After some anxious moments, Barney is back to old self

6 years ago

I suppose I had fair warning from the moment I opened my eyes that the day would  present its challenges. Barney, my beloved Goldendoodle, had spent most of the morning gazing at me through dark brown eyes filled with anticipation and strong hope that I would speak the words he loved to hear the most, “Barn! Do you want to go for a ride?”  

Well, at just about 4:30 p.m., I spoke the magic words, grabbed my debit card and headed straight into the garage with Barney at my heels. I contemplated for just a moment snapping one of his colorful leashes on his collar, but then changed my mind.  He was such a good boy! He never indicated once during our nearly eight years together any desire to bolt from the backseat of the car and flee. So, unleashed and panting pure bliss, Barney set off with me to Shop ‘n Save; his perfectly round black nose creating opaque paintings on my left rear window.  

The weather was perfect with just a trace of that cool spring air and sun aplenty.  I was not long in the store; purchasing just a few groceries; three small plastic bags full, to be exact. I rolled the grocery cart up to the back of my Equinox, and remembered that the back was filled with empty boxes that had contained cemetery flowers for loved ones. Plan two, of course, was putting the groceries in the back seat right beside my very good boy, who certainly would not think of digging through the contents of those bags with that perfect black nose.  

The minute I opened that back door and Barney heard the crinkling of the full grocery bags in the cart, he lunged past me and landed on the ground at my feet.  I reached down and grabbed his collar, and in doing so, let go completely of the grocery cart. At this point, Barney had gone completely limp at my feet; making it clear to me and all spectators that he was not going back into the car.

I stood here, stooped over with both hands on Barney’s collar and I could hear the wheels on that cart picking up speed as it headed toward any and all of the parked cars behind me.

“Dear God!” I shouted. “Barney! Look at the mess you’ve gotten us into.”  The crash of metal against metal behind me was all I needed to hear. I could just imagine how much damage had been done with that runaway cart as it slammed into those parked cars and I felt this overwhelming desire to cry.  I looked behind me then, and I could not believe the sight. That infernal cart, loaded up with my things, had sailed smoothly right into the blue cart corral. Not one car was hit. Nothing was damaged.

Somehow, I managed to get Barney to jump up into the driver’s seat, where he promptly lay down on my brake and gas pedal.  He managed to bang the back of his head against the starter button, and the car started right up while the ivory face of a teddy bear hung out of the driver’s door.  I pushed him all the way in, shutting the door at last. I walked down to the blue corral and retrieved the magical, God-steered grocery cart, wheeling it back to the car, where I quickly placed the three bags on the seat and returned the cart.

I opened the driver’s side door and did my best to slide part of myself into the driver’s seat.  I managed to get one leg in, and the other leg remained down on the ground as I brainstormed what to do next.  Barney weighs 113 pounds, and he is difficult to move when he goes into his limp mode. Several people who passed by asked if they could do anything at all to help me, and after politely thanking each and every one and assuring them all was well, I called my sister, Lisa, and asked her to bring down a leash so that we could try pulling him out.  He has always done well on the leash and we were able to get him to surrender his post behind the wheel and resume his position in the backseat, where he trembled during the ride home; all the while casting terrified glances at those crackly plastic bags there beside him on the seat.

Once I got Barney back into the house, I showed him the bags and removed the contents inside slowly, placing them on the countertop one by one.  The now empty villain bags lay deflated and defeated before him, and in one swift move he grabbed one of those bags and began to pull it apart with his very sharp Goldendoodle teeth.  He wrestled it to the ground, shredded it into tiny plastic ribbons and then promptly lay down beside it; victorious and content.

I guess that I had not been paying close attention to Barney all of those years.  I assumed that a large breed dog, showered with love and the best of care, did not fall prey to fear and anxiety; at least not from something so benign as a plastic bag!  I sat down beside him, my hand stroking his cottony poodle-fur and thought about some of the things that frightened me. The dentist. Hotel rooms on the first floor. Waiting for medical test results.  Driving behind a fully loaded logging truck. Losing my eyesight. Saying goodbye to the people I love. Saying goodbye one day to this beautiful and sweet spirit who lay at my feet, akin to a noble knight who has won back his kingdom by slaying a plastic bag.  

I am happy to report that Barney has resumed his position behind me in my ivy metallic Equinox.  We have come to an agreement of sorts. I promise not to place those horrific plastic bags beside him, and he has agreed not to leap from the car without good cause.  We have also come to terms with the fact that he needs to be wearing his leash when we go out for our rides and I in turn must vow to pay attention to grocery carts and other free-wheeling things in life that can easily slip away if I fail to hold on tight.  

Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney. You may email her at: