In the Spring of 1999, a little white dog and her five puppies were left in a box on the side of the road. The box tipped over and the pups wandered around the busy road. A few, including the mom, were struck by passing motorists. No one stopped.
My dad and I were out running errands when we drove past a dead dog on the side of the road. A sad sight, but unfortunately, not an uncommon one. Except, a few feet down there was another one. And then another.
I made my dad turn around.
By the time we circled back to the area, a red Jeep had stopped and a man and his son were trying to catch the remaining three puppies. One had been hit and had a bad injury on its leg, another was still running down the side of the road. The third was curled up next to his dead mother, shaking.
I picked him up and wrapped him in my jacket.
The man and his son told us they were taking the injured puppy and the one that had tried to escape down the road to the local animal shelter. He gestured to the pup in my arms and asked if we wanted him to take him as well. I looked down at the shaking little dog in my arms and my heart melted.
I thanked him, but said we would take care of this one.
“We’re not keeping him,” my dad said as soon as we were in the car. I didn’t argue. Although my dad to this day still doesn’t believe me, I had no intention of keeping him — I was thinking we’d clean him up and find him a good home. I was afraid if he went to the shelter he’d be euthanized.
Along the way home my dad stopped at the store and came out with puppy chow, food and water dishes, a collar and leash and a dog bed — an awful lot of stuff for a dog that we definitely “weren’t keeping.” I smiled.
Barney, as we named him, was staying.
After we got him home and cleaned him up, we discovered he was in better shape than we had hoped. He was young — eight or nine weeks, the vet guessed — and a little underweight, but overall, once we got all the fleas and ticks off him, he seemed in pretty good health.
He was scruffy — wire haired with a beard — had long ears and sad droopy eyes. If I had to guess at his parentage, it would be some sort of a terrier/basset hound cross.
Fast forward 17 years, Barney is still with us.
He was never a playful puppy, he never romped around the house or yard. He never played fetch and had no use for squeaky toys or chews. Instead, he preferred to curl up in your lap and snooze for hours at a time. He has the metabolism of a tortoise, which is one theory of ours as to how he’s lived so long.
We joke that we better make provisions for him in our wills because he’ll likely outlive us all.
At one time or another, as circumstances change, Barney has lived with every member of our family. After my dad moved up to Pennsylvania, he stayed with me and my husband. Right now he’s in Toledo with my youngest brother Thomas. It’s kind of strange to think that as a grown man — with a wife and a house and a job — Thomas still has his childhood dog.
Whoever it was that abandoned those puppies on the side of the road missed out. They had no idea what a treasure they were throwing away. I don’t know what happened to the other two puppies that lived. I hope they found their way into loving families.
But in truth, Barney wasn’t the lucky one. We were.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.