At 14 plus (we think), our beautiful old boy Barney is visibly slowing down. Today for the first time we decided to walk him separately from the other two, who rather test his patience and his fitness as he tries to keep up, especially with the taunts of dancing queen Stella (right) who baits him mercilessly..
In 2010 we booked a dog-friendly house on the Tweed Coast where we'd stayed before. Stella and Archie came with us, happily travelling in the car for all 1,800 kilometres. At the side of the house there was a separate unit, permanently let. Behind the large gate across the driveway there was big black dog—of unknown temperament—and it soon became clear that he was there on his own. No-one came near. He became the focus of my every waking thought. I gave him biscuits through the wire, pushed bowls of water under the fence and stuck a note in the gate so that if anyone came it would fall out and, hopefully, they would respond. The note stayed put for 4 days.
Then a vehicle started to come late at night. I became the best spy in the district and unashamedly monitored its every move. Each time the driver would spend half an hour or so at the unit then drive off. This time they'll have taken him, I thought every time it happened. I'd run down the stairs in my nightie, out into the front yard and shine a light up the driveway. There, inevitably, I'd see two sad eyes reflected in the torchlight, saying 'He's left me again.' It became unbearable.
Through the agent and then the owner of the house, I finally tracked down the dog's owner. Nice bloke, a tradie who'd got work in Brisbane and couldn't take the dog with him. No Plan B.
So it became my mission, with the owner's awkward support, to try and find the dog—then named Zahn—a home. Several times I came close but each time the potential owner pulled the plug.
The best was a retired eye surgeon whose own old dog had recently died. I met him on the beach several times as I was now walking Zahn with the others every day.
|First run together on Pottsville dog-friendly beach|
So far, worst holiday ever.
Meanwhile my husband had to fly back south for a funeral so I was there alone, weak with angst, grief and rage - all manner of things that don't enrich the soul.
But - praise be - (and here I remembered why I married him) in the course of yet another close-to-tearful phone conversation about the fate of Zahn—which was looking like the local pound—my treasured spouse said 'Oh for God's sake, just bring him home with us!" Really?? REALLY?
A Border Collie/Kelpie cross he's as smart as a whip, obsessed with sticks and tennis balls (which we discourage because of damage to his teeth) and insists on playing with whatever toy he can find, every night just when we settle down to relax after dinner. We figure this must have been when his owner came home after work and finally gave him some attention.
|'You'll play with me now, won't you.'|
And so we have had our Barney Rubble for 6 years. He's only now showing his age, 'going in the back legs' and losing his appetite. He's on the best geriatric dog care our lovely vets can provide and he will be denied nothing that will make his latter days easier.
This (left) is Barney today. The beard is greying, the energy is diminishing, though he still musters all he has to chase Stella at every opportunity. There's a bit of rivalry between them still, especially for important things like proximity to the fire...
All our friends love Barney. They fondle his ears and say 'Well, you landed on your feet, didn't you!' But in fact we are the winners. We'll be telling Barney stories long after he's carried his last big stick over the rainbow.
Meanwhile, if anyone should ask you for a definition of serendipity, I think Barney's story would be a good illustration.
Note: Barney died peacefully in his sleep, inside, on his own bed, in November 2016. He was hugely loved.