Love and heart break – losing my Barley dog


Sometimes  you feel an overwhelming need to write. Today is one of those times. I’ve had a bit of a blogging block so far this year, but just need to express my feelings today – which are ones of love and a broken heart.

Well actually, two (and more) broken hearts as this morning, I had to make the terrible decision to put my little dog to sleep. My Barley was a miracle dog on many levels. It was a miracle that he ever came to live with me 8 years ago as he was a perpetual runaway before we found each other and he learned stability and love.

When a dog joins my life, it’s for keeps – no matter what. In Barley’s case that meant curbing his inclination to go for walks on his own. More importantly, it involved keeping him fit, alive and happy over the past four years since he was diagnosed with a serious heart problem and given weeks to live.

Barley never knew he was ill and just got on with things – a lesson for us all. Although he could no longer chase the sticks he adored discovering on our walks, he kept on going. Worked out ways to climb the stairs, scramble onto the bed and remain master of the pack. He was my little godfather dog – a miracle helped by modern heart medicine.

He would look at me with eyes filled with that wisdom of generations of dogs who know when they’ve found a loving home. He adored me, and this was reciprocated a zillion times over. No matter how many drugs he needed, how many trips to the vet, how many hot roast chickens or increasingly slow walks, nothing was too much for my Barley.

Barley was a miracle dog for my other two. For my old boy, he reversed the depression that set in when his previous companion died. They soon became best of friends. For my mad Rhodesian Ridgeback who was totally untrained when I rehomed her, Barley taught her how to behave. When she stepped out of line, he would stop still, slowly turn to look at her – and she’d immediately know she had to mend her ways.

His body was a minor miracle as it adapted shape to fit his ever expanding heart. He had the biggest heart of any little dog – literally. I knew he couldn’t last forever; that his life would be shorter than without the heart problem. But we took the years, months, weeks, days, hours and seconds we were given and stretched them as far as possible.

He made it to 11 years old (thereabouts) but today – sadly we knew the time had come. Despite our best efforts time caught up with us.

Many people think of love on Valentine’s day – many nurse a broken heart. I do both for a little black and white mongrel dog. He filled my heart with memories and a love of life that we hoped was forever. His heart just broke today and mine is pretty bruised.

If you’ve ever loved and lost a dog, you’ll know how I feel. If you’ve ever been loved by a dog, you know how lucky I was to have my Barley.

Perhaps not a typical Valentine’s day love story – but a celebration of unconditional love all the same.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

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