They say a man’s best friend is his dog. Truthfully Barnabas and I didn’t start out as best of friends. I thought he was cute, but that was the only positive thing I could initially say about him. For one thing, I saw him as an intrusion in our lives. We had just moved into a new home fifty miles from where I work and thirty-five miles from where the General worked. We didn’t have the time to devote to a puppy. It was not fair to him and I selfishly thought it wasn’t fair to us.
My daughter saw it differently. She saw him as the perfect Christmas gift for her mother. Besides that, she saw him as a replacement dog for Brittany, her mom’s Yorkie who had died shortly before we moved into our home. Initially, Brittany had been Andrea’s dog. I’d purchased the dog for her when she was twelve or thirteen years old. She wanted a dog for a very long time and I always said: “No”.
The rationale for my answer was sound. The General and I had a long history with dogs when our son was about Andrea’s age. From my recollection, our experiences weren’t positive. How could I have known that a collie had the capacity to shred every window screen on the back of your home? It turned out the dog was terrified of thunder. We were at work when the storm blew in and neither the doghouse located in the back yard or the covered back patio deterred the dog from being a dog (aka – destructive). I am not blaming the dog! Please don’t hear me say that. The dog was terrified and he did what any terrified animal would do in an attempt to gain entry inside the house.
It wasn’t just the shredded window screens! A manicured lawn and expensive plants were also fodder for the dog’s folly. No blame intended! It was just that our lifestyle and the needs of the dog were not mutually compatible. Consequently, Andrea didn’t have a chance. We had done the dog thing with her brother. We didn’t need to duplicate that experience again.
Consequently she played the trump card and pulled a fast one on me. With tears streaming down her little cheeks she asked: “Dad, Don’t you thing I’m entitled to normal childhood experiences?” Wow! She made it clear that I was the problem and I bought it hook, line and sinker. Consequently, we negotiated a deal. If we could find a dog at least a year old and totally housebroken, we’d get it. Fair enough? She brought it and we subsequently bought the dog. Brittany proved to be all that the previous owner described her to be. She was the perfect pet! When Andrea left for college, Brittany became the General’s dog.
Sadly, Brittany died just before we moved into our home. I vowed that we’d never have another dog. First of all, Brittany couldn’t be replaced. We’d never find another pet as precious as she. Secondly, our lives and schedules had changed. We didn’t have time for a pet.
Shortly before Christmas, thirteen years ago, Andrea marched into the house and made a beeline to her mother. She was holding a six-week-old Yorkie. Did she say what I thought I heard her say: “Mom – What are you going to name him?”
“She’s going to name him Trouble”, I responded. I was in a state of disbelief. We did not need a dog. Put my foot down as I may, the dog was here to stay. The General named him Barnabas.
It took me a long time to warm to Barnabas. Actually, thirteen years ago I wasn’t old, but I guess you could say I was set in my ways. I didn’t want another dog. For one thing, I had not yet totally worked through the grief process related to Brittany’s absence. I am amazed at how some people replace pets like buying a new car. I don’t get attached to cars. I did get attached to Brittany. Consequently, I wasn’t ready for another dog. Unlike Brittany who was never a moment’s trouble, Barnabas would periodically hike his leg and urinate anywhere he wanted to mark his place. That didn’t set well with me.
It seems surreal and at the same time it seems like it was only yesterday. Barnabas was a cute puppy but he would initially whimper through the night. I didn’t like that either. He outgrew that before he outgrew eating up your shoes in the closet or anything else he wanted to make for a sandwich. But that, too, eventually passed.
Across the years, I’ve attempted not to show it, but Barnabas managed to capture my heart. I jokingly told people that Barnabas and I have a love/hate relationship. There were times I found him loveable and other times he was more of a challenge. The General would probably say she’s had that same kind of experience with me. In addition, I learned early on that if Barnabas messed up, it wouldn’t be his fault. It would be mine. Somehow the General played favorites and Barnabas never got held accountable for anything. I was always the one to blame.
I’m still having a difficult time processing that Barnabas was actually with us for over thirteen years. Where did the years go? They went by really quickly. We always had Barnabas groomed with a puppy cut. He never outgrew that puppy charm and he greeted everyone with a playful disposition. His dark brown eyes would melt your heart. When it came to looks and personality, Barnabas couldn’t be beat. He had everything going for him with the exception that he’d occasionally hike his leg in the house.
Barnabas never got old. He didn’t move around like an old dog. He was always the epitome of energy and a picture of good health and vitality. Consequently, I was surprised a couple of weeks ago to learn that Barnabas wasn’t well. Sadly, his not being well escalated quickly.
The General was at his side every step of the way through the process. She, too, has cheated sleep the past couple of weeks only catching an hour or two before being up to attend to Barnabas. Watching the General’s response and agony related to Barnabas’ struggles were as heart wrenching as watching Barnabas struggle. It all happened too quickly. It never occurred to me when I left for work yesterday that I’d subsequently be returning home to meet Treva along with our daughter and son-in-law to bid Barnabas farwell. I guess it seemed fitting. Andrea and Kevin (though not yet married) were both present when Andrea presented Barnabas to her mother.
Tears stream down my face as I write these words. Barnabas has only been gone half a day and I, too, struggle with his loss. He was always delighted to see me. He greeted me every time I walked through the door. Barnabas made it clear that I was a welcomed friend. I’m a lucky guy.
All My Best!