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The Adventures of Barkley, Continued

by on November 14, 2017 5:00 AM

Wow, can that Barkley run! His legs are so powerful and he is lightning fast. He leaps high over obstacles with ease. He is so quick to find an opening and to slip through the fingers of would be tacklers. Yes, Barkley was on the loose and no one could contain him.

So, if you were expecting a football article about a certain Penn State running back, I am sorry to disappoint. The Barkley I am describing is a certain four-legged creature who I happily wrote about in a recent column. He is our beautiful 5-month-old shepherd and hound mix rescue dog from PAWS and he gave us quite a scare when he got loose at 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 in a frigid downpour with howling winds. It turned out to be a gut-wrenching 36 hours for our whole family.

And it was my fault.

Barkley was doing so well with us in the first month since we adopted him. We were his new family, but it was his fourth home in his short existence, so he was still getting used to us and us to him. He had his nights and days mixed up which meant, just like our days of caring for a newborn child, we rotated duties on who stayed up with him. It took a few days but he eventually got straightened out.

Barkley did not like being on a leash and we were literally picking him up to carry him outside a few hundred feet from the house to encourage him to learn to walk with us. We knew he needed training and while we did our best, we contacted a local trainer who had come highly recommended. That was the good news. The bad news was that she was booked solid until the first week of December.

Given Barkley’s pleasant and playful demeanor, we figured we could handle things for a few more weeks until his formal training would begin. We did put a “Tile” Bluetooth tracker on his collar believing it would help us locate him if he did manage to get away.

Thank the good Lord for our neighbors Chrissy and Tim Fritton. They allow us to bring Barkley to their fenced in backyard to run and play freely with their dogs Penny and Trey. One morning I saw Chrissy about to walk her dogs and I asked if we could join them to see if Barkley would model Penny and Trey. It worked like a charm as suddenly Barkley wasn’t digging in his heels and pulling back toward our house all the time. Barkley actually walked side-by-side with Penny!

On the night of Oct. 29, I was in our basement helping our son Ryan rehearse his speech for an English class. Our eldest, Brianna, came down the stairs carrying Barkley and dropped him off saying she needed to get to sleep. Barkley had not spent a lot of time in our basement and began to explore while Ryan and I continued to work on his presentation skills.  

Suddenly I heard a strange sound and it dawned on me it was our dog deciding to leave his “mark” by peeing on the rug. I immediately rushed over and yelled for Barkley to stop. I picked him up and took him upstairs to prepare to take him outside.

The weather was absolutely brutal that evening with hard rain, strong winds, and cold temperatures. With all the commotion, Brianna had made her way back down just as I was getting my rain gear and shoes on. In typical multi-tasking effort, I reached for the backdoor with one hand while preparing to hook Barkley’s leash as I was simultaneously searching for my umbrella. At that exact moment, everything seemed to move in slow motion.

When I got up to look for the umbrella, Barkley was still not yet on his leash and I had opened the door enough that he saw the opening. Brianna yelled to me to close the door and just then our dog gate crashed to the floor. An already skittish Barkley got spooked and suddenly took off with Brianna diving to grab him before he made it out the door. But with a slipperiness that would make his namesake proud, Barkley eluded her tackle and was off to the Twilight Zone.  

Panic set it. This poor young rescue puppy that was still getting used to our family, was now out in the cold, rainy darkness.  We mobilized the family as fast as we could and began our search in earnest. We walked the streets of Stonebridge and drove around the surrounding neighborhoods to no avail. Yours truly would be in the doghouse if I didn’t manage to bring Barkley home safely.

Given the late hour on a Sunday night, we had few options for help. We called the Ferguson Township Police for any guidance and assistance they may have to offer and they responded immediately by sending over a car to help us search. I was very impressed with the help they were willing and able to give us.

After sloshing around for three hours we decided to call it a night and hope that Barkley would find a deck or a porch to stay out of the foul weather. We left our doors slightly open to hear him whimper in case he would return on his own. I am kind of wondering why we named the dog “Bark”-ley when we have only ever heard him bark once.  My wife, Heidi, slept on the couch and we immediately posted missing dog information on Facebook. The hope was always there that he would come home but given his age and the conditions outside, I am not sure Barkley even knew what home was, let alone where.

On Monday morning we made calls to our contacts at PAWS and to Barkley’s foster home provider, Mary McLaughlin. We also got in touch with Pet Recovery of Centre County and the post they helped create had a remarkable 851 shares on Facebook. They were so helpful in their guidance on what to say and not say on any fliers and posts and how to activate their incredible network. The post is below:

“Our rescue dog 'Barkley; got away last night and was last seen at 10:30pm in Stonebridge off Whitehall Drive.  We would be grateful to our State College friends to share this post.  Barkley is a 5-month old, 35-lb, red/brown shepherd/hound mix. He has a long black tail.  He is very shy but has no history of biting.  If seen please call … or local police as he will likely run away if you attempt to catch him.  Thanks!”

In addition to the Facebook posts, and texts to friends and neighbors, we put up close to 100 fliers. The response of friends, neighbors, acquaintances and dog-lovers in this community was heartwarming and overwhelming to us. The search continued and we got good news, which I posted later that evening:

"Thanks to everyone who helped search the Greentree neighborhood tonight. Our Dog “Barkley” was spotted multiple times between 7:45pm and 9:30pm in the area of Grace Court, McClary, Madison, McBath, and Westerly Parkway at the Ferguson/State College Borough Line 1.2 miles from our house on Williamsburg Drive.  At 11:30 p.m. our neighbor Jack Dimidio spotted him near Sheffield Drive in Stonebridge. We are halting search for tonight hoping he will hunker down.  We will resume at 6:45am!”

We were holding out hope that with the rain stoppage he could use his hound nose to lead him back home. I went to sleep much more confident that we might have luck on Tuesday morning.  

At exactly 6:44 a.m. we received a text from Tim Fritton: “Got Him!” Found outside the fence in their backyard where Barkley plays with Penny and Trey almost every day. A special thank you to neighbor Tina Kephart who first saw Barkley that morning and notified the Frittons.

We were overjoyed at the safe return of Barkley and we celebrated with our neighbors the Frittons and Trey and Penny in their family room. It may seem a bit silly to some but it was a very emotional reunion for us especially with the loss of our dog of 14 years, Sportster, still fresh on our minds.

Barkley gets a hug upon his return.

Big thanks to Christa Gallagher, Susan Harpster and the volunteers at Pet Recovery of Centre County, Mary McLaughlin and Liz Strickler and the PAWS of Centre County staff, and all the concerned neighbors and friends in the Greentree and Stonebridge neighborhoods who lent a hand in helping to find Barkley.  

Their efforts made me proud of our township and area and showed me that people of different ages and backgrounds can still come together for a common cause.   

Stay tuned, as I am sure there will be more of the “Adventures of Barkley (the dog).”

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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