Losing a Friend


When Barney started showing his precosity in the first few months we had him, I knew this was going to be the best dog I would probably ever know, let alone own. It’s been a wonderful nine years.

It’s been great having a friend that could communicate what life is like from a dog’s perspective. We watched the Outdoor Channel together a lot. He made watching it worthwhile. He and I also shared a passion for Film Noir– he loved the old black and whites. We watched a flick last week, The Naked City– he enjoyed it probably more than I did and accompanied the police sirens every chance he got. I always appreciated his opinions on film.

He never passed up a chance to chase deer and turkeys with me. On the trail he easily did 3-4 times the miles, running a constant protection route ahead and around our party. At camp he always covered the perimeter without fail. He was a real photo hound. He loved seeing himself on TV and always tried to get into the picture when the camera was out. I have several photo montages of the farm where he managed to get into several frames of the composite.

We had to put Barney down last evening. We are deeply surprised. He had been receiving ongoing treatment for an infected anal gland since August, so he was having regular vet visits. He was happy until Tuesday night; We watched Foxnews together. He likes watching Brit Hume with me. This past weekend at deer camp, he made his regular routes out to the far barns, chased rabbits and did all his usual things. We never would have guessed he was having a problem. It turns out he was full of bone cancer. Angie found him wandering in the yard Wednesday when she got home. He was shivering and unable to stand without wobbling. She rushed him up to the vet, and it did not take long for them to find masses growing everywhere inside him.

Barney had a good trip out. We had a short wake at home, my folks my sons, and Angie, and Lily the beagle gathered in the family room. Barney got a chance to hang with all of us for a while. Finally he decided to go outside and wander around in the rain for a bit. He’d wanted to do that a lot in the past few days. I guess he was sorting things out and just trying to enjoy what was left.

When I opened the door to go look for him, he was waiting. Off we went in the truck. He had his last ride, with his head out the window. Barney spent most of his life riding in my Blaser with the sunroof open and his head sticking out the top, but my new truck has no sun roof. The side window was fine. On the backroads going to the farm I could call “Horses to the left.” or “Cows to the right.” and Barney would jump to one side or the other. Yesterday, he just left his head sticking out the driver’s side. He watched the world one last time, and I watched him in the rearview.

At the vet, he was a little hesitant to come out. He’s spent so many afternoons watching Emergency Room Vet on Animal Planet, he knew what was up. He took his last pee on the handicap parking sign and went in. He balked in the waiting room. Angie bent down and told him, “Barney, the doctor says you’re not going to get better.” Barney complied and we went back to ther rear room. His dignity and sentience was overwhelming to me.

Carl Grady, after he died, had a brand new vet hospital built on a lot he’d been saving next to the old one. He kept that plot for close to thirty years in anticipation. I kind of miss the old one, but the new one is spectacular. Carl and his son did good. We went on back and Barney laid down on the fresh tile floor. Barney let them prep him without a struggle, and then Carl’s son came in and gave the injection. As it took hold, I said something about going to the farm and Barney looked up and then went limp. A second later, the horrible shivvering stopped.

It never made any sense to me why Grady would have spent so much time and effort on single examining room. It was bigger, with better appointments than the others. It had a really nice fire exit too. It’s odd, but in that eternity that it takes to let go and move from a pet owner to a former pet owner you have a lot of time to notice those things. At least with this room, they did things just right. We left through the fire exit when we were done and had a nice brick path back to the parking lot, and went on to live the rest of our lives.


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