Barney is our March 30, 2014 Pup or the Week (It's Really About Our Grampy)
Unless you have been long time friends of ours you won’t recognize the names of Barney. They have been at the Bridge a very long time. Barney was the first dog who ever owned my Daddy. He came into the family because of our Grampy, who went to the Bridge this week. Grampy worked in what was known back in the day as newspapers, which were a bunch of blogs all put together on big pieces of parchment and printed in multiple quantities. It is hard to imagine living in such a barbaric age.
My Daddy and Auntie had been pestering Grampy for a dog after Auntie’s dog Alice went to the Bridge. They had read a book about a baseball playing beagle named Barney and insisted they get a beagle and name it Barney. One of the pressmen at Grampy’s paper, Snuffy Smith, owned a dog who had a litter. Getting a dog from a man named Snuffy Smith confirmed that the name Barney was well chosen. There was an old comic strip called Barney Google and Snuffy Smith so it was logical that Snuffy would beget Barney.
Turned out Barney was not a beagle. Without DNA testing we cannot even prove Barney was a dog. She was, as Grampy’s nephew Bobby said, “part Dachshund, part Hound, part Bear.” You know a dog had made a lasting impression on a neighborhood when he is mentioned three times in the receiving line at a wake. Once as “Barney the thief” (just because he entered a man’s garage a half mile from Grampy’s house, grabbed a full 30 pound bag of Gravy Train, and dragged it home, dropped it at Daddy’s feet and announced: “See I don’t need you people, I can feed myself.” Then Daddy looked up see the the bag’s rightful owner, Mean Mr Medas, stomping down the street following a trail of kibble he found after the bag ripped during the dragging. Mean Mr Medas was not a fan of Barney’s.)
For ten years Barney ruled the neighborhood. Having never been snipped Barney was responsible for making lots of little Barneys, performing the act once while Daddy was in the middle school. Barney and his sexual conquest were on the front lawn consummating their relationship doggy style as Daddy’s school bus stopped to pick him up. Barney, mid coitus, turned to the children on the bus with a huge smile on his face, as if to say “kids, you’re not old enough for this yet, but trust me, it’s great.”
Barney lived his life his way until he went the to Bridge. When he got older, and slowed down, he still got into scraps, relying on Daddy to rescue him, which once led to Daddy having his hand bitten between the thumb and index finger. Barney still chased cars, but didn’t have the moves he used to, twice getting hit and needing to go to the hospital. And then one day at home Barney stumbled and went down, with bleeding on the brain, and she quickly passed away at a local dog hospital.
It wasn’t until Grampy was crossing the River of LIfe to the immortal side when I realized how much he and Barney were alike. I wasn’t allowed to swear Grampy in. They got Judge Roy Bean to do it. He swears in all the humans who might bolt and try to cross back. Like Barney, Grampy had short legs, a round waist, a big smile, sparkling eyes, and a cheerful howl when amused.
Like Barney Grampy protected his turf at all costs and his turf was his opinion, which he firmly believed was correct, and, if followed, would help improve the city. Like Barney his bark was much worse than his bite but his bark could be very powerful and hurtful and those who he directed it at cowered.
Nana’s job was family apologist, and she spent most of her time apologizing for the two of them. If Grampy wrote something to upset someone she apologized, if Barney chased a boy on a bike she apologized, if Grampy was digging up information on someone for a story she apologized, if Barney dug up someone’s garden she apologized, if Barney took a big dump on someone’s lawn she apologized, if Grampy wrote something that took a big dump on someone’s career she apologized, if Barney impregnated a young, innocent pup she apologized, if Grampy impregnated a young girl she would have shivved him right in the kitchen. She was kind but she didn’t mess around.
At their height they were both a man in full and a dog in full. Neither of them suffered fools graciously, and fools were anyone who didn’t recognize their dominance. They taught lessons, Grampy to young reporters, with hard words and a red editor’s pencil, Barney with powerful legs and a talent for infighting. In our little town, and in Barney’s neighborhood, everyone knew their name.
And neither went into the goodnight quietly. Both pushed their bodies further than their aged bones could carry them. Barney lost fights he once won, Grampy was eased out of his job at the newspaper, although he kept writing for more than 20 years as the paper knew it’s voice was his voice. One day Barney went down and couldn’t get back up and his parents were told he had maybe a day left, and the next day he was gone. One day Grampy went into the hospital and was told he wouldn’t last the night. And this is where they parted, because Grampy fought back and lived for another two years.
But it was a hard two years. He had several falls, three trips for rehabilitation, each time determined to come back better than before. He was be repaired as good as the day he fell, but his constant ditching of his walker to prove he was better would lead to his next fall until March 18th, when he fell, breaking a rib, arm and hip.
Grampy came through his surgery fine, but developed pneumonia, and he didn’t have the strength to fight back, and on the 25th he crossed over the Bridge.
Which brings me to the lighters. Grampy had two lighters. They went through Korea with him, through the birth of his children, his newspaper career, through cancer and chemotherapy, though his retirement, his pacemaker surgery, his gallbladder surgery, Nana’s heart surgery and following three months of complications before she passed, his kidney surgery, his getting healthy after heart failure, his first broken hip, his three trips to rehab, and his fading memory that caused him to misplace everything else but those two lighters. He insisted that he always have those lighters. Of all his worldly possessions he could save, those lighters would be first.
But on March 18, when he fell, those lighters disappeared. Grampy barely had the strength to press his life alert bracelet,, he didn’t have the strength to grab the lighters. Auntie, who responded to the call with the EMT’s could not find them. Amanda, his caretaker, could not find them, and neither could Daddy. They were gone.
Thankfully, if Grampy had to pass, he passed without realizing \the lighters were missing. That was until after he got sworn in. I had followed Barney to the human sde of the River. Grampy reunited with Nana and his sister and her husband, who thankfully had brought a bottle of Scotch, then he went over to give Barney a long overdue scratch. Barney pulled him by his pants leg (in case you wondered humans come over fully closed, thank God) to a spot of dirt and Barney began to dig. I was going to help him when I remembered that I was a judge and I had got a manicure that morning so I let him finish. When he was done Barney picked up the lighters in his mouth and put them at Grampy’s feet. Grampy gratefully picked them up,, told Barney that he was a good dog, better than his kids who had lost his lighter, then Nana slapped Grampy for being snarky. and they resumed their relationship which should, as Auntie said in her eulogy, cause a lot of electrical storms in the Northeast this year.
So now Grampy is with me on the immortal side of the Bridge and he has already scolded Cronkite and Murrow for sloppy journalism. I am sure he is going to cause some arguments up here, but that’s OK, it’s only for eternity.
It is on the mortal side of the Bridge where he will be missed. This quote was used for me when I crossed and I will end this blog with it, because he is as deserving of it as I was.
“Well they built the Titanic to be one of a kind, but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone, but they could build another if they please
Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt, are unique I suppose
But when they built you, brother, they broke the mold
Now the world is filled with many wonders under the passing sun
And sometimes something comes along and you know it's for sure the only one
The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe
And when they built you, brother, they broke the mold
When they built you, brother, they turned dust into gold
When they built you, brother, they broke the mold
They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong
'Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone
Gone into that dark ether where you're still young and hard and cold
Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold
Now your death is upon us and we'll return your ashes to the earth
And I know you'll take comfort in knowing you've been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold