Monday, January 25, 2021

The Beautiful World of Barney Campbell-Wakefield

In 2008, Barney appeared in my life, as he located across the street at the home of my sweet neighbors, the Campbells, who I’d known casually for eight years. This family had a Mom, Lyndi, four children, a grandchild and a Dad. And a few cats. And as of this day, a dog. A little white ball of fluff who arrived via Cayla, the eldest child and only daughter, adopting him to be a companion to her young daughter, Lauren.

He didn’t have a name, yet, but the boys seemed to be calling him “Jumbo.” The perky little turkey was having fun at his home and the boys brought him over to see me and we seemed to hit it off.

He reminded me a lot of my late lhasa apso, J. Edgar Hoover Wakefield, so named because he was the director of security. J. Edgar had been gone for two years, and his younger brother, a chihuahua/rat terrier mix named Pepe J. Wakefield (the J didn’t stand for anything, but he needed a middle initial for balance) had been gone for just one year. I was done with taking care of anyone, as I’d been through the death of my mother three years prior and the last two of her “babies” had joined her in Heaven.

But this little guy was sort of limping, and the boys explained he had found some sticky burrs in their backyard and wouldn’t let them pull them out. I scooped him up and put him in my lap and we all talked as I pulled out the sticky burrs one by one. They were shocked that he let me do it, and I just remember his beautiful brown eyes smiling up at me and a slightly wicked little grin that bespoke mischief in days to come. I said, “Fellas you cannot call this little guy Jumbo…he’s not large and its bad for his self-image.” Giving me that polite but understanding that most “old ladies don’t know anything…until they do…” they said “Okay.”

Two days later, Lauren and her grandmother, Lyndi, came across the street and reintroduced the newly christened Barney, named for the beloved purple dinosaur, and I loved the name! I also loved Barney. “He is not minding us very much,” Lyndi said, “so this is a hard thing to ask but we have our annual camping trip scheduled in two weeks, and they don’t accept dogs there, and that date has been set for a year.” I smiled and said, “He’ll be fine here with me. We’ll have a good time and we’ll call it Camp Barney.” I was confident. Barney, not as much, but willing to give it a try.

He arrived at camp with enough supplies to last a month and a happy but slightly distrusting grin, and we set about to establish a routine of sorts. How that worked was he did what he wanted and I tried to find the right cues of when to let him in and out and to go out with him and make sure he didn’t leave my yard. That went pretty well. However, while I was working from the living room in my home (having expanded my International World Headquarters) I noticed Barney was dashing from the living room to my back office and I heard a little bit of noise…seems he’d been pawing frantically at the mini-Venetian blinds when he’d see various cars pass by on the street.

I snapped to the fact that he had (natural) separation anxiety and worried being left…something we don’t think about when they’ve been in the welcoming but insecure place of the animal shelter in hopes of being chosen. How long that will last is unknown to them as their reasoning skills are keen but not as long a period to support long-term faith in the humans they take on. I mean what I say…they take on the human family, the humans don’t really adopt the puppy…we just think we do.

The third day in, I was starting to count the days until camp was over. I have to be frank. He was inconsolable, and even though I let him up onto my bed to share my space for reassurance, when morning came, the only thing on his mind was “Are they back yet?” Back to the window he would go and resume his watch post. And then that evening, an explosion happened west of town…fertilizer plant had sustained a major blast and the wind from there was heading here, so the news said. Having worked in a chemical plant in a prior career I knew neither Barney nor I wanted to be here for several hours until that had all passed us by.

Off we went towards Huntsville; I packed his little leash in the car and a little water. He wasn’t interested in either. He rode pretty well in the front seat passenger side, and he liked it for a while. If you have a child under five years old as your passenger in the back seat, wonder how many times a one-hour ride will bring the question, “Are we there yet?” No, he didn’t say a word, but Barney was getting antsy. Part of it was not having a clue why we were on the road, the other because it was time for nature to call. Finally, we reached Huntsville, and his little sounds were telling me “now” was the time.

I pulled into a parking lot, near a grassy area close to Jack-in-the-Box, and turned the car off. I slipped his little leash on him, and opened the car door and I was just going to sit there and let him go leash-far, a fairly good distance, but, it was raining. He didn’t mind the rain, but he minded my not being 100% committed to joining him there. In the rain. Rolling my eyes and recalling just four more days of camp, I went out and got soaked to the bone while he took care of business. I had towels in the car for him (I saw the sky and thought ahead), but I had to drip dry. Fine. We drove around some more, and he finally settled down, and we eventually had a good, snuggy ride back.

The next three days brought more smiles and shared times, and a d├ętente between our test of wills. We just managed to understand one another without the words. And he got into my routine. I found that if I turned TV on in the background, with the sound low as I worked, he had something to watch and keep him busy. He liked USA Network on Wednesdays because they’ve always rerun NCIS episodes and with then 5 seasons in the hopper back then, they had plenty to run. He seemed to like Leroy Jethro Gibbs, but I’m certain that was transference from what “Mommy” likes to what he likes. Hallmark Channel was another popular favorite. He didn’t fuss, he stayed awake watching the TV, and only snoozed occasionally. We made it through the week just fine.

When the family came home, they were horrified at the mini-blinds and offered to fix them immediately. I wouldn’t hear of it. They asked why not. I said, “You’ll be going camping next year, right?” They said, “Yes,” and I said, I’ll just pull the blinds up to the right level and you won’t be able to tell. It was henceforth deemed “Barney height.” It looked just fine!

The family had been back for at least three days when one day, my front door was open and this little face appears at my screen door, paws up, peering inside to see whether I was home. Curious, I thought, hmm, what’s on his mind? I opened the door and he marched in, hopped up in the chair that was tentatively known as “his,” lined with a towel, and waited for me to bring him a treat. I had enough treats to keep him busy for weeks, so once I gave him a few Milk Bones, he was off to take a nap. Okay, fine. He got bored. I actually thought he was curious as to whether my open door policy extended beyond Camp week. It did.

Still recuperating from being doggie-less for two years after Mom’s death, I had grown willing to live “alone,” and not be considered a family, because for that term, there must be two, not one. My schedule was different now, and I was traveling more for fun, and taking work along with me on the various adventures with “just like family” friends who made me feel like I really did have family, the kind that makes sure you’re covered on holidays. I wasn’t ready to settle into being a pet parent fulltime so I had not explored adoption. Barney was, I thought, a one-off experience, and he was cute.

Two days later about 8:30 am, I heard a lot of barking across the street. Didn’t pay too much attention, turned up Hallmark in the background and settled back into work. About 9:00 am, I looked up to see a little black and white dog at my screen door. Barney had dug out from under the front yard fence across the street. He was hot and slightly foul-tempered at having had to get dirty to get out. The nerve…he thought. I let him in, scooped him up, and put him in the sink for a quick emergency bath. Bless his little heart. I could swear I saw him grin as I watched him settle into the bath towel I’d wrapped him in.

I had another towel on “his chair” in the living room but he jumped down off of that, ran around the room furiously to “air dry” if you will, and having completed at least nine circles, he jumped back up on the chair, circled twice, and settle into rest mode. When Lyndi came home from teaching school, I took Barney across the street and said, “I had a little visitor today,” and she laughed and said, “He decided he wanted to be with you,” and together we saw the gap he’d dug under the fence. She said, “I’ll have Cade (oldest son) put a big rock to block him from digging there. Problem solved.

The next morning, I hear the barking again, and I am thinking, “Why is he out there barking when he could just as easily be inside his home (doggie door) snoozing with his little kitties?” Again, my mind got back to work and I forgot about it. At right about 9:00 am, a familiar face, black and white, appeared at my screen door. Again we performed the scoop-and-clean, run-and-dry ritual. And I laughed. He smiled. When Lyndi got home from teaching her first graders, we reviewed the day’s events. Barney 2, the adults 0. Hmm. She said, “I’ll have Cade put another big rock where he dug out.” As you might guess, we had underestimated Barney’s determination not to be without a human companion in the daytime. He knew I needed him more than he needed me and he was on a mission.

By the end of the third day, we decided that Lyndi or Cade would bring him over in the morning before they went to school, and we exchanged front door keys. That was the official event by which Barney had two mommies and two families, having created the second by virtue of his willing presence and my astonished joy of acceptance. I bought a dog bed, a box of Milk Bone, and a water bowl of my (his) own. And therein began the weekday/workday routine of most of the days from 2008 until 2021.

The different seasons of the years brought the need for haircuts and style for Barney as well as a selection of winter clothing suitable for a growing boy. Lyndi and I had a blast when he’d come home from groomings in little bandanas, looking like quite the little dude, and then his winter wardrobe included a little camo jacket that said “Major Trouble,” complete with the major insignia on it. He also had a black cape that said “Best Friend,” and a host of other stylish knits with holiday seasons on them.

Cayla got him a Halloween costume, I found him a referee’s outfit, and when Caleb entered the U.S. Navy, we got him a little sailor suit. He wasn’t big on the suit, which took both Lyndi and me working together to get it on him and a little picture—fast, but we have it! Caleb was pleased. I have almost a decade of pictures of Caleb, Barney, and me as we share a common birthday.

Over the years, it also gave me a chance to daily see whichever of the Campbell children would come by to pick him up for his dinnertime. Cade, Caleb, Colton, and Lauren, his beloved little girl and first love. Barney was never at a loss for loving arms to hold him, and all the boys loved him dearly, too. He loved being outside when they played football, and they had a great relationship. His boys brought him such joy. He would watch patiently as Lauren created sidewalk art.

Weekends provided some Barney time, too, if there was a time block where he might be bored being alone for four hours, so we had time here too. The weekdays we called “Office Hours” and I’d often reward him as Employee of the Month treats as he was vital to my success. Starbucks loved making him Puppycino’s (all whipped cream) and Puppy Lattes (again, all whipped cream), and many businesses in town (drive through at American Momentum Bank, dry cleaners, Sonic, and Dairy Queen) had something for the little fellow.

He loved errands. He also loved Dairy Queen, but you couldn’t get anything free for him, yet Freddy’s frozen custard was always gracious in providing a pup cup of vanilla custard for him (he didn’t get the ‘whole thing’ as I was careful about his only getting enough to participate in the tasting).

As I traveled out of town, I would do silly things like ask to FaceTime with him and while Lyndi was willing, generally, Barney was not having much of it, as he knew he was inconvenienced—but it was hard to stay mad at me. I did other silly things like knowing I would be out of the house for four hours some days, I’d pick up my cell phone and dial my home phone and leave a voice message that I knew he was listening to. He hated those fraudulent calls and scam calls as much as I did, but accepted them as part of working at home in your office.

Barney didn’t participate in athletics outside the neighborhood, though Lyndi walked him regularly after I threw my hands in the air. On my leash, Barn would want to go left, right, smell the roses, water the roses, look at something far too long for my purposes, and the broken up concrete sidewalks were often challenging for a smooth walk where I was, and Lyndi was a better mommy to walk with him. She had a gentle but no-nonsense leash hold. I was apparently a soft touch.

He ran the neighborhood over time…some days we’d both look out our doors and see the little turkey in the middle of the street, all stretched out and just daring a car to come by. We’d both freak out and run out our respective doors, chastising him in English not to do that. Other neighbors would see this and say, “Oh, the other day, the mailman went around him rather than make him move.” Our eyes rolled, we said silent prayers of thanks, and shook our heads wondering what made him so stubborn and yet fearless.

Over the years, the boys grew up and left home for their future careers. One by one, Barn went to the next boy to find his nighttime sleeping buddy. Finally, when Colton was out of town in college, Barney found Lyndi to snooze with. Or, if Lauren came over to be with her “Didi,” Barney would find a chair in the kitchen to perch on and watch the girls cooking up a storm.

Mother’s Day, birthdays, and Christmases brought gifts from Barney, and he signed the cards too, virtually, in his heart. Flowers for Mother’s Day, key chains with paw prints, coffee mugs that say “Dog Mom,” you’d have never known he was never really mine, except in my heart. Sharing two families, though, made it genuine work for him to keep all of us content and at peace in our lives.

At one point, neighbor Debbie took an instant shine to Barney, and was known to keep a box of Milk Bone treats or Pupperoni in her kitchen. Then, if Jeannie’s grandson, Hunter, was nearby, Barney wanted to play with him. Jocelyn and Philip had two dogs that would occasionally have Barney and Lyndi along. He was a real fixture and source of laughter for all of us, given whatever he was up to. We have neighbors whose names we still don’t know who say, “Are you the owner of this little white dog?” and we’d say “Well, we both are.” And others who knew his name and not ours…we knew where we ranked with the little dude in charge.

Lyndi as a first grade teacher and me with my virtual grandparenting skills, started to think we were pretty clever as we would spell out certain words around him. We were last to know he could spell. R-I-D-E would get barks of approval as he loved to go on rides. He was so funny. I rarely left the car unattended with him in it, but if I did, I locked the doors and had the A/C full blast in the summer with the engine (and radio) on and I’d say, “I’ll be right back honey,” only to return 45 seconds later and there would be “nose art” on my window, as he peered through, paws up, to figure out where I was.

At the UPS office, I’d wave through the window and he’d have his paws on the dashboard watching me. He’d bark when I got back in the car to register his inconvenience. I ignored it but made sure he got a treat from somewhere before taking him home. One day I came out from Little Caesar’s going inside and there he was sitting in my driver’s side seat and both front and passenger windows were wide open. He’d found the button, showed me his skills, and waited for me to note them. I swear he was smiling. Little know-it-all. But he was and he did.

Everyone has a similar, relatable relationship with their dogs and sometimes with their cats. Barney had five kittens but you had to call them “Barney’s kitties” or he’d get jealous. I’d take him over to visit with them for an hour or so every day during the family vacation. He missed them if you didn’t.

Occasionally, one or the other cat would want to come inside my house to see what the fuss was all about. I let them in but Barney wouldn’t hear of their staying. No thank you. Okay, and they left willingly, but I felt sorry for them. If they came over while Barney and I were in the front yard, I’d sit on the flower box wall, and the Momma kitty would let me pet her with my right hand, but you can sure as shootin’ bet my left hand was stroking Barney’s head with my left hand. It’s what you do.

During the past three years, life has been tougher than anything I’d experienced in my lifetime thus far. Many challenges appeared without warning, some invoking exasperation, others invoking real fear, and massive uncertainty. There are certain things in life where you can take calculated risks and things usually work out, but with others, you have to have genuine security over or else you can spend many sleepless nights worrying. Wise people tell you not to worry, to have faith, and that works during the daylight hours, but at night your subconscious doesn’t always follow that logical path. Too many unknowns in my life and our world weighed heavily on me.

Barney was a continuing sense of calm during the most tumultuous times in my life. Eight years ago, my world changed tremendously when I lost several key people in my world, some to passing away, others to changes in daily routines. The loss was severe and Barney kept me amused, kept me focused and was good company. He knew when I needed him, and found his way across the street outside of usual office hours and would show up, stand in my flower box, try to peer at me through the front shades and utter one loud sigh. No barking, no scratching, just a sigh, like “Lady, don’t you know I’m out here waiting on you to let me in?”

I laughed every time I heard that sigh. What a little nuthead, and so cute. He would respond to me with a familiar clap and whistle I’d created for him, and it was the only way to keep him from chasing a few dear young families pushing a stroller. Anything with wheels (bicycles, skateboards, etc.) caused him such consternation…he’d bark and go nutty cuckoo trying to chase after them. I could yell, “Barney, ride!!!” and he’d quit his path of trouble and return to me. Of course I had to make good on my promise lest he learn that my word was no longer solid. I always made good on my promises.

If you’re thinking that Barney’s world was 90% me, 10% Lyndi’s family, that would be so wrong. It was 50–50 for sure, but over there, he had all these children growing up in front of his eyes to love and cherish. At my house, he had just me to look after. There was one time when Barney thought he was a German Shepherd as he took out after one that had gotten out of someone’s yard. It had been a quiet morning and I let Barn out to hang out in our front yard and sun himself a little without me.

The fight began as soon as the German Shepherd wandering loose entered my yard. Barney wasn’t fearful and he was determined to chase that dog out, but I could tell from the yelping that he wasn’t coming out unscathed. So I ran into the kitchen, filled a pitcher of water, ran out front, yelled and barked (Yes, I barked) loudly at the German Shepherd, who was either amused or confused and he dropped Barney. I barked some more so the errant dog took out after some other less crazy lady.

I scooped up Barney and we drove to the vet. After some cleaning up, an antibiotic prescription and a “cone of shame,” I explained to the boys later that day that he would have to keep that cone on all night long so he wouldn’t scratch at the places healing. They nodded and said they understood. The next morning when they brought him over for office hours, he trotted in so perky and they carried the cone with them…they explained that he didn’t like the cone and wanted it off so he could sleep. I laughed. So much for the cone of shame.

Barney had an excellent sense of smell and of hearing. For example, when Lyndi made bacon (his absolute favorite treat), he planted himself right by her feet at the stove, an immovable object that you could possibly trip over, except you just knew he was there. The boys used to convince him to come home to their house when it was time for dinner by saying, “Barney, bacon!” and he’d leave my place in the middle of a good nap for promise of bacon when it was time to go.

They also used that phrase to attract him home from my front yard, particularly if he was without a leash, when a big doggie was being walked down the street by other owners and had not seen them first. We avoided many potential disasters that way, as Barney was keen on keeping non-block-doggies on their own streets. Territorial, just like lhasas tended to be. He approved of certain other doggies and he had a hefty list of who was/wasn’t approved.

Also, he could be snoozing in a back room, and if I tore open a cellophane package of anything that was a treat, he was by my side instantly, and smiling upward at me, waiting for “his” portion. He could count. One cookie for me, one cookie for him. Not two cookies for me, one cookie for him. Fine. Did I mention he was good at math?

Barney went to school, virtually at least. In Lyndi’s first grade class she had told her students all about Barney and his two homes, and they were fascinated that he now had learned to come over on his own, as we both stood in our front yards to “watch him over” so he arrived safely every day. We’d wave at each other, and his arrival would begin our days.

Our days usually ended with Lyndi coming to pick him up, and to try and have a conversation about how his day went was regularly interrupted with his barking. We said he was chewing her out and giving her “what for” if he had to deviate from his usual dinner time by one minute, one little minute, but more often, he just wanted the last word. All of them, ha.

That little “ba-roo-roo, ba-roo-roo” of his found us shaking our heads laughing while trying to get him to stop. We both caught what-for…when I came home from fun/work Los Angeles travels, I’d get a good yelling at (“You left me, you left, you weren’t here, I’m mad”) following by little kissies showing he had forgiven me.. One didn’t immediately follow the other. He’d make his point first. He’d been inconvenienced. “I’m sorry honey, Mommy is back now.” That would be one or the other of us saying that.

I was a guest speaker in Lyndi’s class one day to talk about what a writer did, and they had so many questions about Barney, that I taught them how to tell a story using Barney as the main character. That was fun! I learned much from Barney the teacher in my lifetime, and he just learned to love me for my best qualities rather than see the worst in me.

Barney’s role in my life the last two years especially has been substantial. I tried so very hard to remain apolitical in my posts of my personal opinions of the world of politics, while I watched as people I considered dear friends were posting every thought on Facebook, some of which I agreed with, others I did not. But inside I was a total wreck. Daily, I watched as the leadership of our country, not just one at the top, reveal themselves to be who they truly were.

Daily, I discovered new fear, new despair, and it was real. I fought like mad to overcome depression as it was always lingering close by. Faith and dear friends remained constants and, I was forced to jettison some dear friends who insisted on cynicism and rebuked my optimism that things would get better, because “it never goes well for those who want positives to change, and most people in government service are bound to stay silent, and if I’d only experienced what they’d seen.” I had to concentrate and focus on optimism and listen for the still voices of faith to send me insight. It had been hard enough, outside of politics, already.

Over two years ago, but virtually overnight, I found my traditional business income upended when a major company outsourced all the work all of us had done for over 20 years. I had to build back a substantive portion of my income, while doing the rest of the work I was doing. Barney was a steadfast companion when I was essentially housebound, working all holidays, nights, and weekends to rebuild. I was never alone as long as Barney was here. He put in long, long hours as my companion and joy.

He seemed to feel a strong sense of duty here. When the question of whether or not the government would vote to remove affordable health care arrived… the only issue I’ll address…were it not for that affordable insurance, I likely would not be here today. It saved me. I had no Plan B, nor anyone in my world who had room to worry about me as they were all worried about themselves, rightfully so. That’s normal. That’s life.

But when you think you have insurance and one day you hear it could be gone, you take a deep breath and scream. Every single day. I faced the likelihood that any medical procedure, no matter how common, would have forced me to sell my house and move, and of course, that isn’t the end of the world.

But the reality of that meant without living here, that would end my proximity to Barney, my family. So, let’s just say my fears and worries were real and rational. The uncertainty of life and the insecurity of, national security, also kept me up nights and weekends.

Some people mocked me for worrying or caring so much, but they were the ones whose future security had not changed a bit, so I shrugged as they would never know how it felt to have worked all these years and have it all gone. I cared about people who weren’t as fortunate as me, as well.

Some friends stayed by my side as I studied the details and facts carefully to be on top of what was happening. Prepared is a good state to live in. Only my closest friends heard my true opinions and shared theirs. We didn’t always agree, but we respected discussion and dialogue, just as we’ve always done. It’s never about one person as the leader of the country that we should focus.

It’s the officials you elect at the local polling places who showed us, as recently as January 6th, just who they are and what they stand for, and what they advocate and tolerate. Our nation has survived all these years, but I wasn’t sure I was going to the next four, to be perfectly frank. Depression is real. Fatalistic thinking is a habit many people adopt and if you hang around that, well, it’s better to escape the throes of fear and cynicism. Never give up, and take action when you can. At the very least, vote, always. Barney had news and information from both parties in his daily/evening TV viewing. I have to say he was more fair and balanced in his journalism intake than most adults I know.

Now, as far as the uncertainty of COVID, that was so not-a-worry compared to everything else. Yes, all of us were thrown into economic insecurity and the isolation (even working at home had not been total isolation as much the knowledge that you were really isolated from COVID). Angels around me phoned regularly, things found their way to me, to my front porch, to calls of brilliant insight, and the forever wonderful SKYPE visits with best friends out of town brought calm, joy, and laughter. Inventive meet-ups at Sonic parking lots where we sat six feet apart in side-by-side cars, at Happy Hour (2-4pm ½ price soft drinks, folks) and laughed were helpful. Barn was always at my feet or in the seat next to me.

In the part of my world as a life celebrant, I could relate to the losses people were sharing, and I determined to bring the best of their loved ones to life in the stories we shared. Barney was just as faithful on nights and weekends to his families. Thank the Lord, COVID wasn’t transmissible via puppies, or you’d have had two families in adjoining wards…only thing transmissible via Barney were little kissies and hand licks and lots of laughter at what he’d done lately to show his pleasure or lack thereof.

Over the past few months, Barney has been less a presence here, as Colton was working and studying from home quite a bit. When there was a choice between being “with his brothers,” or me, Barney preferred that over my company, and I thought it was adorable. At Christmas, we had the joy of having oldest brother, Cade, and Brittany here from out-of-state, and next brother, Caleb, got leave from the Navy, and Barney was in heaven with all his boys here. His paws never hit the ground as he was having fun being held, or chasing after the ball, or whatever.

Granddaughter Lauren had turned glorious 14, and Lyndi and I never could remember how old Barney was except by how old Lauren was when Cayla got Barney for her. When Cayla and Lauren moved to a home of their own, Barney remained with Lyndi because that bond had already been formed too strongly to part company. Over the years, Cayla found her soulmate and son Bodi was born, the youngest of the family to fall in love with Barney. Barney was just nuts over Bodi; he loved his youngest “boy.”

As to Barney’s heritage and doggie lineage…he was considered mostly lhasa apso, with a little bit poodle and maybe some Bichon Frise, too. Even the separation anxiety when Bichon Frises are left alone sounded familiar. He was too big for a Havanese, but their faces are similar to the Bichon Frises also. On the vet records, he was primarily a lhasa mix. And on some of the vet forms his full name would be listed as Barney Campbell-Wakefield. That was what I had engraved on his little collar tag where his shots/rabies info tags hung for inspection. Lyndi would laugh when I’d call him to return back from his little unauthorized jaunt down the street, while using his full name.

I had an interesting dream a few weeks ago, and it was one that signaled a major change coming in life. It also happened that blindness and a little hearing loss had popped up out of nowhere for Barney. We didn’t understand the blindness, especially as he had never even had a cataract that we ever saw. The occasional deafness was causing a little confusion, too. He wasn’t the same, but the holidays brought him joy. Most recently, he had the chance to don one of his sweaters to play in the snow.

As Lyndi and Lauren built a snowman, he supervised. Then when Lauren made snow angels Barney came over to my door, barked, and I let him in to dry off and snooze warmly for a nap from frisky playing in the snow. The past three weeks I have been moved to say to him out loud, “Thank you so much for being here with me.” “You have been such a blessing in my life, and I hope you’ve been happy here.” “I love you so much.” I sensed he was pulling away from this world, as much as he had been here long enough to see all of his boys one more time as the aging process had accelerated.

Neither of us had discussed it before, but lately Lyndi and I had to realize that he was showing fast signs of decline, confusion, and we learned that neither of us could leave the room for more than 30 seconds before he’d jump out of his chair and run to find us. Separation anxiety had returned. We hadn’t figured out why at that point.

Easter two years ago, Barney had changed my Easter morning plans when he had an episode of something that (for only $$$) the Vet school pronounced as pancreatitis. His bad episode of discomfort was enough to scare me. Had not seen a repeat of that since that time and their advice and counsel was worthless. But this past week, late Tuesday overnight, Barney experienced three seizures within four hours at Lyndi’s, and at 8 am he was resting as comfortably as he could on his couch, until his 9am vet appointment time that Lyndi made at the wonderful Kurten Animal Clinic, following their morning surgeries. What a blessing they are in this community. On our drive out there, a beautiful red cardinal crossed our path, and I knew immediately that all would be well; that was my usual sign.

After the examination, Lyndi and I spoke with the vet, who was wonderful, helpful, caring, kind, and she gave us time to consider what we thought was in his best interest. Imagine that I had come so far down the road from “neighbor lady during summer camp” to “Mommy #2,” who was sitting with Mommy #1 as we discussed what was in his best interest.

Faced with similar decisions that we all experience with an aging beloved pet or fur baby as we like to call them, we’ve all gone through this step. What is best, when is best, how is best? Heavy decisions, weighed with love, faith, and care. It’s the time when you’d like to retreat from adult decision making and yet, we can’t. By mutual agreement, we allowed Barney to transition to Heaven that morning. Never again would he fear being alone or having a seizure alone without one of us there to comfort him. That’s not the end of the story. When we arrived home, our neighbor Philip was waiting for moral support and to prepare the gravesite. Lyndi knew who would make the cross for his grave. That evening, Jocelyn had delivered beautiful condolence arrangements to both Lyndi and me.

I have been slow to tell people about this, needing to wait until I could write without tears. I made two phone calls that afternoon, and when I saved the news for a dear friend and former neighbor the next day, she broke into tears when she learned, as she'd watched Barney grow up for years, and he was welcome to come into her house, as sometimes he'd be at her door too; and she opened it and he came in, presumably looking for me, and he left after he saw I wasn't there. So, I apologize to those just now learning of this, but I was finding my way back to center. Much prayer, some amazing confirmations of his love, and the peace that passes all understanding have come over me, and I could write without tears, as he'd seen me through enough of those.

For on that day, Barney and I were both emancipated, from fear, as our nation turned a corner signaling a change. Those who agree see it that way, those who do not see it another. I just know that Barney stayed faithfully in my life until the moment it changed, knowing I’d be just fine from now on. He knew, or God knew, that I “had the watch” from here on out. Yet, my years in the vast wasteland of fear, uncertainty, depression, and negative projections of those who favored that path never found me alone or without a loving companion on the road filled with desolation and isolation when I needed him most.

That afternoon, after making two calls to those who’d been my second family every day in recent years, and receiving true condolences, I felt consoled and at peace. Later on, I experienced another sign that Barney had made it to the part of Heaven where he’d been welcomed by those in my world who were waiting for him. Without doubt, without fear, and without reservation, it’s been very quiet in my home and in our neighborhood these past several days.

I’ve hesitated to write this until I could type every word with a smile on my face rather than tears welling up. I’m out of tears, but I’m not out of love. I’ll never run out of love, for all my babies that have been part of my world throughout my life. I don’t anticipate being lucky enough to have another shared doggie situation as I think that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime situation. I’m just honored to have been one in a very large family of love who were made his earthly guardians for the 12 or so years that he was here among us, running our days and nights with precision, love, and lots of laughter.

My friend Betsy says, “There are no coincidences in God’s world,” and I believe that to be true. For those who have followed the adventures of Barney all these years, I thank you for your affirmations of delight and including his name on Christmas cards and in conversation, asking how he is and what he’s up to lately. Heavenly gifts and messages arrive in our lives as we need them. I believe that with all my heart. And, I bless the day that Barney Campbell-Wakefield came barreling into my world, staying long, loving strong, and showing me that he will always be watching over me, as long as I am alive, until I can once again scoop him up into my arms and thank him.

Everything is going to be all right. Time has shown that to be true. Paraphrasing the words of my favorite professor, Dr. Leo Buscaglia:
“I know for certain that we never lose the people (or the pets) we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint (or paw print) in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.”
Amen, and amen.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I am so sorry to learn of Barney's passing. I have followed your posts and pictures for many years, and feel like I knew him. Hugs and prayers. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal story.

    Winona

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  3. What a magical and wonderful relationship you both have. He is with you always and shall be waiting with anticipation at the rainbow bridge for Mommy #2 and a handful of milk bones!xoxo

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  4. I read it all out loud as we held our little dogs close. We love you.... Big hugs from St.
    Louis

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  5. So many happy memories to displace the grief .....

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