While it’s true that Barkley isn’t much of a talker, his story makes him an exception to the rule.
Barkley is a handsome, 98-pound golden retriever who has just found a new home at the Maddock Memorial Home, nestled next to a rolling prairie in the small central North Dakota community of Maddock.
Barkley was just a puppy when he was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in August 2005 in the southern U.S.
“He was about 3 or 4 months when he got uplifted,” said Beth Olson, administrator at the home. “I don’t really know too much of the story there, other than that’s where he came to the (Souris Valley Humane Society) from. His file says he was adopted in December of that same year.”
Barkley is a big, gentle soul who is quick to take to anyone willing to offer him attention. He stands still until whomever is ready to stop petting him, at which time he starts to look around to see if anyone else is ready to spend some time with him. He lays his head on the lap of anyone sitting down while they pet him.
Yet somehow, he was back on the waiting list to go to the humane society.
Olson said family dynamics caused Barkley’s behavior issues, which were the reason he was about to be placed at the humane society. The previous owner was unable to be home as much as they desired, and Barkley would get lonely and escape from his yard. The fees for bringing him back from the pound were mounting up.
A woman in Minot who had Maddock ties found Barkley at the library one day when he had gone AWOL, and through his implanted microchip found his owner, who informed her Barkley was on the list for the humane society.
“She had actually already called us about her dog,” Olson said. “Then she called back and said, ‘I have an even better dog.’”
Barkley seems thus far to be a perfect fit for the home. He is tall, so residents don’t have to bend over far – if at all – to pet him. He has already been trained to stay out of the kitchen. Barkley will monitor whoever he is following – often Olson, who he has spent the most time with thus far – from one of the three kitchen entrances, but won’t come in. If someone moves toward another door, Barkley heads that way so that he can be waiting at a rendezvous point for his friend’s arrival.
He doesn’t beg for food in the dining area while people are eating, but he will check under the table to see if anyone has dropped any food.
“He stays out of the kitchen,” said Diane Gustafson, who works in the kitchen at the home. “We only told him a couple of times. I don’t think he likes table scraps – he doesn’t beg.”
Barkley came to the home with a kennel, but after a day or two stopped sleeping inside, instead opting for a comfy spot apparently somewhere in Olson’s office. He stays there all night, to the point where Olson said, “You wouldn’t even know he was here.”
“I don’t sit down much during the course of the day,” she said. “He follows me everywhere, so he sleeps all night.”
“He’s worn out,” she laughs.
When a stranger arrives, Barkley makes a beeline to check out the new arrival while uttering a noise similar to a growl – not aggressively, but more like he’s attempting to speak to let staff know, “Somebody’s here,” in the ancient language of the golden retriever.
“He definitely knows who’s here,” Olson said. “He knows the residents – I haven’t heard him ‘growl’ at any of them yet. He knows which residents to avoid that don’t like him.
Barkley’s coat is so thick, long and beautiful that he inevitably gets referred to as “she” in conversations – also partly because the previous official mascot, Goldie, was a female golden.
He hasn’t taken to going off by himself to visit residents in their rooms yet, but Olson is hopeful that he will at some point because many of the residents would like that. Since he is still fairly new to the home, he is more of a follower at this point. He gets excited only occasionally – mostly about taking walks, but only when he is encouraged to do so.
Olson and staff take him for a walk daily, and he obeys verbal commands even to the point of resisting a cool dip.
“When we go by a pond or whatever, we tell him, ‘No,’ and he listens – which I don’t know how he could not be tempted,” she laughed.
Barkley loves kids, too, Olson said, and is always friendly to the folks he meets on his walk.
“He likes to chase cats, but he loves cats,” she said. “He just wants to play with them.
“He’s just so nice.”
And after his long odyssey, it looks like Barkley has finally found a perfect place to stay.
Dave Caldwell/MDN •
Barkley enjoys one of his favorite places – underneath the desk of Maddock Memorial Home Administrator Beth Olson. Barkley is partial to crawling into smaller areas to lie down, Olson said.