Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The saga of Barney the Beagle - The final chapter

     The last part in a 3 part series on the trials and tribulations of owning a beagle.  I doubt his blog will get linked to any PETA pages, but it is the unvarnished truth of this family's time with a purebred beagle named Barney.

     The next decade was a mix of the same behaviors that had occurred during the first five years.  Barney continued to bark, dig, bite, break his run, get the neighbors to hate us (each night I looked for the crowd with torches approaching our house), wet and poop in the house if allowed to run at night and in general be a
How Barney looked after every misadventure
major pain in the ass.  Now, my children, and maybe my wife, will argue how much love he brought into the family. He would jump up and snuggle with you, and I do recall a few days when the kids were having bad days, that Barney sat quietly by and listened to their stories of life's injustices, and did so without judging or commenting.  He had that natural empathetic looking face that just said "Yeah, I know, right?". Since most days, I was the one doling out these injustices to the kids, it was unlikely that they would go to me to seek comfort and support, so Barney was the logical choice (Sometimes Char, but we have to parent as a team).  What they didn't know is, after they went to bed, I'd do the same thing questioning my behaviors about parenting, and Barney would look up at me as if to say "Relax Bill, you're doing fine, you've got this".  These were some of the few times that Barney reminded me of my dog growing up, Princess.  If Princess could talk, she would have been able be to write a better blog than me, as she got to listen to 12 kid's rant.  Barney just had the 5 of us, but I'm sure he
Pick the dancers or the laptops, trust me.
took some of our secrets with him.  I want to finish this blog with the story of how he almost died and then tell of the day he actually did, but I'm not sure I've painted the picture of how he behaved clearly enough yet. I think one more example would be in order.   When Barney was still young we decided to bring him to my sister Meter Maid's annual pig roast in Ithaca NY.  I've been to parties before and seen an animal, uninvited, wreaking havoc, or running amok or just being an animal, and thought "Who would bring a dog/cat/ferret to a party?"  The answer, of course, was me, but I likely forgot this incident on purpose.  Even though we had a plan for "controlling" Barney during this party, he spilled a whole can of used motor oil with his chain, he broke his chain and ran directly into the middle of the road, he bit my sister's youngest child who had tried to rescue him from the road, and got stuck under an electric fence (Think shock collar times ten).  Did I mention that this was all within the first five minutes of our arrival?  If you were there that day, you got a good feel for what life with Barney was about.

     The day he almost died - Barney was about 12 and I had taken him to the vet on a Friday afternoon. After his normal check up (he was fine, dammit), our vet casually mentioned that she would be out of town
How he looked headed to the vets
that weekend, so she jokingly said "Don't have an emergency this weekend or it will cost you $75 to have the vet that is covering for me come in".  I laughed along with her as what were the chances of needing a repeat visit a day later?  I, of course, had forgotten, that I owned Barney.  It was a scant 18 hours later that the kids came running in shouting that Barney had been hit by a car on our side street.  Barney had worn through the run once again and ran directly under a car and was rolled several times. The car owner was apologetic and of course was not to blame, but I had to scoop Barney up from the road and bring him unto our back porch.  He was going into shock and his eyes were rolled back in his head and it wasn't looking good for the Barney dog.  My wife asked me what we should do, and considering the
How he should have looked at the vets
12 years that I had spent with the dog and remembering also the $75 fee just to call the vet, I said something like "He doesn't look too good honey, this may be it, let's just surround him with our love, and ease his passing"  She was not amused and said something like, "Get the van, stupid".  She drove and I bundled Barney up in an old blanket and we started to drive to Canandaigua with Barney, in shock, and me cuddling the dog on the floor of the back of the van.  We were less than a minute out of the driveway, and of course after we had called the vet in (Ka-Ching) when Barney realized that we were in the car.  His eyes rolled back into place, he rolled over, and jumped up and his tail started wagging, and his tongue came out as if to say "Ooh Boy, we're going for a ride, I love rides, I wonder where we are going?, maybe back to that farm, ooh Boy"  It was another 20 minute drive into the vet and there I sat controlling a
How he did look at the vets
very excited, but apparently, unharmed dog.  After examination, the vet said he had a broken pelvis that would heal by itself, but other than that the dog was perfectly healthy.  I wasn't going to let it go that easy, after all I had started out of my driveway with a near dead dog, and $100 later, I wasn't going home with a perfectly healthy one.  I said " Well Doc, we'll understand if you have to put him down, we don't want him to suffer or anything...."  The doctor replied that other than walking a little swayback, the dog would fully recover.  I said, "Doc, we'll understand if you have to put him down, because we wouldn't want him to suffer with the other dogs mocking him because he'd walk all swayback and stuff....."  The doctor just looked at me and said "Mr. Yarger, you don't like your dog much do you?"  Ignoring his question I next brought up the "seizures" that he had occasionally only to be told that it was harmless "reverse sneezing" that was common to beagles.  In my final attempt to gain some value out of this trip (no, I did not consider the vet saving Barney a value), I reminded the Doc that Barney was purebred and in general that meant he would pass away sooner than regular dogs.  The Doc's next words haunted me for a long time after... "While that's generally true, Mr. Yarger, beagles are one of the longest lived breeds, so you can expect another 5-10 years of living with Barney"   We drove home, with the kids elated and now me in a state of shock and $100 poorer.  It was like paying for a bad fortune.

     The day he did die - After the accident, Barney slowed down a lot. He did indeed walk swayback and arthritis set in fairly quickly.  He stopped digging holes and running after cars, but never did stop barking.  As the years went by he got slower and slower and would take several minutes just walking down the 3-4 steps from our deck, and of course he did it sideways now.  It was the morning of Molly's wisdom teeth surgery that his condition worsened considerably.  His back legs stopped working altogether and he was dragging his hind end around.  After Molly was home and recovering, I ran Barney into the vet and this time the diagnosis was permanent nerve damage and he recommended putting Barney down.  Both Char and I knew that we couldn't do this with Molly still doped up, she would never have forgiven us, so we made an appointment for Monday and brought Barney home with us for a last weekend with the family.   All the kids were able to spend some time with Barney and Molly slept next to him for the majority of that weekend.  We all took turns carrying him out to do his business.  Monday came and even Molly had come around to understand that this was the humane thing to do, so she and I went together and were with him when he passed. We had him cremated and chose to spread his ashes along the run where he so enjoyed chasing things, digging and barking.

     Barney was a major pain in the ass, but he taught us all many lessons in the years we had him.  We all learned the benefit of researching these kind of decisions prior to committing to them.  We learned that sometimes it is impossible to change bad behaviors after they are learned, so it's better to teach good behaviors early and repeat often.  We learned about loving unconditionally.  The last lesson Barney taught us was that the physical disabilities that come with age by no means detract from one's ability to provide positive interactions with others.   I hope the kids learned something about taking care of someone who is aging and in failing health, that is, shower them with love and affection, but allow them their dignity when it is time for them to go.  I'll close this blog with a paraphrased quote from Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (cuz great wisdom comes from Star Trek).  As Kirk eulogizes Spock he says....

" He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."

    I feel the same about Barney.
We miss you Barney


cdyarger said...

Very nice eulogy for the Barney dog. I challenge anyone to have a dry eye after reading this. Yes, he was a pain, but he was also a beloved pet. RIP Barney dog!!!!

Anonymous said...

I also loved that dog....being a pet owner of many dogs, Barney's personality was a hoot... he certainly loved his family to. Very nice eulogy and memories shared.

Meter Maid