Barkley left this world at 1:23 PM on Friday, April 26 at the Richmond Veterinary Clinic in Richmond, Illinois. He was 11 1/2 years old. I was blessed to have spent 10 wonderful years with him. Before me, he lived with another family and before that with a breeder or in the home where he was born. He came to me when he was one and a half years old. He was my first dog after taking a 25-year break from having dogs. When I was a child living with my parents we had a couple of dogs, and as a young man in my 20s, I had two more. I am sad to say none of those dog relationships ended as we would all hope they might. Barkley was the first dog that I actually saw through from beginning (nearly) to a natural end.
I was moved from my several decade's long ambivalence about having another dog to enthusiasm for the idea by Cesar Milan and his show on the National Geographic television network, The Dog Whisperer. As kooky as that might sound, I was intrigued by Caesar's emphasis on walking with your dog for a minimum of 45 minutes at least once a day as a means of establishing the foundation of a proper relationship with your dog. My last dog before the long break was a yellow Labrador or at least a dog that appeared to be a yellow Labrador, but which was almost certainly a mixed breed. I am an outdoorsy person, who likes hiking, backpacking, fly fishing, upland game hunting and just generally being out in nature, so it seemed to me that I should be looking for another lab. I began my quest by reading everything that I could about training Labs. I was particularly excited by a movement of people who had coalesced around the idea that Labs might not be limited to working as retrievers of waterfowl, but that they could be trained for upland game hunting. It was at that time that my sister, who lives in Virginia, and who is an avid trader on platforms like eBay and craigslist, acquired a golden retriever. She answered an ad in craigslist and ended up finding a wonderful young golden named Max that a family was giving away for adoption. I had looked at craigslist now and then and seeing that a lot of folks seem to tire of their Labrador retrievers when they are about eight or 10 months old. I got the feeling that people would buy these dogs as puppies, and by the time they were starting to grow into full-size dogs, find that they were more work than they had bargained for. I figured I would be happy to take one of these dogs and give him a good life while improving my own as well.
Finally, I decided it was time to get serious. I fired up the computer, pulled up craigslist and the first ad that I saw was for a golden retriever. Not exactly, what I was looking for but maybe worth a look. The ad didn't have any pictures and I would have to drive an hour to see the dog, but I decided to give it a chance.
I saw the dog before I even knew which house to look for. He sat at the head of the driveway by the garage door. He had a thick brassy red coat and really was unlike any retriever I had ever seen before. My mother had come along for the ride. As we both exited the car, the dog demonstrated a distinct preference for mom over me. In any case, he seemed like a good dog, he seemed healthy and in fact more than healthy he seemed to be pretty robust and well built. We also learned of the folks who were pulling out as we were arriving, a young couple, had rejected the dog as too big for their requirements. I introduced myself and described the kind of life I thought I could provide for the dog. It was a brilliant stroke of luck that I had my mother with me because the person we would be dealing with was a wife and mother herself. I think it was the factor that sealed the deal and I became the new caretaker of Barkley. When I set out that day, I was sure I wanted a Labrador retriever and nothing else. What I got was a Red Field Golden that gave me ten years of love and devotion that changed my life.
The picture below was taken on the day I brought Barkley home. In this picture he is one and a half years old.