The Marks Left by Barks by Kelly Anderson

Note: This is my fourth installment ever featuring a guest blogger – a dear, longtime friend of mine! Many thanks for her willingness to share a story here on my site, especially one that features such a down-to-earth and heart-wrenching topic: the passing of a family pet. I’m grateful she wrote this piece for us as part of her healing process. Hope you’re as touched by it as I was…

We lost our dog a few weeks ago. It felt pretty sudden….about 72 hours of Pure Hell. Looking back now on pictures and videos, we can see a decline that we just didn’t see in front of our faces. My husband and I have been lucky to love and lose pets before. I say “lucky” because, gosh, it hurts SO bad to lose something so valuable, but how lucky we are to have loved at all. However, this one was different. Unlike the pups of our youth, this time we were catapulted into the driver’s seat in making decisions for our special Golden, Barkley. Never before have we had to make a decision with our mind that would completely break our hearts in two. It was the hardest and kindest decision either of us has ever made.

It came with so much uncertainty. Silent glances over his labored breathing….will he get better? Are we jumping the gun? But he’s still drinking water? Do you think he’s in pain?

We nearly lost our first Golden, Bo, in November – literally 3 paws in the grave and he’s come back to us with a vengeance and literal hunger and is eating for lost time….so we were holding on to hope for Barkley’s comeback.

COVID added another layer of complexity because our vet wasn’t allowing anyone inside their building, so they would take him inside from the parking lot and that would be it and THAT was a NO DEAL for us. As hard as it was to watch him take his last breath, and trust me – it was gutting – the thought of him being scared and sick AND with a stranger, that was a hard pass.

So on a snowy evening in February, we loaded up, masked up, and our emergency vet clinic graciously allowed us to say goodbye to our beautiful Barks in person. And we came back home to an empty food bowl and empty bed and a seemingly quiet house – even though we still have Bo. It was heartbreaking. If you know, you know; and we didn’t know.

We didn’t know that walking up to bed empty-handed would bring us to our knees, when normally my husband would carry Barkley up with him. (I joked he was carrying his bride to bed at night!) We didn’t know that seeing his stay hairs on our car seats would take our breath away. And we didn’t know that this pain would last and that simple tasks would hurt. To our friends and family who have had to say goodbye to a family pet – I am so sorry…..we just didn’t know.

Barkley was never my dog. He wasn’t even a family dog. He was solely my husband Brent’s dog. I found Barkley at a local shelter and bolted out to meet him that day – finding a Golden Retriever at a shelter is a bit like finding a unicorn. The shelter asked that I bring my whole family the next day, kid and current dog included. We did. And Barkley jumped crazily on all of us, and our older Golden wasn’t the first member of his fan club, so I wanted to pass on him. My husband said absolutely not, and Barkley must have understood every word because that dog was LOYAL to Brent from that day on.

They were inseparable. Barkley was his shotgun rider, his campfire buddy, his fellow late night snacker, and his shadow. That didn’t come without a lot of exasperation for Barkey’s antics on Brent’s part….Barkley ONLY wanted to pee in our front yard; a fenced in backyard was useless. And he had NO problem pooping on our driveway or pool deck. I would belly laugh and look at Brent with my “Your dog!” look. It is these memories that can pull us out of our sadness, and we can always share another laugh about our Barks.

When Brent and I first started dating, we took a trip to New Orleans. I had my palm read and the fortune teller told me we would have twin boys someday! I was ecstatic since Brent WAS a twin, so that could have been a possibility. A few years later, we returned to NOLA and I had my fortune told again in a completely different area of the city, and again….twin boys were mentioned. What were the odds?

A few summers ago, we sat in our backyard watching the two dogs, and I looked at Brent and said…”Twin Boys.” Those fortune tellers years ago never elaborated, but I am confident that our Bo & Barkley are who they meant. Our twin boys.

We have been on the receiving end of a lot of love, advice, nurturing texts, and check-ins from our friends who DO know and have been there, and the best advice has been we just have to sit in “the suck” for a while….so here we sit.

Thinking about what I learned from Barkley, it would be these things:

               Take naps in the sun whenever you can – in fact, take several.

               If someone asks you to go for a walk, you go.

               You can never eat too much bacon.

               Accept affection from people, and if you are missing it – seek it out.

               Sometimes a deep sigh is all you need to get your point across.

               Love unconditionally.

               Be genuinely happy to see people and make sure they know it.

               Find your person.

We had Barkley for a short 7 years, and we were his second family, but 7 years taught us invaluable lessons and gave us a lifetime of love. This one will leave a mark.

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