the glass out of that stupid dog’s mouth.
He chewed the carpet.
He chewed toys, furniture, shoes and newspapers.
Once he got a bottle of black acrylic paint. I did not notice until I saw the paint on other things. You go ahead and try to point out the Dalmatian that got into black paint. I dare ya.
He chewed everything.
I even got some of that Bitter Apple spray that is supposed to deter them from chewing on things that have been sprayed with it. I do believe he viewed it as a little seasoning to make objects extra tasty when chewed. I may as well have given him $15 in cash to eat for all the good that stuff did.
He got his front paws up onto the kitchen counter and was able to pull down an open tub of margarine that was up there. I came in to discover that he had eaten all of the margarine and most of the tub, too. About an hour later, he came into the living room (where I was visiting with friends) and began to make an awful noise: herk! herk! herk! …. oh no. He yarked up all of that margarine and the tub in front of my guests. I was mortified, of course, but quickly was grateful it was margarine that he threw up. The margarine served as a nice lubricant when he then hacked up most of a sandal into the mess. Including the buckle.
One morning as I was about to run out the door for my check-up with my OB, I noticed that mywhite carpet was brown. He had gotten out of the kitchen enclosure and into my living room where he dug up a potted palm. The palm was in pieces all over the room and potting soil was spread all over the place. Already running late, I tossed the dog back into the kitchen (none too gently, I might add) and left for my appointment.
I was near tears the whole way there and once confronted with the “…and how are you feeling?” question from the OB, the floodgates opened up. I bawled out my story of woe: my husband left, I’m 1,000 miles away from my family, I’m 6 months pregnant and alone, with a 3 year old son and the spotted devil dog at home. I cried those big, ugly, racking sobs that shake your whole body, where you have so much hurt that you probably have a big runner of snot coming out your nose but you. don’t. care.
All cried out, when I got home and began cleaning up potting soil, Barkley was thrilled to see me. He didn’t know he was in trouble, didn’t know I was mad at him. He just knew he was happy to see me. It was at that moment when I realized that with all the emotional upheaval, and even though he was proving to be a four legged disaster area…. this dog was going to be a good thing for me. He loved me.
Barkley and I may have had an emotional connection, but he had something else going on that made him want to hump everything in sight.
I looked out into the backyard once and saw him humping Devin’s tricycle. (Fortunately, Devin was not on it at the time.) He humped everyone he met. Little kids would see him and have just enough time to get “Oh Look! A Dalma…” out of their mouth before the dog had them on the ground. I would haul Barkley off of the kids, brush them off and say “Don’t cry! He likes you. He was just giving you his special hug.”
I took him to the vet to ask about this problem. As the vet was trying to shake my dog off of his leg, he said that for whatever reason, my dog basically was hyper-humping and if I was not planning to breed him, I should get him snipped.
I got him snipped.
Barkley ate the cone collar they put around his head to keep him from chewing and licking at the stitches.
He only humped half as many things from then on out.
Speaking of the vet, I got to know him really well. Barkley was a huge pain in the wallet his first year. He was allergic to grass and had to have a series of cortisone shots. (What kind of freaky dog is allergic to freakin’ grass!?) He had kidney stones. He had skin allergies. Ugh. The upside was that he had to have a low-protein diet because of the kidney stones. That meant that I needed to feed him Safeway Generic Crunchy Nuggets instead of Iams or something similarly expensive.
After about a year, his allergies seemed to go away, the kidney stones were not a problem and he only had to see the vet for shots. He still knocked down little kids and humped them though.
As Barkley matured, he was a good natured dog (who still humped a lot of things). We lived on a corner in a historic neighborhood in downtown Vancouver, WA. We were about 3 blocks away from downtown businesses, so during lunch hours it was not uncommon to see women in business suits and tennis shoes, power walking through the neighborhood. You get to know the regulars.
One day I was in the backyard working in the garden and I saw three regulars come to the fence and call for Barkley: “Here Puddles! Come here puppy! Here Puddles!” And Barkley came running. I went over to say hello because that seemed neighborly, but mostly I wanted to know why they were calling him Puddles. “Oh that’s because when we walk by the fence he runs over and flips on his back and then piddles all over himself.” Awesome.
I tell ya, if you want to meet the people in your neighborhood, get a Dalmatian and take him for a walk around the block. People come out of the woodwork to ask you about your dog.
With many people walking by the backyard (since it was on a corner) I would watch Barkley rest in the grass and watch 9 people go by and then the 10th he would suddenly jump up and bark at them the whole length of the yard. I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason why he barked at only a few people. I tried to figure out the commonality. I figure my dog either had a spiritual gift of discernment or he had a very keen fashion sense, as the only thing the “barkees” had in common was that they put together a bad outfit.
I began to feel more and more comfortable with Barkley as a watch dog. It got to the point that if he was barking, I got up to see what it was because he did not bark unless there was a reason. Once I needed to call a plumber. I had Barkley on his leash with it tied to the table, simply to keep him out of the plumber’s way. I could just see him trying to climb under the sink along with them while they were trying to work.
Two of them showed up. The first plumber came in, “Oh a Dalmatian! Cool. Does he bite?” I say no, he’s very friendly, yadda yadda yadda. (I do not mention his propensity for humping things.) The first plumber offers his hand in that universal, Hello dog, please smell me and realize I am not a threat gesture. Barkley accepts a pat on the head and a scratch behind the ears. As the second plumber comes up to try to pet him, Barkley suddenly growls and lunges at the man. The leash caught on the table and Barkley’s jaws snapped shut just millimeters from the man’s hand. So close that his teeth still hit the plumber’s hand.
I apologized profusely and said a lot of “Oh my gosh, he’s never done that before…” The rest of the time those men were in my house I was completely on edge because of Barkley’s reaction to a seemingly nice man.
I did a 60 day internship with the Washington State House of Representatives in Olympia, which was 100 miles away from my house and kids. My wonderful mother came up from Southern California and stayed with the boys for me. She said she felt really comfortable in that big ole house because Barkley was there with them.
Before Handsome Hubby and I got married, I flew down at least once a month to visit. For those visits, Barkley had to stay outside. I had a covered mud porch and I would drag his big dog bed out there. After the first weekend trip, Barkley knew the drill. Before the second trip I pulled his bed onto the mud porch. Barkley got it in his teeth and in between his front paws and humped it right back into the house. It became a regular tug of war between us. I’d put the bed onto the porch and he’d try to hump it away from me.
When Handsome Hubby came up to get me, he packed everything up in a U-Haul and drove 1,000 miles with a Dalmatian practically sitting in his lap. I’d like to think they bonded on that trip, but I don’t think that happened until later. We did have a funny instance where we had to sneak him into a hotel when we couldn’t drive any further. A Chihuahua? Those can easily be smuggled into places. A 70 pound dog? Not so much.
In his new home, the only thing Barkley really remembered from his old home was his hump-a-hump-a-lot doggie bed. He took great comfort in it while getting used to his new digs. One night we were sitting at dinner and saw something moving on the patio. It was Barkley, humping his bed backwards past the door. A moment or two later, he came back past the door again, still humping his bed. It was like trying to have family dinner while Monty Python or Benny Hill type skits are going on out on the patio. That dog went back and forth past that door through most of our laughter filled meal.
As he got older, he mellowed out a lot. More inclined to sleep on his bed than hump it. Barkley was a good sport. Great with the kids. (He had stopped trying to hump kids a long time before.)
He was very tolerant of Grant, who enjoyed pretending to be a doggie, even sometimes kicking Barkley out of his own bed.
When Barkley was 11 we got a new puppy, Corsa. She injected some new life into them ole’ bones. He was playing more and seemed to have a renewed energy. But every month that passed, Barkley seemed to get a little bit slower… a little bit more cranky. He started looking quite lumpy.
The vet said his skin was becoming super sensitive again and would get easily inflamed. He started getting cysts that the vet said did not hurt him and that they weren’t serious. The vet put him on Prednisone and that helped for a while. He began to look like a pillow that went through the washer… but he did not seem to be in pain. Just old and stiff. (To be honest, something that I certainly could relate to.) We began to pussyfoot around that “when is it time?” conversation.
Barkley seemed to have a more difficult time getting up and down, but still did not seem to be in pain. He even found his new position of choice, which we referred to as Turkey Dog, since he looked like he should be on a platter with stuffing and mashed potatoes.
Around February, things started to unravel pretty fast. I’ve hung on… not wanting to make any decision. I’d often have to check to make sure he was breathing because he was so still. I began to pray I would walk out and find him peacefully gone in his sleep.
One morning in April he was falling over. We decided to have him put down the next morning. By mid day he was walking around just fine. That night I bawled my eyes out and told Handsome Hubby I couldn’t do it. He agreed to wait.
The next afternoon I watched Barkley totter to the lawn, carefully get down and roll over onto his back. He couldn’t quite make it all the way, but close enough. As I watched my old dog rolling in the grass I burst into tears again. Thank you God, for letting my dog be here enjoying the sun right now. Thank you that I didn’t put him down too early, that he had at least one more day of this simple pleasure. Please help me to know when the right time is.
The right time was today.
This week we could tell that Barkley could no longer get comfortable anywhere. Watching him walk was like watching a woman in high heels try to walk town a steep hill. His legs were giving out when he was eating. It was time.
Corsa knew he wasn’t feeling good and stayed with him.
I couldn’t go. I felt like I should be there with him, but I just would not have been able to deal with it emotionally. I feel guilty, but I think I actually may have made the situation worse, had Barkley picked up on my stress. Handsome Hubby and Conner took him and stayed with him.
I am heartbroken. Barkley was with me for 13 years and 2 months. He helped get me through a divorce. He helped me feel safe in my home. He made me laugh and gave me unconditional love the way only a good dog can.
I will miss you, Barkley Bad Dog, and I will love you forever.