Let me tell you the story of Barney Rubble, my corgi mix rescue.
Roughly thirteen years ago my little family went looking for a rescue at the local pet store. Out front was a gaggle of dogs in pens waiting to be adopted. In one pen was a long dark mix that would stand on his hind legs for everyone that went by. In the pen with him was a pug mix. A black pug mix. That’s who I wanted to see. I had two pugs before and knew the health issues, but also the personalities. Spending time with this pup, I noticed the long friendly corgi mix still working his hardest to garner attention, but no one gave him a shot. I decided the pug mix was not the one, and at my husbands urging, we took out the corgi to get a closer look. He was not a fan of the leash. Red flag #1. He had a black/tan coat but light brown amber eyes. They freaked.me.out. He was so sweet, but scared on the leash outside of the pen. We had a 3 year old at the time to consider also. I was really unsure about him. We left without picking a pup.
Later that day, a van pulls up outside our house. My husband had arranged with the rescue lady to bring the corgi by our house and drop him off as a surprise. I guess my husband saw something I didn’t. He walked up with this dirty, long, light-eyed, dark-coated stranger. We were both- the dog and I – a little unsure. The name they gave him didn’t quite fit, so we renamed him Barney. And because he was a short-legged beefy guy, we went a step further and called him Barney Rubble.
The beginning was rough. Some trauma had happened to the pup’s face as he had some healed scars on his muzzle and a lot of cracked teeth. Later we discovered a large bite taken out of his tongue about halfway back into his mouth. Something major struck his face at some point, but as rescues do, he was happy to be wherever he was, the past long forgotten. We fixed his teeth and he lost the wariness and lethargy he had. It took at least 2 years off his age estimate of 3-5 years. This dog was so curious and attentive. It was odd to me that he didn’t know any commands. He was certainly willing to pay attention – as most herding dogs do. After a couple of weeks, I started to wonder about this. The shelter the rescue nabbed him from was in a predominately Hispanic area outside of Austin. One day I decided to try Spanish.
He sat down.
Sadly, my Spanish is pretty limited to sitting, bathroom, and la escuela. Nothing that would interest Barney, so we figured he’d pick up English now. Barney soon became the best dog I had ever had. He was sweet to everyone. Aside from his rude and hurtful seeming need to escape our house for the first ten years we had him, he was awesome. We could take him anywhere, as he loved car rides, he loved everyone but especially kids. He would do what I learned was a classic corgi move which was to run towards you, fall to his side, and torpedo roll towards you, landing in prime real estate for a belly rub.
As he aged he had back problems. We had a scary episode that led us to stop allowing him on the couch with us, or to go upstairs anymore. I think that made him pretty sad, as he loved to be included in anything and everything the family was doing. He grew to love/hate the suitcase. My husband used to travel a lot for work and he knew what they meant. Barney absolutely loved being included at the end of the stressful activity of packing up the car. He wanted to go everywhere with us.
Our family grew by one more kid, and we moved four states with Barney. At one point we had a cat named Jinx that Barney became fast friends with. They were pretty much inseparable. They loved hanging out in the backyard in Texas together and had a cozy spot in a patch of dirt they would sun together on. One day Jinx took off on an adventure and came back to us bloody and broken. We guessed he had been hit by a car, but anything could have happened. He had a broken jaw, a bulging and bleeding eye, and a broken body. After a year and a half together, we had to put him down due to his massive internal injuries. Barney would go outside for weeks after and lay in their spot waiting for him to come home.
The last chapter of his life was eventful, for sure. Two years ago we added a year old long haired chihuahua to our family. Barney was renewed with a need to “Nanny” this dog. He would follow him around, clean him, stand by him when he ate or drank and clean him after he came in from the back yard. He began to actually fetch – which was previously an uninteresting pastime -and seemed to come alive as a senior dog.
The last few months he deteriorated. At sixteen(ish) he had lost most of his hearing and a lot of his sight. He would wander a lot and had a need to constantly go outside. His mobility took a rapid decline and once he started falling down while just standing in one place, I knew it was time to see the vet. I had spoken to my kids about it, the kids Barney helped raise and watch over. The kids who loved him dearly, but also knew he was becoming a different version of himself.
On Wednesday the vet office was kind enough to squeeze us in despite not having any open appointment times. They would let me drop him off so the vet could assess where he was at with his health/pain level. I had the kids say goodbye in the event I would not be bringing him home later. One last car ride, and I knew how much pain he was in when he was no longer interested in looking out the window.
Sitting in the waiting room of the busy vet office hearing all the owners talking about their appointments which would result in getting their pets back home afterwards chipped away at my resolve. When the vet tech came over to take him back, she wanted a quick “so what’s going on with Barney?” update, to which I immediately teared up. She looked at Barney, looked at me, and decided we needed to be in an exam room.
Barney and I waited for the vet. When I described – through an embarrassing amount of tears – what had been going on, she explained to me about his anxiety and doggie dementia. Coupled with the arthritis that had wracked the back half of his body, the most humane thing to do would be to put him down and out of his pain.
The room was equipped with a button in the wall next to an in-wall box of tissues. Beside the button was a sign that read, “push when ready”. This was my fourth dog I had put down. I knew what that button meant.
They explained the unfortunately well-known routine of how things would go. Once they sedated him, they took him to the back to shave his leg and put in the IV line. The tech carried him back in and she put him on the blanketed exam table. She said, “I’ll dim the lights a bit, and when you’re ready, push that button on the wall and we’ll come give him the last dose.”
I stroked his shedding double coat, told him what a good boy he is, and how much we love him. I buried my face in his soft thick fur and said goodbye before pushing the button.
I readied myself for the vet to come do what that line in his vein was for. … and we waited. After about 10 minutes, I decided to push the button again. The room was near “the back” and so I could hear the comings and goings and all the chatter of the staff.
Barney started to twitch every so often as if he was uncomfortable laying on his side. He also tried to lick, but because he was sedated, his tongue would get stuck outside his mouth before slowly pulling it back in.
I said goodbye for a third time and rang the bell again. Again we waited. By this time at least 20 minutes since the first bell ring had gone by. To say the least, I was absolutely as prepared as I was going to be. I’m sure Barney was too. After four rings, I left him on the exam table, walked out to the lobby and informed them, “I’ve rung the bell four times… is there something else I need to do?” The first receptionist looked confused and then said slowly, “I think the bell is broken.”
omg. Only me. Of course it’s broken.
“So could you let someone know, maybe? I’m in here waiting to put my dog down.”
The second receptionist jumps into action. I go back to say goodbye AGAIN and hear him go to the back and repeat, “She said she’s rung the bell four times.” “Really? We didn’t hear anything, I think it still isn’t working.”
omg. This is happening, isn’t it.
He passes the room and gives me a thumbs up through the window.
I am just glad I have a morbid and completely inappropriate sense of dark humor, because I could have easily lost my shit all over that office. Front and back.
So finally, the vet comes in apologizing profusely and we finish the final goodbye.
The hardest part was finally getting up to walk away. He was already gone, but it took a monumental act of will to walk away and leave my best bud of the last 13 years alone on that table. He was a massive part of our complicated and dysfunctional family and will forever be. But that last act of standing up and leaving the room without him was heart-breaking.
I put his collar in my purse and each jangle of his tags starts the tears again.
This is by far the worst part of pet ownership, but it is absolutely true that I would feel this pain over and over again to have had the experience of this dog in our lives.
The image of him and Jinx running around without cars or fences carries me through.
Looking back to find all of these pictures, it has hit me just how interwoven these pets are in families. This boy has watched my now 16 year old son and my nearly 12 year old grow up. Their entire childhoods were touched and shaped with this face by their side at all times. We are not worthy of the love they give us.
Rest in peace Barney ‘Superdog’ Rubble. You have left us in the capable paws of a long haired mighty chihuahua whom you have trained to soak up all of the spoiling and love we can give, and one chupacabra named Pepper who will surely be lost without you.