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Have a Very Barkley Christmas and a Happy New Year

by on December 11, 2018 6:00 AM

I looked up and there was Barkley running at full speed. The chances of catching him were slim and none, his muscular frame powering through the turns tearing up the turf while firmly grasping the ball. The intense and focused look in his eyes made it obvious there was nothing that could be done to stop him. Tackling him is futile. He’s simply too strong, too fast, too elusive, and too determined. To stop him would take brains and a lot of brawn. 

I am, of course, describing my attempts to catch the second most famous Barkley in State College, our year-and-a-half old dog, Barkley. You may remember him from the time he ran away after only a week in our care back in fall of 2017. That event created a huge local Facebook response and successful volunteer effort to help return him safely.

Whenever I am in town, I try to take Barkley out daily, usually to play in a fenced-in yard with his pals Trey, a 15-year old black Labrador mix, and Penny, a 4-year old pit bull mix that belong to our neighbors, the Frittons. Barkley has so much fun running loose that even after Trey and Penny go inside he wants to keep on playing. Since I no longer have the cat-like reflexes necessary to catch him, I usually have to try to outsmart him to get him to understand that it’s time to head home.

As Barkley (the dog) and I walked into our house this past Sunday, his namesake, Saquon Barkley, the former Nittany Lion star running back and New York Giants rookie sensation, really was on the loose. My kids were yelling to get my attention to hurry up and watch as “the other Barkley” was on TV running for a 78-yard touchdown against their bitter rivals, the Washington Redskins. Barkley is the first Giants rookie running back in franchise history to run for 1,000 yards and there are still four games left to play.

I find time every day to hang out with “my” dog because of the sheer joy he brings to my life.  He is so affectionate and so loyal and helps make me forget about life’s demands and challenges, even if it’s just temporary. Barkley gives unconditional love. He isn’t judgmental, even if at times I am slow to get him a snack or to fill his water bowl. He follows me just about everywhere and is very protective. While he has never bitten anyone, he is big enough, strong enough, and possesses a loud enough bark to scare the heck out of any unsuspecting stranger.

He is so loyal that I should have named him co-author of my book, as he patiently hung around me, usually lying across my feet, while I was writing “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” At the very least I try to buy him some extra treats from any proceeds from the sale of the book.

Barkley has this awesome mask, is slender and muscular, and has a brownish-red coat. He’s been called handsome, gorgeous and adorable more than I ever have in my life. I love how he tilts his head with this inquisitive look at me when I talk to him as though he wants me to clarify a command or wants to cut to the chase and have me just take him out to play.  

We had so much fun hosting Thanksgiving and Barkley had a ball playing with his “cousins,” Ralphie (Goldendoodle), who belongs to my niece and nephew Shannon and Chris, and Abby (yellow English Labrador), who belongs to my niece and nephew Michaelyn and Greg. After a little ‘ruff’ start, the dogs played well together and gave us more than a few belly laughs. Christmas will be another adventure when we all gather again, and the dogs get to help provide the live entertainment.

Barkley has come a long way since his first two “escapes” a little over a year ago.  Now we are working on off-leash training and his progress has been remarkable. Big kudos to “Dog Whisperer” Claire Digman of the Digman Canine Academy. We have recommended Claire to others and everyone has been thrilled with her work. 

We also have to give big thanks to our neighbors Chrissy, Tim, and Hadley Fritton and their dogs Trey and Penny, who allow us to bring Barkley over to play in their spacious fenced-in backyard. It has saved us from investing in the “invisible fence,” which I would bet Barkley would figure out a way to get past, even if it meant absorbing a sudden jolt.

If you happen to have a pet in mind for this holiday season, please consider visiting or talking with my good friends at Centre County PAWS. There are plenty of dogs and cats looking to give unconditional love to others. We have benefited from their help with our former dog Sportster (for 14 years) and now Barkley. If you are not looking for a new pet, you can always help PAWS as a volunteer, by fostering a pet for a short time, or by making a charitable donation to the organization.

If you do want to catch the real Barkley on television this holiday season, he plays the next three Sunday’s at 1 p.m.  You’ll be watching history in the making every time Saquon runs the ball for the rest of the regular season.

So, if you happen to pass by our house and hear a low, deep and loud bark, it’s probably just the watchdog in Barkley coming out. If you see us along the bike path, don’t be afraid to come over to say hello. He’ll be a little shy at first, but after he warms up to you, he’s a friendly dog. 

As this holiday season gears up, the Battistas wish you a very Barkley Christmas, happy holidays, and a happy New Year!


Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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