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Barney’s Best Life by Alison Baker

I recently lost my “old man dog,” Barney. I knew his time would be short. He was 13 years old with a distinguished gray muzzle and a couple of tumors when we brought him home from the shelter. I’m heartbroken now that he’s gone, but this is not a story about death – it’s about a life well lived.

Like many animal lovers, I routinely check the BCSPCA’s website for hard luck cases.  We call our two acres the “Island of the Misfit Toys.” All are welcome here, regardless of their special needs. I saw Barney’s picture a few times online, but I wasn’t sure we could handle a fourth dog.

Barney had been waiting at the shelter for about three months when July rolled around. That’s my birthday and our anniversary month, and we agreed that it seemed better to spend the money taking care of Barney, for whatever time he had left, than buying gifts or taking a vacation.  So off we went to meet the old man!

He was sleeping when we first saw him, amidst the ruckus of the dog room. He seemed friendly but guarded. When we took Barney out for a walk, he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave the building. He tried his hardest to ignore us: standing at the end of the leash, facing away from us, pretending we weren’t there. But we saw something in him and decided to bring him home.

A staff member at the shelter asked to take a photo of Barney’s long-awaited adoption.  Just as the picture was being snapped, he turned his head and gave me a lick on the face – like he knew he had finally been chosen and was going home.

Barney met the rest of the dog crew at our house and immediately found a bed to lounge on. You could see the relief in his face—here was a quiet place to finally get some rest.

Early on we learned that Barney was his own man, with his own habits. In the mornings, before work, I put my shoes on while hiding in the closet, because for Barney, shoes meant walks. My family soon started calling Barney my personal trainer, insisting on his daily walks and goading me into it until I relented. He hung his head out the car window on the ride to the park, an expression of pure joy on his face.

With Barney’s exercise program, we were soon walking 10 to 12 miles per week. He often went for a swim in the creek.  Other dogs would run, leap, and chase sticks in the water, but Barney wanted none of that.  He was content to stand in the water and just look around.  With enough water in the creek, he was happy to demonstrate what a powerful, confident swimmer he was. People often stopped to watch him, and they’d smile at his happy face. He turned strangers into friends everywhere he went.

That was the thing about Barney and why he is so missed. He was a character with a huge heart to match. He lived each day to the fullest, with no regard for what his old life had been like. He was living #barneysbestlife, the tag I used to document our adventures on social media.

His time with us was short, only a few precious months. The loss hit me hard. Who knew an old dog, lost and overlooked by others, could become so precious to us! He spent the last months of his life surrounded by people who loved him and living his best life. Love isn’t marked by years. I know we’ll find another old dog to welcome home one day.

[Written by BCSPCA staff] Alison’s wait to find another old dog was not a long one. JoJo is a 12-year-old chihuahua that had been returned to our shelter and had a lengthy medical history. This small senior is full of spunk and pep, he brought a lot of joy to our staff and we would take him out to play whenever we could. Alison happened to see a video of our play sessions on social media and knew he was the one. On November 24, 2019, he was adopted. We are so happy it could be her. He is currently playing with every single dog toy he can on the “Island of Misfit Toys” and we are all extremely grateful he can bring a smile to Alison’s face once more.