85: Barney

85: Barney

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!


Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, Filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.

~Thom Jones

Twelve years ago, Muffin arrived in our yard, and six months later, Barney joined him. Both dogs had roamed the area for months before adopting us. The vet guessed that each was approximately two years old and that they were part Chow. Muffin, however, had short legs, long golden hair and the face of a lion cub, while Barney appeared to have some Setter genes too, with his long legs and reddish-brown coat. Perhaps it was their shared Chow heritage that bonded them immediately.

Muffin was relatively healthy, just leery of strangers, but Barney was in terrible shape. He had obviously been mistreated, and he ran with his left back leg held up. It took weeks to gain his trust. He was clearly afraid of being hurt again. Our entire neighborhood was relieved when they saw him settle in at our place. No one had been able to get close enough to help him.

Flash forward eight years. As we did several times a year, we took Muffin and Barney to be washed and trimmed in a town five miles away. My husband dropped me off at my hairdresser for the same purpose. One hour later he walked into the beauty shop, his face ashen, and told me that Barney had escaped from the dog-grooming place. As usual, both dogs had been placed in the same large cage, waiting their turn to be washed. Apparently, after Muffin was taken out, the latch hadn’t closed, and Barney realized he could get out. He bounded through the shop and hit the front door so hard that it opened. They had chased him, first on foot and then by car, until they lost sight of him.

Everyone began searching and praying for him. After a few days, our hope began to wane. It was the not knowing that was so hard. I couldn’t bear to think of him wandering around, lost again, as he had been years ago. I prayed that if we couldn’t find him, someone would take him in and love him as we had done. We placed ads in two papers and on the Internet. We posted flyers in the area and talked to everyone we met on the street and in the stores throughout the town. Each day we woke with heavy hearts and renewed our search. We took Muffin with us, hoping Barney would sense his best friend. Muffin began to eat less and less, and we worried about him. Was he confused? Was he lonely? We tried to give him extra loving attention.

One positive aspect of this stressful time was the people we met. The camaraderie of animal lovers is wonderful. Strangers become instant, concerned friends. One woman made copies of our flyers and distributed them herself. (We received a Christmas card from her ten months later.) We visited the Humane Society every day, where again we met kind, compassionate people who understood our feelings about our lost dog.

As we talked to people, we heard encouraging stories of animals that had found their way home after long periods of time. One woman knew of a family that had lost their dog while camping more than fifty miles away from their home. To reach the campsite, you have to drive through a mountain pass and up 5,000 feet to the high desert of California and then out into the wilderness. They were very upset when they had to go home without their beloved pet. Three months later, he showed up on their doorstep. We appreciated hearing the stories, but they sounded more like miracles than reality, and as each day passed we became more resigned to never seeing Barney again.

Nine days later, a dog matching Barney’s description appeared on the “dead on arrival” list at the Humane Society. The driver who had picked up the dog was not available and the bodies had already been taken away, so we went to the area and talked to several children. They studied Barney’s picture and decided that it matched the dog they had seen hit by a car. The Humane Society promised to show Barney’s picture to the driver the following morning and call us to confirm. Our hearts were broken.

That evening, we took Muffin for his walk, feeling sad and a bit disoriented because neither of us could believe that our sweet dog was dead. I kept thinking about all the times I had hugged him and promised that no one would ever hurt him again, that he was safe with us. We went to bed emotionally exhausted.

The next morning at around 6:30 a.m. my husband opened the back door to let Muffin out — and there sat Barney on the back stoop, his tail wagging. Sometime during the night he had arrived and patiently waited for us to open the door. He had walked five miles through a metropolitan area of houses, businesses and heavy traffic to find his way back to us. He didn’t appear to be particularly hungry or thirsty and looked none the worse for wear, just very happy to see us. After enduring much hugging and tears, he went to his favorite spot in the living room and lay down. Muffin followed and licked him all over. His friend was back.

I spent the next few hours calling everyone. The people at the grooming shop clapped and cheered when they heard the words “Barney’s home.” The manager quietly said, “Our whole church was praying for him.”

It has been twelve years since Barney entered our life, making him around fourteen years old today. Sadly, Muffin died of natural causes two years ago. Barney is still doing well. He never ran away again.

For the rest of our lives, when difficulties arise, we will remind one another that miracles do happen, that God does move in mysterious ways — that Barney found his way home.

~Libby Grandy

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