Recently, I lost my beloved dog, Barnie. He was nearly 15 years old. I can barely talk about it – much less write about it. I know that Barnie won the doggie lottery. He was spoiled. I only wish that every dog on this planet could have the life that Barnie had. He deserved it. Every dog does.
However, knowing this doesn’t make the grief any easier.
Barnie was my constant companion. So much so that I nicknamed him The Red Shadow.
When my dad suddenly passed last year around the same time, I looked into Barnie’s cataract covered eyes and begged him to give me an extra year. It’s as if he knew his mission and he heroically fulfilled it – and then some. To be clear, Barnie never suffered. Thanks to Dr Marcus and the wonderful staff at Greenwood Animal Hospital, he was given amazing treatment right until the very end when the difficult decision to let him go was made.
When a person passes, there is so much to do besides grieve. There is a funeral to plan, friends and family to contact, financial and legal matters to settle, a eulogy to write, flowers and catering to order, etc. You almost go through each task robotically but in a weird way, it slowly helps you get used to the idea that your loved one is gone.
However, when a pet passes, there is almost nothing to do. Fifteen years of pure joy and happiness and then poof– it’s over. There is nothing to do but sit in the grief. My good friend, comedian Martha Chaves said a profound thing to me a long time ago, “Judy, pets are pain on layaway.” Isn’t that the truth?
It is so painful BUT I will gladly sign up for it all over again. Not now but one day.
I said to another comedic friend, Denis Grignon, that it was like losing a family member. To which he sarcastically responded, “Jude, it’s worse. I’ve got members of my family that I don’t even like.” Another friend said that she felt bad when her father passed because occasionally, she was mean to him. But then she quickly added, “But wait a second, he was mean to me.”
That’s the thing about dogs. They’re not mean (unless a human has let them down and betrayed their trust). There is no hidden agenda. They love unconditionally. They are four-legged angels.
Barnie was my angel.
For a three-month period in 2019 before my mom passed, Barnie came with me every time I visited her in palliative care. On countless occasions, I was told that he was a sight for sore eyes- not only for other patients and visitors but also for the staff. On the rare occasion that he wasn’t with me, no one tried to hide their disappointment. Clearly, I was second fiddle and that was okay.
When my mom passed, for the next three years, Barnie came with me when I visited my dad for lunch every week. I always pretended I didn’t see the pipeline of french fries that my dad was feeding Barnie underneath the kitchen table. I knew it gave them both so much joy to think that they were getting away with something.
Barnie was always with me. Whenever, I did pick-ups and deliveries for a local outreach program called City Street Outreach, Barnie rode in the back seat. He enthusiastically licked every kid and adult who stuck their hand in the back window wanting to greet him.
As I said, Barnie was an angel but that didn’t mean that he was perfect. He never learned to walk without pulling, he once ate a friend’s home-made chip dip thus earning him the nickname Barnie Dip, he begged for food, he had bad breath and perhaps his worse crime of all, he loved to lick people whenever he met them. Some people were indifferent to this odd habit, some people hated it but some people thought it was a lucky sign. Whoever he licked usually won at a friendly game of poker that night.
Barnie was smart in his own way but he didn’t really do tricks. In fact, he only had one party trick-ringing a bell tied to the back door when he wanted to be let out into the yard. I read about the trick in Puppies for Dummies and thought it would never work. Barnie learned it in one day!
From that day on, he rang the bell whenever he needed to be let out. Ding ding ding. I could hear it from anywhere in the house. Ding, ding,ding. One particular night, from upstairs, I could hear the bell frantically ringing. Ding ding ding. Ding ding ding. “Okay, okay, I’m coming.”, I said as I ran downstairs. There was Barnie standing on the back mat frantically ringing the bell. Beside him was Murphy – my sister’s dog who I was babysitting. Murphy was trying to throw up on the back mat. Barnie was ringing the bell to let me know that we had to let Murphy out!
Barnie was my best friend (no offense to any humans) but he was also my political ally. Even as a young pup, he had democratic leanings. In 2008, when CNN forecasted that Barrack Obama was going to be the next president of the US, we both jumped up and down in the living room.
Barnie taught me so many lessons in life, including patience. Throughout the years, he wore sunglasses, raincoats, Halloween costumes and Santa hats without a single complaint.
He was such a good boy.
I will miss him dearly.
I still don’t have the heart to put his raincoats, bowls or bed or toys away yet. It seems too final. It’s like I can’t get used to the idea of him not being in the house. In fact, just the other night, I thought I heard Ding, ding, ding coming from downstairs. Maybe, just maybe The Red Shadow is still with me somehow.
RIP my four-legged angel. Until we meet again.
(PS Thank you Reggie Robb for this beautiful painting of Barnie)
Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!
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