The puppies spilled out of the crate like a small avalanche, stumbling over each other, tumbling out and tripping every which way until they finally landed on floor of the rescue shelter. It was far too much fuzzy cuteness for me to handle, how are you supposed to pick just one? They started to spread across the floor, sniffing around, licking each other and our feet, but one pup blazed his own trail, away from the others and into the hallway. He was dark brown where the others were tan and blonde, and he just wasn’t quite right on his feet, they wobbled and gave him a drunken sailor look. He was perfect. He was my Barney.
We paid $300 for him, and that included all of his puppy vaccinations and a bag of dog food. We hadn’t done very much research about the dachshund breed before we brought Barney home. We had fallen in love with the breed when we saw a little one scamper across the beach one summer afternoon.
Barney must have weighed 3 pounds when we brought him home that 4th of July weekend. He was petrified of the fireworks and hid underneath the coffee table. We were worried when he stumbled across the living room floor that we actually had picked out a crooked dog. He cried and cried the first night we brought him home, so much so that I took to sleeping on the floor next to his crate with my hand stuck between the bars, so that he knew I was there.
We got kicked out of puppy school on the second day for being too excitable. The only playmate that could put up with his rough and tumble ways was a rather large pit bull. But Barney never backed down. His enthusiasm for food was only out measured by his enthusiasm (some would have described as OCD) for his beloved tennis balls.
His strong personality developed almost overnight as he quickly became head of security, self-appointed, at the house. A full inspection was required before you were allowed to enter our front door. But I liked to think that Barney was a better judge of character than myself. His barking usually increased when salesmen knocked on the door, and was replaced with whimpering when a friend knocked.
Although he learned a few tricks in what little time we spent at puppy school, he only performed them when he felt like it. And he had clear rules and regulations when it came to other dogs. If they didn't follow them, he would let them know, even if they were the biggest, scariest dog in the dog park.
His bravery and courage inspired me. Being just shy of 5 feet tall myself, he reminded me that size does not determine strength.
Barney followed me everywhere and anywhere that dogs were allowed, he hiked the mountains of New Hampshire and swam in the beaches of Cape Cod. I snuck him into bed at night with me when my husband finally fell asleep, tucking him underneath the covers. He always managed to push me to the very edge of the bed and lay lengthwise along my pillow.
Despite all of his quirks and his attitude, he was my everything. So when we made the decision to move to Australia, where my husband is from, it was not even a question that Barney would be coming along. A ridiculous amount of money, three months of vet visits, shots and forms, one very long plane ride and ten days in quarantine later, Barney was by our side again, this time on the other side of the world. He was skinnier and refused to step into his crate ever again but after a few days, he was back to his usual cantankerous self.
Barney took to life in Australia easier than I did. I had a very hard time finding my way on this new continent. It was different than I had anticipated it being, I had a hard time meeting people and making friends and I just wanted the creature comforts of home back. Even a trip to the grocery store could reduce me to tears.
It was very hard for my husband to understand my struggles. This was a move that I had wanted, even pushed for, in fact, so why was I so upset and unable to cope, even after a year of living here?
Throughout all of my highs and lows, Barney was my constant. He was the piece of home I needed when I was feeling homesick, he forced me up in the mornings for walks when I could have stayed in bed all day. He was my shoulder to cry on when I felt like I didn’t have a soul in the world who understood me.
Barney provided me with support that no therapist could provide. It was almost as if he knew what type of support I needed through one of the most difficult times of my life. If it weren’t for him, I honestly do not know how I would have gotten through the first six months of my time in Australia. Barney saved me from myself.
Without him, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have and for that I am eternally grateful. He has showed me unconditional love when my family refused to accept my decision to move and that love has never faded, even across two oceans, one very long plane ride and a new continent.
As I type this, Barney sleeps between my legs, his favorite spots to sleep tend to be the most awkward and uncomfortable for me but considering what he’s done for me, I suppose I can let this one slide.