Heartbroken Dog Visits The Grave Of The Rat Who Was His Soulmate
"I feel more at peace knowing that Barlow understands exactly where his friend is."
Barlow the dog knows better than most the importance of having a friend — and of being one, too.
A few years back, Barlow had been on death row at an animal shelter, just another homeless dog without a friend in the world. But that all changed when he was adopted by Liza McKenzie and her family — and there he found his place.
"He fit into our family so well," Liza told The Dodo.
Just a few months after bringing Barlow home, the McKenzies were called upon to grow their family yet again. A teacher at the kids' school had adopted a rat who turned out to be pregnant, and the newborn rodents needed a safe place to live.
"We decided to take the three boys — Chippy, Dewey and Mud Truck," Liza said.
Of the three rats, Chippy was most unique. He was born hairless.
Liza wasn't sure at first how Barlow would take to having the rats around, or if they'd be scared of him. So she made sure they were introduced early and often. In this process, the hairless sibling proved unique once more.
"Right from the start I noticed that while Dewey and Mud Truck seemed to veer away from Barlow," Liza said, "Chippy would always make a beeline for him."
Barlow seemed to understand that the rats were now part of the family, too. He enjoyed spending time with them as they roamed about, but knew not to be too assertive and to give them their space. And soon, a beautiful friendship began to blossom.
"Chippy was the only one of the rats who wanted to be as close to Barlow as possible whenever he was in the room," Liza said. "Chippy could nibble on Barlow’s big claws or poke around in his ears and Barlow would just lay there and, quite frankly, seemed to bask in the attention."
As unlikely a pairing as they might have been, Barlow and Chippy appeared to have found their soulmates in one another.
For a dog who was once lacking any form of companionship, the warmth of even a much smaller creature clearly delighted him. And he doted on his rat friend in return.
"I really knew that Chippy and Barlow were bonded when I saw how Barlow would spend so much time licking Chippy like he was a mother dog and Chippy was his baby," Liza said. "He would even share his treats with Chippy."
The McKenzies and Barlow had grown very close with all three rats, but sadly, as their life span is only about two years, their time together was destined to be briefer than anyone would prefer.
Dewey was the first to pass away of old age, followed by Mud Truck a few months later. Chippy, having lost his siblings, at least still had Barlow.
Though Chippy outlasted his brothers, soon his health began to fail as well. But during the rat's slow decline, Chippy still sought out Barlow as a source of comfort. The dog was always more than happy to oblige him.
"He loved to sleep next to Barlow’s warm belly as often as he could and Barlow was as gentle as he always had been with his sick friend," Liza said. "I honestly believe that if Chippy hadn’t had as much 'touch therapy' from both me and Barlow that he wouldn’t have made it as long as he did."
Chippy was a fighter, but he too passed away. The McKenzies were all devastated, but they knew Barlow needed to understand, too, that his friend would no longer be around. So, the dog was given the chance to say his last goodbyes.
The scene was so moving, Liza decided to film it to preserve the memory: "I felt like it was such a powerful testament to the very real bond between them and I knew I would never be able to convey the way Barlow was reacting with words."
Afterward, Barlow accompanied Liza as Chippy was laid to rest in the backyard near his siblings. When all was said and done, Barlow continued to linger by the large stone marking Chippy's grave. But this wouldn't be the dog's final act of devotion to his friend.
In the days that followed, each time Barlow went outside, he could always be found visiting with Chippy.
The bond of love Barlow had for Chippy hadn't been broken, but it did transform. The dog's graveside vigils became less frequent with time, perhaps in the understanding that Chippy had truly gone to a place he could not follow.
"I think being able to process Chippy’s death in a way he could understand, smelling and licking Chippy’s body, helped him to move through what humans call grief more quickly," Liza said. "I feel more at peace knowing that Barlow understands exactly where his friend is and what happened to him."
Losing a friend is never easy, and the McKenzies' hearts are still healing. But the love that blossomed in Chippy's short lifetime will be something Barlow and the family will carry with themselves forever.
"He was a special little guy," Liza said. "We miss him every day."