Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Barney and We

After living in an apartment for a couple of years, we moved to a house.  The rent was not bad, and it had a pretty big yard.  Mitzy, my husband, was excited at the hope of planting flowers and having grass.  It was a wonderful change from the apartment days.  We had a patio, a BBQ and even a little first attempt gold fish pond.  It was a great first summer in that house. 
 
I was working the early shift Tuesday through Saturday.  One particular Saturday, I decided to go with a friend to the pet store after work.  I had chosen some cat food and of course some feathery toys for the Kitty.  When looping around the final aisle, I saw the adopt a pet center.  I felt a little fear because I had limited strength to say no to taking animals home.  I knew if I looked into any little pair of eyes, I would be explaining a lot to my husband!  I looked at the floor, made the turn and refused to look to my left.  "If you don't see them, they don't exist" I kept telling myself.  I thought if I just kept walking, all would be fine.  Then I heard a voice "Look how cute he is Mom, can we get him?".  Before thinking, I glanced up, right into the brownish-yellow eyes of a rough looking black dog.  I tried to look away, but he was entrenched in my glance.  He did not blink, he did not look away, he lifted his front paw up and put it on the cage then tilted his head just a little as if to say "come on in here!".  I rolled my eyes up into the back of my head and thought "you can not do this, you can not!".  As I brought my eyes back down I saw the sign just above his cage.  It read simply "If I do not find a home today, I will not have a tomorrow!".  A moment of shock passed, and then I remembered our new back yard!  Okay, I guess I am getting our first dog.
 
I walked over to the lady in the room and said "I'll take him".  She looked at me and said, "but you have not even met him, or walked him or anything!".  I smiled at her and said "I have never in my life met an animal that did not like me.  I don't think today is going to be any different."  She gave me an odd glance, and made me take him for a walk.  We went outside, and although he pulled at the leash quite hard, whenever I approached him he became quite timid and would shake.  I sat down on the ground in front of him, waited a long moment for him to relax, and then told him to sit.  He sat about three feet from me, and we stared into each others eyes.  He would drop his glance to the ground and then back up to me.  He was tense, and very alert to my presence.  It was obvious, something terribly wrong had happened to this dog, something quite evil.  I relaxed everything about myself, I cocked my head to the left a little and said "Hi there!".  He titled his head as well, then got up walked very slowly over to me and sniffed my face.  Sniffing, turned to licking, and we were fast friends.  He accepted me.
 
Back inside, the woman asked me how it went.  I told her again that I would take this dog home.  Her eye's got a little wide, as if a little shocked and said "I think there are some things you need to know.  He isn't a normal dog.  He is half black lab, and half chow.  Labs are normally very docile, while Chows can be a little aggressive.  Now as far as I know, he has never been aggressive, but he has been abused.".  I replied "I am not a normal human.  I think he and I have a lot in common, and he is coming home with me today."  She smiled a little and asked "Do you have any children?".  I shook my head no and broke out the check book.  This poor existence of a dog was coming home with me, and there was not going to be any stopping that.
 
When we got to the parking lot, my friend said "How is Mitzy going to take this one?".  I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up, and shrugged my shoulders.  "Wanna ride along and find out?" (my attempt at protecting myself if my new found friend was not taken in so easily at home…).  "Oh, you know I do!" he said.  I drove home, all the way contemplating the outcome of this day.  The worst possible scenario was that I at least bought this dog some time.  I really had no clue what the reaction was going to be, but I was prepared for anything.
 
In the driveway, I took a deep breath, got out, snuck the dog to the side yard and let him in the gate.  He walked beside me as I turned the corner to the back yard.  As Mitzy was finishing up planting flowers (along the entire border of the yard!!!!!) he looked up and said "Whose dog is that?".  I stood there a second, and then blurted out "Yours".  He looked up at me a little shocked, mumbled something about his new flowers and then stood up.  "I have to take my friend back to his car, see you in a few" I hollered over my should as a I ran away like some chicken shit school boy!
 
I took my friend to his car at the pet store.  I went in, bought dog food, grooming tools, bowls, treats, toys, the whole shebang!  I loaded the car and went home to see what sort of devastation had occurred in my absence.  Again, in the drive way, I took a deep breath, got out of the car, went through the side yard and turned the corner to the back yard.  There, in the afternoon sun, was Mitzy and black dog laying right next to each other almost asleep.  That dog had a knack, that was for sure!  As I walked across the patio, they both looked up and then went back to snoozing.  "He needs a bath if he is sleeping in our room tonight" Mitzy said, and so I was off to make that happen!  I got the hose, the shampoo, grooming devices of every nature and a bunch of towels.  I was set for anything, or so I thought.
 
Mitsy went inside to think of a name, and black dog and I set out to begin his first bath.  He was probably around 5 years old, so this was not his first excursion into the world of lather, I was certain.  I hosed him down, and clumps of fur started dropping off.  Clumps, not just hairs, but clumps of hair.  I poured on the shampoo and started rubbing him.  He was thin, too thin.  He would wince when I touched his sides.  He was shaking and tense, but he never tried to run, he never made a sound, and he never  acted threateningly toward me at all.  I kept working in the shampoo, with gentle fingers.  Something very wrong had happened to him.  I ran my hands slowly down his legs, lathering the soap, and notice a little lump and then another and another.  I bent down to take a closer look and realized that he had staples in his leg.  Staples!  Not staples for paper, staples for wood!  Staples in his leg!  How the "F" does that happen?  I called Mitzy, showed him what I had discovered.  He came out and held the dog while I went for tools.
 
I returned with a pair of needle nose pliers, some peroxide and an electric hair trimmer.  While Mitzy held the dogs head and told him everything would be okay, I started taking staples out of it's leg.  One after the other, and not a sound, not a whimper, not a growl.  Puss and blood oozed from the wounds, and still not even a movement from the dog.  After a handful of staples was removed, I began to shave the dog.  It was not very difficult, as most of the fur had fallen out from the bath anyway.  When he was almost bald, I gave him another rinse, and Mitzy and I both stood, staring at this dog, both of us near tears. 
 
This dog was beyond bone thin.  I could count his ribs by the crevices between them.  He was bruised, deeply, to the bone in fact, all over his body.  This quivering, shaking dog had been beaten and stapled (apparently routinely) and still looked at us with a glimmer of hope, an inch of trust, and a prayer for love.  We very gently dried him off, cleaned his staple wounds again, and took him in the house for a very nice feast in his honor!
 
The next day, I took him to the vet and was aghast to find other reminders of this poor dogs abuse.  His back molars were ground down, probably from wire or metal used to keep his mouth from closing (usually used on the victim when training dogs to fight).  His pads were cracked, he was very malnourished and had kennel cough.  His hips were already showing signs of arthritis and his ear had been torn.  The vet looked at me, and then at this dog.  She asked simply "How long have you had this dog?", but looked at me though judgmental eyes.  I told her "less then 12 hours, you can call the humane society, I got him from the pet store adoption center last night".  She gave a haphazard smile, looked back at the dog, looked at me and said "That is a good thing.  We just happen to have a special for newly adopted dogs today".  With dog in tow, and arm loads of pills, salves, shampoos and food, I headed home.
 
This is the story of our first twelve hours with Barney.  He was the greatest dog I have ever known.  It took a couple of months, but he began to trust and love again.  He became a true member of our family.  He shared our home, our bed, our food, our hearts and our lives.  He was one of us.  He came from the darkest pits of hell, and he rose to the heights of Angels.  After what he had been through, we never asked anything more from him then to be happy.  Boy, was he happy.  He made us all happy.
 
The day he passed away, Mitzy and I were there by his side.  We were laying on the ground holding him lovingly between us as the same Vet from above brought mercy for us all.  It was a very special moment to share with him, and he knew we were there with him.  He left us, not alone, but surrounded by his family. 
 
Everyday we had with him was a gift, especially the day he passed.
 
Barney is still with us.  He and his Kitty "Schiza", are in their favorite spots in the house.  Their ashes move around the house from time to time.  We talk to them almost daily, sometime hold the urns they are in, and will never forget the happiness they brought to us.  I miss them very, very much.
 
We now have Oscar and Vera.  They are very different friends, but just as loving, just as giving, and just as much a part of our family.  I am very blessed, and very grateful.
 
Now why did I write this down?  Sunday night we watched Marley and Me, the movie.  The two of us sat there, at the end.  Mitzy with Oscar in his lap, and me with Vera in mine.  In the rush of memories we had to relive, we both looked at each other and cried.  It is good to remember.  
 

8 comments:

ab April 14, 2009 at 8:37 AM  

You stop it right now. I am bawling. Beautiful story.

T April 14, 2009 at 9:04 AM  

Not..sniff, sniff....gonna (wiping eyes) cry....(anymore).

You and hubby were meant to have Barney - this I am sure of. You both gave him what was desperately missing from his life....trust, love, humanity.

A beautiful memory, thank you for sharing.

belladella April 14, 2009 at 9:26 AM  

Oh goodness...I am so glad you wrote this down and shared it with us. Our furry children are so special. Hubby and I recall all of our homecomings with all 9 of ours all the time- I should write them down so they are not forgotten!

The Incredible Woody April 14, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

That was beautiful! I am so glad that Barney found you. They are never 'just animals' - they are family.

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. April 14, 2009 at 2:45 PM  

Aww Predo! Thanks for sharing. That is a WOW story.

(Sometimes!) Serendipitous Girl April 14, 2009 at 9:44 PM  

The crazy thing is you guys take EVERYONE in this way and make us all better.

GAH! I always come here and CRY!!! Happy tears though. But GAH!

random thougths April 15, 2009 at 5:51 AM  

It was difficult to read this thru tears. Thank you for sharing. Pets take the place of the child I cannot have. There is a strong emotional connection that many won't understand. My 14 and 12yr old cats are a big part of my life... I just focus on their love for today.

Big Hair Envy April 15, 2009 at 12:41 PM  

Yes, it IS good to remember!

Excuse me, I have to go finish bawling my eyes out now.....

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