Writing My Next Chapter with Barkley

He’ll never replace Peter. Not even close. He’ll never give me understanding or acknowledge my moods the way Peter did. He’ll be more dependent on me than Peter ever was in our relationship. He’ll make more mistakes under the guise “I didn’t know better”. He’ll hinder me from some freedoms. His manners are not the greatest – he eats in one gulp without a napkin. And do not get me started about his toilet habits. Yet, there’s something about his old man face with its under bite that drew me to him when I first saw him. I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but it sure was like at first glance. And now, seeing his childish play, I am wanting more of him.

Two days ago, I introduced my friends and family to the new guy in my life, the four-legged kind. His name is Barkley Avenue Tobolski Dudak. It is homage to the great people I live around who touched me, my Mister, and my children. It’s where my life with Peter continued, and his life with me ended. It’s a place of mutual respect, unspoken understanding, and a place which defined home for me, for Peter, for my kids. And since I am building a new life, to name a dog after the representation of what home means seems more than fitting. Barkley’s also a nod to my writer friends, a group of women who after Peter died, rallied behind me with compassion and sent me a stuffed dog named Barkley without know my own history to this name. And come on, Barkley? For a dog? Is it not appropriate? (By the way, it’s pronounced BARK LEE…not LAY…LEE.)

I have wanted a dog for years, since our last, semi crazy, okay all the way crazy, dog died. Peter didn’t want any more. He hid his reason behind the argument of freedom after the kids moved on and how it would tether us to the house. Yes, I get the irony of his death within six months after the kids moved out. My guess though, my real guess, is that Peter had been heartbroken each time one of our aged dogs died. I don’t think he wanted to feel that pain again.

Peter loved animals, especially dogs. We raised our children with them. Our kids grew up with three dogs in their lives, guinea pigs, birds and even a tarantula my son “won” by default in second grade when no other mom wanted it in their house. (By that time, we already had two guinea pigs, three finches and a dog. What’s one more creature?) Peter’s love for animals, and some of mine, was handed down to our children. Besides the multitude of animals living in our house that they took care of growing up, they both have a special bond with animals. My daughter has her Lily – or as I like to call her LL Cool Dog. She rescued this anxious, quiet, scared animal and developed her into a confident and loving companion. Their bond is one I hope to have one day with my own Barkley. My son has severe allergies to animals which he developed later in his life. Despite them, he still is able to sit on the floor and have the pickiest, the most frightened dogs, warm up to him. It truly is amazing to see. It’s as if the dogs already know my son’s gentle spirit.

Despite my Mister’s love for animals, the last five years of his life we didn’t have any. My constant whine, I mean persistence, did not sway him. Every birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas I asked for a dog. Every birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas I was disappointed. He repeated his want to travel and not be held back by a dog. He also told me he would be the one who end up taking care of it. I told him he lacked confidence in me. Although sometimes, I thought maybe he was right. Although sometimes, it could have been self-doubt talking. It didn’t matter. He did have his reasons, obvious ones and maybe hidden ones, and I had mine. In the end, maybe to be able to move on from this disagreement, I relented, telling myself and others a dog is something we both have to agree on.

There is some truth in that statement. Dogs are a lot of work and two working on the responsibility is better than one. Although lots of people take on a dog by themselves and do wonderfully. My daughter serves as a perfect example. So, maybe I could have, should have, gotten one anyway. I mean, I didn’t need his permission. Then again, if it was only me with my heart and soul into it, would another person not wanting it, give a dog mixed messages? (Pssst. I think Peter would have falling in love like he did with every animal.)

In the end, we never got another dog together. I wasn’t that kind of wife. I wasn’t that kind of partner. I needed and wanted Peter’s support, perhaps approval. Every marriage works differently and dances to their own beat. Sometimes, they are painful and clumsy, sometimes, joyful and right, and most times, they are just normal, the kind of normalcy we all live in with a partnership which included disagreements, little and big.

And now I have him. I have my Barkley. A three or four years old, ten pounds, long-bodied dog with an under-bite who loves to play and snuggle and has accidents in the house. Not sure he loves the last thing, but it is what he does so far. Barkley and I haven’t found our rhythm yet. It will come. With patience and time, it will come. We both have to relax a bit with the other. I am hyper-vigilant about accidents, following him around to make sure he doesn’t have one. (Missed the one he had last night as I was unloading laundry, darn it.) He follows me into every room I go in as if sending me a plea not to leave him. I know he was picked up as a stray and kept in a foster care for about two weeks. He seems to have lived in a house at one time, not at all uncomfortable with stairs and crates. And he seems to want final stability. I want to give that to him. I think we both want the same thing in our crazy, uncontrolled lives.

Barkley is a snug bug and I need snuggling, a lot of it. I also need a routine, a lot of it, which includes six o’clock wake up and nine o’clock bedtimes so far. Having a dog is hard and Barkley is no exception. He will take away my freedoms of sleep and decisions of walks. He will demand attention with pets and play. He will depend on me for food, shelter, health and grooming. Barkley will not survive without me and that is frightening.

Two weeks after Peter died, I did rescue a dog. I wasn’t ready for him. I broke out in hives which may or may not have been an allergic reaction, and may or may not have been an anxiety reaction. With Barkley, I am ready. I am ready for the fright of dependency. I am ready to allow something else, some responsibility, some different emotions into my life. A life already turn all sorts of sideways, what does it matter if it’s turned again?

I am not sure how our new chapter will unfold, Barkley’s and mine. I don’t even know the next sentence or word. I can’t even guess. What I do know for now, as he lays on the pillows of my couch, curled up in contentment, and me worrying when he’s going to need to go for a potty break again, it feels okay. And okay is all I strive for right now. Besides, I think I’m kind of falling in love with him.