Introducing Barley the Blueberry Dog: Barley loves, loves, loves the blueberry patch. He understands and reacts to the word (blueberry), he reads my mind when I am deciding whether to go out back or in a different direction such as one of the gardens. Barley is very loyal. Maybe it is because of his horrible beginnings, maybe it is his funny mixed-up mutt breed (Jack Russell, Lab, Greyhound), maybe it is just because he loves us, we will never know. It is evident that the blueberry patch is his favorite place on the entire farm, his second choice is the black Ranger pick up in our driveway.
Now the thing that you need to know about Barley is his first six months were terrible. Our son found him huddled in his barn after an early snow fall 3 years ago, this past fall. He was most dead from starvation and the cold. He was so little we thought he was a very young pup that strayed from a hunting dog mom. After a week of searching, we discovered his story was a bit different. We traced him to a shelter where he had been ‘given to a good home’. Not really; it was a frightening experience for him and he bolted from the people and wandered lost for 6 days during an early November snow storm. After a few days of love, food and warmth we began to appreciate his intelligence and spirit – he appreciated someone who would care. It was very evident he had been abused, he cringed when a door opened or closed, he ran and hid when my husband sat to put work shoes on, and anything with a long handle such as broom, mop, or shovel terrified him. Soon he figured he had it pretty good and he could relax and do his job. By February I was out pruning blueberries and he was my constant companion. Soon he knew the signs: boots, jacket, pruners – we’re going to the blueberries! That excitement has never waned.
We estimate he is about 4 years old and it became apparent this past summer that he could not see well. After a vet check and a follow up appointment with a vision specialist we knew he had no vision close up and a bit of color and shape discrimination for distances. This is a genetic condition and nothing will reverse the progress, he knows no different and is very accepting. It is us that feels bad for him, so we go the extra effort for at least one trip to his ‘go to place’. His beloved two acres are mapped in his brain, he senses the rows of berries on each side so he is confident: the Greyhound in him runs like his tail is on fire, the Jack Russell in him must hunt, the Lab part wants company on his travels. Lucy, the long haired calico cat is NOT his first choice as traveling companion.
Today was perfect; sunny with a bit of new snow. I watched him track a rabbit with his nose to the ground, running full tilt, turning sharply when he sensed a bush in his path. Mice tracks that intersect with the rabbit tracks under some dense bushes stop him for a moment, then he is off again. I laugh as I see him trot up to me with a smile on his puss “I’m feelin’ like a man – got myself a man job, protecting my mom!” He trusts I will call him back if he goes too far astray so he runs full on to sunset. And by the way; the sunset was beautiful just as our Barley’s spirit is beautiful. Glad we are his ‘good home’.