Barney, the dog that changed everything

It’s 1:58am and it’s time. It’s time to talk about Barney. Barney passed away on 7th November last year, so it’s taken some time to decide to do this. Despite the crazy hour, I need to do this now. I’ve spent the last hour thinking about Barney, through tears, missing him terribly. But it’s in a way I can cope with now, so yes it’s time.

My partner (Phil) and I decided to buy a house. After years of living in rentals or travelling, I could finally have a dog! I was so excited. We were still six weeks away from moving in, and I’d already found what I was looking for! Phil grew up with a beagle and was fairly adamant that’s what he wanted. I was kind of reluctant, knowing nothing about them….but I came across an interesting critter on Petrescue named Barney. An 8month old Beagle x Labrador located just 45mins from home at LabraDog Rescue. He looked special. That’s him I decided! I read an attached warning about being difficult and what not…but I’m always up for a challenge aren’t I? Haha

Afew days later I got an email from my Dad, he was searching for a dog too. Dad had sent me Barney’s profile from Pet Rescue as a suggestion….

An agonising number of weeks passed. There was no point in meeting Barney so long before we were able to adopt him……it drove me crazy! I viewed his profile often to make sure he was still available.

Eventually after moving into our new home, I rang and arranged our meet and greet. It went really well. Amanda, who runs LabraDog Rescue had been unable to find a suitable home for Barney and he had been living there for quite some time. He had been entertaining Amanda, Tim and all who follow LabraDog blogs for months with his antics. I remember Amanda saying, as Barney was jumping around like a lunatic and pulling at my clothes, “You know that other dog there will be much easier to deal with than Barney.” Phil and I had our minds made up already. What surprises me is how Amanda had the guts to think we were the ones to take him on….

The first night we had Barney at home was very difficult. He was very stressed out. He cried, barked and whined, he would not sleep. Phil ended up curling up with him on the floor. At this stage, my behavioural knowledge being so limited, I didn’t know what to do and thought Phil sleeping on the bathroom floor with him was somehow more favourable than the bed. Phil and I both noticed an improvement in Barney’s anxiety once we started letting him sleep on the bed afew months later.

Barney was literally out of control from the get go. He was impossible on the lead. Taking him to the vet early on was a nightmare, and continued to be throughout his life. Actually you know what, I’m not going to go over his behavioural problems too much, because it’s not what defined Barn and they certainly weren’t his fault. I will just say they were extreme, I cried a lot, I tried, I failed, I paid someone, I cried some more, Phil and I, we both cried. It was hard, it was always hard.

I have more than one injury sustained from Barney. He never bit anyone though…. My favourite story is when he broke my finger at his 2nd obedience club being reactive. We didn’t go back again, lol. Although I now know what was up with Barney, I had no clue back then and his antics confused me to no end. I never got an explanation from anyone, I had to figure it out myself…

Barney had so much love to give. One of his favourite things to do was to crawl under the covers for a big hug. If I could do one more thing with him, it would be that. His favourite thing was food, Barney loved food. He would learn a difficult trick in minutes for a morsel. His next favourite thing was Betty. Betty our beautiful Lab x. We adopted Betty from the same rescue, well failed foster actually. At first Barney was fairly narky towards Betty, but as it turns out he was trying to teach her to stop being such a pest. They eventually became the best of friends. If I could choose something to watch Barney do again, it would be playing with Betty. They played very hard and rough, just the way they both like it. I miss it so much. Betty does too.

Before Betty came along I had quite afew months off work due to depression. Barney and I spent most of our time together on the couch, taking walks and at the off leash park. He was always there when I needed him. He never left me, I was never alone. We’d go to the off leash park and I’d sit there for hours watching him play. It was Barney who kept me motivated, he was the reason I left the house during recovery. Barney knew all my secrets and was there throughout all my tears. He would be there to hug whilst Phil was at work. Barney IS the reason why I got through that period in my life, and a person who has suffered depression can probably read between the lines and know what I mean by that.

Once I had recovered, I needed a new job. I decided to buy a grooming franchise, because I thought “If I can handle Barney I can handle ANY dog.” I was right too, I still to this day have not come across a dog with such an astronomically difficult threshold of reactivity….

So I was on the “Dogs are my whole life” journey well and truly now. Thank you Barney. It is because of you….but your job was not yet done was it?!

Throughout my days with Barney I was always trying to help him, figure him out. I was determined. I spent a lot of time reading and sighing….I was stuck. I decided to manage Barney’s behaviour as best I could. Eventually my grooming took me on a journey of pure joy and enlightenment when I discovered positive reinforcement discussions online. For the first time ever dog behaviour was making sense and so was Barney. He was with me on that journey too, dutifully sleeping under my desk whilst I spent evening after evening reading and reading. What a relief to finally understand him. What a relief to know that pack theory is bullshit. What a relief to know that I can fix this without a prong collar!

But with this learning also came the realisation of what I’d done wrong….all of a sudden things made too much sense. I could piece together my actions, training and misunderstanding of Barney’s behaviour and what it had done to him. I realised how wrong I had been and how forgiving he was. To err is human, to forgive canine.

Barney was then diagnosed with lymphoma. We said goodbye to him 7 weeks after diagnosis and 1 week after his 4th birthday. I miss him so terribly. During Barn’s euthanisia I promised him “Im going to do everything in my power to help dogs like you, I promise and I love you.”

And he is gone now. And I do everything I can to help. I can’t work due to illness (CFS) anymore, but I can learn, I can help and I can advocate. One day I will be a qualified trainer and be well enough to work, until then I’ll do what I do.

As someone once said “Sometime a dog comes along in your life that changes everything”

Thank you Barney. We miss you. Thanks for sticking around until you knew I’d be ok x

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7 thoughts on “Barney, the dog that changed everything

  1. What a gorgeous dog and equally gorgeous blog. I too had a ‘Barney’ in my life. But her name was Brandy. She was an easy to train dog, bought home as a pup by my daughter, then she moved overseas and Brandy became ours. She ‘saved’ me many times during my ongoing depression. She licked my tears away and on my worst days was always leaning on me or touching me somehow, never leaving my side for a minute. She is the reason I’m still here. Through old age she was euthanised Feb 2013. I still miss her terribly even though we still have our Cocker Spaniel that was also around at the time. Brandy had a special knack of knowing. Love to you both. Sue

  2. Leah, I am so sorry for your loss. But I am glad that you can reflect on the gifts that Barney gave you to bring you comfort. I have had a very similar journey to you and can relate so well to many of your struggles and epiphanies. I wish you a speedy recovery of body, mind and heart and best of luck in your future pursuits.

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