It is a story, not one of science, and one that may not be remembered past this one lifetime. It is the story of someone that did not know his destiny, but followed it with unfaltering step, bound to his human companion, not by vows or paper, but in the name of the trust that was the best part of his nature. It is a story of the one that taught her to love, even as he occasionally barfed on the carpet. It is simply the tale of a black Labrador retriever named Barkley. It was the beginning never anticipated; belief that there were no limits that made tragedy inevitable, a gentle nuzzle that made the walls fall away, and the pull of the leash into the day’s infinitude. It was an ending she did not expect; a leash laid across the chair, an empty bed, a glass tipped over, spilling the blood of wine. The noise that an empty room makes is as clear as tears.
In between, there are the stories, of friends, of joy and dog hair, of a small pink ball with feet known as Mr. Squeaky, which became the mortal enemy at dawn, as she tried to sleep. It is the story of rambunctious trespasses such as “the bacon incident” and the loving trust that bound a lonely road warrior and a dog together in unspoken understanding.
The Book of Barkley is a tribute and memoir that will resonate with everyone who has reached out unthinking to pet a beloved animal…only to remember that their beloved friend is no longer present. Honest, transcendent, and beautifully written The Book of Barkley is a love story that will enrich every animal lover’s library.
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CHAPTER 6 – Run Away!
Barkley and I had established a routine. I’d walk him before work and after work, as well. I had a dog sitter/walker, a retired nurse who had a licensed business for just such a purpose and who loved Barkley as her own. She took him out twice a day for playtime and a walk when I was working.
We were working on basic commands; still, I had to keep an eye on him as he didn’t always come when I called. I had closed on my new house and I wanted him to be close by and obeying me when we moved in, as I did not have a fence for it yet, having to get permission from the homeowners’ association after moving.
This morning, I was up early, the complex quiet. I had the garage door open for just a moment to maneuver a trash barrel out, Barkley playing with a toy inside the kitchen the door ajar. Suddenly there came this enormous BOOM of noise from a distance. I had no idea what it was, though it came from the direction of a coal/steam/power plant of some sort I knew was nearby. BOOM!
Barkley was out the door into the garage and out of the garage like a shot, running for his life.
“Barkley, come back!” I cried, but with yet another BOOM, he continued on, terrified.
My little townhouse is far back from the main road into the complex, still I run hard to try and lure him in, dressed in my flannel pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. The more I move toward him, the further away he runs, toward not just the entrance but the busy road from which it comes.
“Barkley, come here. Treat, Treat, Treat, Treat!”
For just a moment, I totally regret this whole dog thing. I could be sitting in my house, sipping coffee, having a croissant, the picture of a successful professional getting ready for work, but no, I’m running down the road like a mad woman in Bugs Bunny pajama bottoms.
I could have gotten a cat. No, I’m not a cat person. I could have got a pet rock. Or a BMW.
But you cannot put a value on a living creature any more than you can give a measure to everything that has weight. Some things you are just bound to discover, there in a house where you’ve been locked away too long, or simply breathing, there in the moment of time you shared on a small planet spinning in space, destined to meet.
“Barkley!” I’m getting mad now as he surges ahead, his months-old puppy legs faster than I can run in slippers. BOOM, the sound comes again. He’s heading straight for the main road.
I can only describe it like that moment in the movie Jaws, where the camera looms in on Sheriff Brody, and the whole world focuses. It does, for just a moment. You suddenly notice every little detail around you, the sun running straight and empty, like a gash through the street, a tiny spider web there at the edge of your vision, hanging from a tree, the sun piercing it, illuminating the space there between the delicate strength. I no longer feel annoyance, but the potential of loss, not just an animal, but my friend, held at that moment with conviction, that sense, that feeling of home.
There’s no way I’m going to let him get to the main road, where traffic is busy. If he will just stop, I can catch up, but as I approach, he just runs further away, still scared. I cut over, behind a few homes, hoping to jump ahead where he cannot sense me chasing him and might slow or stop, to “cut him off at the pass.” I didn’t know I could run this hard in slippers, even more importantly; I didn’t know I could jump for I went over a kid’s little lawn chair behind someone’s back patio like it was a hurdle from my high school track days.
Sometimes you do not know what you have in you until something you love is threatened. Then you simply reach down to the core of your reserve, which occurs at intervals in all of us, driving us to lay down the known and the safe, to seek possession of something that has been long lost to us, blind to everything but hope and fate.
Dear Lord, I hope no one is looking
There, I’m in front of him, and he turns back toward the house, still running, but tiring, and calming, the loud sound ceasing.
I catch up and scoop him up in my arms. He’s still trembling; the noise stopped. Apparently, the power plant was letting off some steam or something. The neighbor’s said they had heard that before.
That night, I let him sleep upon the bed with me. That probably doesn’t help with the “No; I’m the alpha dog” thing, but tonight I do not care.
We lie there, the upstairs window open to the stars, and it is like lying out in a tent with my brother as kids, where we’d rest, unable to sleep, listening to the night’s whisper, talking of our past adventures. The past is our future, but we couldn’t taste that, until it too was our past. Everything else is illusion.
Except this warm bundle of fur sleeping peacefully next to me.