Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In Sickness and In Health - A Barkley Memory

The quiet, serene, pre-Barkley office.

We all come home to different environments.  For some, it's the sound of little kids squealing with delight that Mommy or Daddy are home.  It's the the clatter of footsteps like the thunder of small ponies down a trail, that is no trail, but is simply a hallway rug, worn by that repeated motion of sheer joy.

For some it's a simple "Hello Sweetie" a hug and a kiss.

And sometimes it's the blissful sound of silence after a really long day, when all you want to do is eat a hot meal and have a mug of hot tea while you lay out the thoughts of the day in your favorite spot to write or perhaps watch one of your favorite old adventure movies.

The night in question was the later kind but it was going to be one of those very nights where the tea was a glass of Malbec.
Mom, come quick!  Someone pooped on the rug!

Barkley usually greeted me at the back door to the garage, alerted by the door going up, with that terrifying bark that to outsiders sounds ferocious. He sounded scary, but he would let me take a bone right out of his mouth with my bare fingers.  I was his protector and his protected and if I wanted it, it's mine.  But he would defend to the death, that bone, from any creature of a lower, parallel plane, those that were neither protected or protector that would take what he loves.  So even with that quiet temperament that was his nature, I know he'd defend to the death, as well, my safety.

But he knew the sound of my truck and the bark would take on a different tone. I normally heard him before the door was even up, the sound, wild and faint, and incomprehensible but for it's meaning. Bark!  Bark!  "Mom's Home!"

It was later than normal and  that night long agowhen I came in - silence.  He was comfy on the couch, Brinks Barkley, sleeping on the job.
I patted him, fed him, let him out to go potty, which he always does after he eats. I was glad his tummy was feeling OK, as the previous evening he had snarfed up a bit of greasy food wrapper that had hit the floor when emptying the trash, and I figured that might upset his tummy. But he seemed fine, just not as lively as usual.

So I poured the wine, put on some barley soup on to heat for supper, and sat down to call my boyfriend (now my husband) from the couch.

We  had just said hello when:

 "Oh, Crap! Barkley threw up in the corner earlier!  I have to go".
Barkley had an ultra sensitive stomach as far as rawhides and some people foods, even when he was youngster, unlike my last black lab who could eat an entire tank and then just gently burp.  So several times a year, Barkley would snag some fatty food that's dropped (bacon!)  or a piece of sandwich left unattended or a paper napkin or such that was soaked with meat juice.  He then usually threw it up. He always upchucked in the same spot, if he couldn't alert me in time that he needed to go out, a corner of the front room between a sofa and chair. Since there's a nice rug there, I laid out a large clean towel in the spot, just in case.

Unfortunately, it wasn't barf. Other end. Poor thing,

I'm sure he tried to hold it, but couldn't.  He'd never done that in the house since his first couple of weeks home as a puppy. Of course, this time, he carefully MOVED THE TOWEL OUT OF THE WAY FIRST before he tagged my floor with the latest of black lab gang signs (in poop!) But I could see the doggy thought process - "Mom gets upset if I grab her clean towels off the counter so I will protect her clean towel even in my indisposition - I'm a good dog!"
Mom, I was just FOLDING these clean towels I found on the counter.

He just looked at me from a distance, as if he expected a scolding, as I cleaned it up (pointing out the large area of tile in the entraceway  he could have selected instead of the carpeting, though he didn't appear to be taking notes). There is nothing quite like the look of a dog that's expecting harsh words, no different than a human that somehow knows you are angry, even if they aren't quite sure what exactly they did wrong; a sort of shocked and unbelieving sorrow.

You look at them, your heart beating strongly with the heat of the moment.  They look at you, their heart beating a hollow echo as though already retreating, as they wait for your reaction. You look at them again, weighing a hundred expedients, knowing what you need to do, and not necessarily what fatigue and emotion might prod you to do.
I went over and gently scratched his ear saying  "It's OK, you couldn't help it, you're a good dog", patted him one last time, and gave EJ a call back.

"(sigh) It wasn't barf".

"Oh, so the "Oh Crap" was literal then?"  We laughed and proceeded to chat while Barkley laid down next to me for an ear scratch, feeling fine physically, but needing the reassurance that all was well.

When people get married they take a vow of "in sickness and in health". In a way, we also do that with our pets.  Owning a pet is not cheap, even for youthful preventive care.  Then, there are always the things you don't expect, especially as they age, things that result in someone wearing the cone of shame or the expenditure of hundreds of dollars.
But you help them get better, you adjust your schedule, make doctor appointments and you offer only warmth and support.  You don't  lay your hand upon them with forceful curse and belittlement. They look at you to be the strong one, the tender one. They trust you to act from your heart and not from the infinite, internal voices of human fear and angst.

Then, on those nights when you come home really, really late from work, your soul weary, the house dark, they will quietly come up to you, leaning into you, drawn from their slumber to your side like steel and magnet. At that moment, there as both your hearts beat in the silence, you realize that every measure of sickness and health was worth it.

8 comments:

  1. You put that very well. We do enter into an agreement with our dogs to take care of each other in sickness and in health. And they take good are of us too

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    1. My husband is on the road and even though we had strong thunder (little to no rain though it was north of us) which Abby hates she laid next to me while I worked, to protect me from the UPS truck.

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  2. I remember when Joey dog was getting very old. (It was just about a year ago now.) He would never make a mess in the house. But he couldn't help it as his back legs were giving way and his heart was failing. Same thing with Miss Ginger and Old Charisma too. I'm absolutely sure my humans will give me the same understanding when I get to be that age. This is the unwritten contract between the humans and the doggies who share their lives.

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    1. We miss Joey - he was a very special friend to Miss Abby.

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  3. Mom says she knows that look too well. Poor Ciara would lose total control of her bladder every time she had a seizure. The thick double coated girl would be saturated with urine every time. After the seizure she would realize what had happened and look at Mom with that "I'm sorry" look that would break your heart. Mom says she would clean her up over and over if only she could have stayed with us longer.

    We loved your tale, great message.

    Woos - Lightning and Misty

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    1. I feel the same way about my dogs - if Abby needed that, I'd do it gladly.

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  4. I agree in good and in bad days - we are one. Phenny has the same eating-habits, no tissue or sock has a long life here. and he also has always the same puke place... our bed ...sigh...

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  5. Last winter Heather jumped up off my lap, bounded onto the stack of papers I was working on, began coughing and, yes, released the Other End. I thought "Why did she do *that* on a *manuscript*?"

    Then I realized...if she'd gone to the door, she would have fouled the floor. By going to the manuscript, she was carefully fouling the one thing in the office room that she had seen would soon go into a garbage bag. She'd seen me burn garbage bags.

    Sometimes pets may be more thoughtful than we give them credit for...

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Welcome to The Book of Barkley. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on Abby the Senior rescue Lab,who we adopted in 2014.

Stop in and say hello. 100% of book sales are donated to animal rescue organizations across the U.S. and Canada and Search Dog Foundation. If you have a non-profit animal organization and would like autographed copies of any of my three books for auction fundraisers or a blog post featuring your organization please contact me at cliodna58@gmail.com