Barkley: Snoopy or Benjy?

Barkley Barcza is our newest family member. We didn’t choose the name, glad to use the name that he already seems to know. And yes it sounds cute with his surname.

Snoopy is the beagle everyone knows, the creation of Charles Schulz as part of the Peanuts comic world. I grew up with the animated specials at Christmas time, Snoopy becoming a star with his own pop-song about his battle with the Red Baron. It’s fiction of course, but he’s the beagle of popular mythology, so much so that when I have walked Barkley Snoopy was mentioned by someone I met.

Speaking of which, I’m re-reading Fifteen Dogs André Alexis’s 2015 novel, while being mindful of the Crow’s Theatre adaptation from early this year.

While everyone experiences art differently, I wonder if anyone was feeling as I did, having just welcomed Barkley a few days before. I’m remembering what I wrote about Benjy the beagle.

When Benjy the beagle tells Majnoun about his ability to get a response from people by rolling over in the book, it’s a dark admission, that the dog can manipulate a human. But when Benjy (played by Peter Fernandes) demonstrates this to Majnoun (played by Tom Rooney) and all of us in the theatre, it’s hysterically funny. There’s a tonal shift as the prevailing tone of the show is lightened by the enormous amount of laughter. When you’re watching people impersonate dogs the laughs are guaranteed, and perhaps the first casualty is some of the seriousness that I might have craved.

Benjy is a survivor. He tricks several dogs into eating poison to escape from them. I am in awe of his intelligence.

And I don’t blame him of course. He’s just trying to survive.

Perhaps I was taking it all too seriously? But I was deep in the heart of my own drama with Barkley, a drama that’s still ongoing as he approaches his first birthday. I think of Snoopy (Charlie Brown’s cuddly pet) and Benjy as two extremes, as I learn more about Barkley.

While we do know the date of his birth, much of his life is a mystery. We know he has had previous owners, and they were not always kind to him. That’s more of the Benjy experience.

He’s a handsome beast, taller than we expected at times making me think he’s almost a foxhound rather than a beagle, especially when he’s running in the yard.

As with Benjy (or any dog) one doesn’t know what he’s thinking. Barkley is smart. We may think we’re in charge, but sometimes life turns into a game he’s playing with us. We have a television remote control that he ran with until we managed to give him a treat instead. I have a pair of glasses with teeth marks.

When I think of training sometimes I wonder who’s training whom (and try to laugh about it). Keeping it light makes it all much more enjoyable even if the progress is slow. Right now we’re doing our best to make him feel welcome, to make sure he gets enough hours of sleep per day, exercise and the right food. He knows the sit command and often comes for his name in the yard, knowing he’ll be rewarded. That sometimes feels like a Benjy thing, that he’s playing us for all the treats he can get.

No wonder he’s a bit overweight.

While we won’t give him a cake for his birthday on Tuesday, we will sing Happy Birthday to Barkley on Tuesday May 2nd.

This entry was posted in Animals, domestic & wild, Books & Literature, Dance, theatre & musicals, Personal ruminations & essays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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