A boy and his dying dog.
| I was nine-years-old when we bought our first family dog. My only sibling and older sister, Patricia, named him. At the time, I simply thought she named him Barf-X. I fully understood the joke in later years, Patricia, being an overly studious girl, named the dog Bill Anthony Ronald Fredrickson the Tenth. She had been thirteen at the time and figured naming her pet dog after a famous cellist would be a clever and mature thing to do. My parents, seeing the lighter side that Patricia couldn’t, noticed that the name spelt B.A.R.F. X. They tried keeping the joke to themselves so as not to embarrass Patricia, but in the end, the joke got out and the dog was known as Barf-X to all, though it would get the occasional Bill or Bill Anthony.
Barf-X was a black affenpinscher, a small dog with shaggy medium-length hair, a moderately sized tail, and a nose so high it seemed his entire face was scrunched together. I remember how quickly Patricia and I fell in love with Barf-X. I equally remember how much more quickly Barf-X fell in love with peanut butter. His first taste of peanut butter had been a small spoonful I had sacrificed while making the usual peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. I had never seen a creature so delighted, his tail became a blur of moving hair, he jumped and licked and begged for more. Of course, Barf got what he wanted and ended up eating an entire jar of peanut butter, which took him less than ten minutes to devour. The affenpinscher spent the next three days scratching himself until he bled.
When the vet declared Barf-X allergic to peanut butter, my nine-year-old emotions boiled over. I had a splendid shouting match with the vet where I claimed peanut butter was “brown creamy magic that made my Barf’s eyes light up!” From then on, my parents kept the peanut butter on the highest shelf of the pantry and started seeing a different vet.
Thirteen years later, I watched my sick dog. He cuddled up at the back of the crate he slept in and refused to come out, a routine of his during the last couple of days, though this was definitely the longest time he had spent doing it by far. I laid on the ground staring at Barf, hoping my eyes will shoot beams of super-health into his body, or something less ridiculous but equally helpful. I lost track of the time, my parents left for a dinner party around 6, and Patricia had gone to her boyfriend’s around 7, but I had no idea how long I sat on the laundry room floor.
I decided I’d wasted too much time and began trying to bribe Barf out of his cage. I began with his favourite toy, a squeaky dragon. Barf turned his head and fixed his eyes on the toy, but nothing more came of it. I then got out some beef flavoured dog-treats and made a trail of them starting inside the cage and ending right next to me, after all, I just wanted to cuddle the little creature while it was still possible. Barf-X gobbled the treat inside his crate, and to my excitement, stood up and moved to the front of his cage where he ate the treat teetering between the crate and the tiled floor. He then returned to the back of the cage.
“C’mon Barf! Wanna play! D’you wanna go on a walk? C’mon! Let’s go for a walk!”
The milky eyes of the poor dog stared plainly. Exhausted, I vacated to the den and continued onwards to the clutches of what seemed to be the comfiest couch known to man.
I turned on the T.V. to see an orchestra, my thoughts immediately turned to a memory of something silly Patricia used to do when we first got our pet of a lifetime. She had thought it fitting to play the real Bill Anthony’s music for the dog. Surprisingly, Barf-X had seemed to like it and would occasionally do what we had considered a dance which consisted of a wagging tail with the punctuated jump here and there. I found the dusty C.D. of Patricia’s cellist still lying around her old room and played it for the dog. Desperate times call for desperate measures after all.
Black ears stood upright, the faintest tail movement arose. I knew what to do, I had a feeling I was close to the solution. Screw allergies! Fuck vets! I grabbed the Costco size (otherwise known as the jar big enough to feed prehistoric creatures) of peanut butter and a butter knife.
I walked into the laundry room to find the dying creature in the back of his crate, head raised to get a better smell of the “creamy brown magic” he had been denied all these years. Using the knife, I smeared a trail of peanut butter to where I was to lie, Barf had already got up and walked to the front of his crate again.
I used my hands to grab balls of peanut butter and smear them on my arms, face, neck, any remaining skin was fair game. I lie on the ground in my mess, listening to cello music. He was leaning out of his crate licking up the first of the peanut butter trail. His pace quickened and he started licking up the next inch, causing him to move further out of his crate, only his hind legs and tail remained.
“That’s it, Barf, good boy!” At my words he looked up and fixed his eyes on me. With the movement of a hundred-year-old man, he started waddling toward me with great effort, completely ignoring the rest of the peanut butter trail.
By the time the black bundle was next to my face tears had run down my cheeks. The small canine once again ignored the peanut butter and licked the tears off my cheeks, though he continued onto the peanut butter afterwards.
For hours, the two of us cuddled on the ground in the peanut butter, all the while listening to cellist music as I talked to him about all the good times we had had. After I had once again lost track of time, I noticed the dog’s breathing becoming raspy. Each breathe being deeper and raspier than the next, this was it. I allowed him to be comfortable, though I never let him go. When I felt his heart stop, and smelt the release of his bowels I found myself paralyzed. Such a state of shock had come over me that I almost called 9-1-1 to report the death of my Barf, I understood the humour when my senses came back.