Barkley Andronovich was a difficult dog. I gave him the Andronovich when I was reading a Russian novel. Not War and Peace. (Hey, when you’ve read War and Peace you’ll work it into conversation, too.) Probably Anna Karenina. Russian novels are so comfortable to read, and the people are so itchy. Barkley was itchy.
We’ve only had two kinds of dogs in the family: dumb purebreed labs, and smart mutts. Barkley was a smart mutt. He was part German shepherd, and looked like a German shepherd puppy all his life. At least, until he got old and skeletally thin, when he looked like a German shepherd puppy war refugee. We’ve always had large dogs, and Barkley never got large. He was merely medium. I always felt slightly fey walking him. In his last years, he was also blind and deaf, so I referred to this time as his “Helen Keller period.”
Early in his career, Barkley showed us that he could escape the yard. Our previous dog, a lab, could have easily jumped the fence. It just never occurred to him to do so. Barkley could escape the yard, a locked dog crate, and any other constraint made by human hands. We eventually had to chain him up in the yard. Everyone hated that. But we weren’t likely to get a 12-foot fence around our rental house. His favorite snack was underwear crotches. He loved chocolate, too. The first time he ate a ton of chocolates, we were scared he would die. The second, third, fourth, and fifth times, the thrill was gone.
We had never had a dog who was so smart, and we had never had a dog who bit anyone. Barkley bit a neighbor girl who climbed the fence into our yard to get a lost baseball. He went to “dog jail,” where he was observed to make sure he didn’t have rabies, and returned home. Although the vet suggested it, we did not put him to sleep. He was our dog, for better or for worse. He bit my boyfriend once. He tried to bite my uncle. Men were a problem. So he was cloistered whenever men came over, which, frankly, was not that often.
He was a great dog to walk. I like to walk, and it’s nice to have a vicious dog with you when you’re a woman walking alone. I would have walked Barkley through Bed-Stuy. If anyone tried anything, Barkley would kill him. In the house, Barkley was bony, not very soft, and rather smelly. On walks, though, I liked him. He liked to be on the move. He was itchy. And yesterday, he was ready to go.