Goodbye, Barney

I lost my best friend this week. And my business partner. Barney was 12 (or 13 or 14). I never knew his exact age. He was a street kid who wandered onto my doorstep looking for a better life. He found it. And I found the world’s greatest dog. But he was never a good dog—not ever.

When I walked down the street with him, four out of five people would say hello to the beagle by name. Many teased that they didn’t know my name. Maybe they weren’t kidding.

There was never another dog like him. Strangers would joke that he looked like he hadn’t missed many meals. He was endlessly hungry, relentlessly in search of food he could steal. He ate everything: pickles, carrots, hot dog buns, tomatoes. And sometimes, when extremely desperate, he would eat his dog food.

When he saw anyone approach, he rolled over on his back for a belly rub. If you stopped rubbing him, he glared at you. “You’ve got some nerve,” he seemed to be saying. Everyone rubbed his belly: little old ladies, toddlers, Harley riders, even cat lovers.

As much as he loved me, he’d run away any time he had the chance. Not run away from me, of course, but on to a new adventure. He knew I’d find him. One Thanksgiving, he got through the invisible fence and found his way to a holiday dinner several miles away. He barked at the unfamiliar door. He knew strangers were a softer touch at the dinner table.

He also knew television. Everything he did was either funny or heartwarming.

When a second-rate musician was playing his electric guitar on my show, Barney pulled the plug out of the wall with his teeth.

When Ruth’s Chris opened downtown, Barney went into the kitchen during the show and stole a T-bone from the counter.

When an animal training expert claimed he had taught him some manners, Barney dug up the rose bush at my front step in front of him. On live TV, of course.

When I did a show with kids with Down Syndrome, Barney jumped on the bed with all 15 toddlers and snuggled with them.

When the camera focused on Barney, I swear the little guy looked right at the viewing audience.

Barney loved everyone. I don’t think he had an unhappy moment in his life. His final day was at the State Fair. It was filled with good food and adoring fans. That evening, he passed peacefully in his sleep.

Over the years, I have given out over 5,000 photos of Barney, each inscribed by me with a silly facsimile of a paw print. If you have a picture of Barney with that paw print, please keep it in his memory. That would mean a lot to me.

And, I am sure, it would mean a lot to Barney.

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at [email protected]