Last week, Barn and I got news we didn’t want to hear.

Last week, Barn and I got news we didn’t want to hear. After a long, long day of waiting at a university veterinary hospital while my sweet dog endured poking, prodding, X-rays, sonograms, lymph node aspirations, and six tissue biopsies Barney was diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma. Given Barn’s age and the advanced stage of the disease, his prognosis is grim. He is not going to get well. 

Now, there are choices to be made – difficult ones. The university intern strongly urged me to consider chemotherapy. She said dogs tolerate the treatment quite well and it might put him in remission for a few months, but when pressed, she could give me no promises. (I wonder how well dogs really “tolerate” chemo.  If they could talk, we might find out they feel like heck!) Even with chemotherapy, Barn would not live more than a few extra months.

After coming home and talking with Rich and my veterinarian, and doing the whole “quality versus quantity” discussion, we decided not to subject him to the chemotherapy. There are other treatments that will hopefully keep him more comfortable and enable us to enjoy the time we have left together. It has been an excruciating process because I do not want to let Barney go; not now, and not ever, but I just can’t be selfish at his expense.

I won’t pretend that Barn has been an absolutely “perfect” dog (although he comes pretty close now). In fact, to many, Barn would have been a huge pain in the backside, especially in his puppy days. If he had been adopted from FFAA, they might have asked to exercise their “return clause” in their contract. He had major separation anxiety which caused him to do such things as eat furniture, peel wall paper off the walls or howl incessantly when I left him. He jumped on and/or goosed every guest. He raided the kitchen counters (including Thanksgiving deviled eggs). Barn has lived to love and play and play — and play. He has seized any opportunity to run up to me from behind, ramming his head between my knees, almost knocking me down, to drop a soggy toy or ball on my feet. It was quite a shock to unsuspecting guests (and embarrassing) when he has given them the same “come-from-behind-wanna-play” invitation. If I, (or anyone else) was seated, (trying to relax) he would immediately toss a toy directly and precisely into my lap and stare at me until I threw it. I never had to teach Barn to retrieve anything.  He returned with his toy at the speed of light. When I folded laundry, he’d toss his toy into the laundry basket (hoping I’d notice). If I opened a drawer to get something out or put something away, his toy would come flying into the drawer. (Did I mention that he loved the squeaky toys most?) His aim was so good, that I taught him to play Nerf basketball. He delighted in my bath time, because I was captive. He loved the splash when his toys hit my bath water. His love for water made wet toys even more fun than dry ones. Since Barn was a puppy, I have not taken one swim in our human pool that didn’t include a thousand and one, non-stop, water retrievals and tosses of his ball or Frisbee (unless I locked him in the house). This is not most people’s idea of a nice, relaxing swim. I have never been able to move freely from one room to another in our home without Barn needing to be right on my heels (including the bathroom). If I shut the door, he opened it. I have never successfully gone from one room to another without his notice. This kind of dog would have driven many people absolutely crazy.  But, I have loved every memorable minute of him. Barnabas is responsible for those deep laugh lines in my cheeks and on my heart! The university staff described Barn as the “perfect gentleman.” I swelled with pride, thinking how far he and I have come. If a young, unruly dog is driving you crazy today, take heart! I forgot to bring Barn’s leash today and then remembered, he doesn’t need one.

Leanne Williams writes a weekly column for the Daily News.