Saturday, September 18, 2004

Introducing Barkley

This little guy came into our lives a few years ago. Demi saw a notice on a bulletin board that a puppy who had been abandoned needed a home. It seems he was tossed out of a car at a stop light. When we saw him, it was love at first sight.

He's a lab mix; just a little guy, about forty pounds. We already had three cats, but this was Demi's first experience with a dog. I was concerned, as some pups, especially males, have poor manners, and, if they're not terribly bright, are resistant to training. Barkley has turned out to be the ideal first dog for Demi. He is anxious to please. He almost housebroke himself, rarely chews anything (with the exception of a Daniel Quinn book I hadn't finished yet!) and faithfully alerts us when anyone approaches the property (thus the name, "Barkley").

I suspect living with three cats has confused him a bit. Periodically he wants to climb in my lap. He's a bit too big for that, but I let him do it anyway once in awhile. The cats ignore him for the most part; they are too cool to hang with a canine. The only tense moments are when one of the felines shows an interest in his rawhide bone. No serious confrontations so far.

Barkley has the most endearing way of begging when I'm eating something in front of him. I don't like this tendency in most dogs. The best way I've found to break this bad habit is to never reward a beggar. Somehow, Barkley seems to know that I won't honor blatant begging. So, what he does is to sit near my chair and stare fixedly at the lamp to my left. Every few minutes he'll sneak a peek at what I'm eating; but if he sees me catching him peeking, he quickly looks away. I must admit that he has won a few pizza crusts from me with his discreet approach.

I find that having a pet has many unexpected rewards. Barkley lives in the here and now. He's not preoccupied with regret of the past or fretting about the future. Going outside is a major event. He reminds me to respond with enthusiasm to both sunshine and gray sky. I also like to believe that this little guy has taught me a few things about love, faithfulness, and healthy interdependence. But maybe some of that is projection on my part.

At the moment, he is doing a little dance while emitting quiet whines in an attempt to get my attention. Time for a trip to the backyard, it appears, where each drop of rain and every scurrying squirrel will cause our hearts to leap with the sheer joy of being alive.


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