Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
TITLE: The Guardian of the Neighborhood
By Michelle Knoll
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They made an interesting couple, my brother and the dog, walking those streets side by side. Barney's gate was a curious sight. I was always fascinated at the fact that he could walk a straight line with a body that wasn't... straight. From behind, one could see that his front legs and back legs didn't line up with each other. We finally figured out that he must have chased one too many cars, and possibly was caught by a few!
Day after day, week after week, Barney would remain faithful to his calling. Finally, when Barney had followed my brother home too many times, the Akers relented and said we could keep him. So the guardian of our neighborhood became the guardian of our house.
It took one long, hard winter to convince our dad that Barney did truly need to stay inside, far away from the cold night air. After all, he was a short-haired mutt, some cross between a St. Bernard and a German Shepherd, and something we couldn't quite make out -- probably beagle -- what with his short legs and all. But he was all dog, and all ours, and everyone in the family loved him. Everyone that is, except for my cat Cosmo. But then Cosmo didn't take kindly to many people... or animals...
But every afternoon, just like clockwork, Barney would assume his post of "right hand man" as my brother filled his paper satchel and commenced walking his route. Four blocks of houses, every afternoon, were greeted by a young boy and his dog. They walked and talked, walked and whistled, walked and tossed papers onto porches. I'm sure the two furry ears on that faithful warrior carried a great many secrets that my brother never told anyone else.
He wasn't one to create "situations" but he was one to finish them. There was one particular German Shepherd in the neighborhood, though not a member of the four blocks, that always irritated Barney. One day, the offending canine decided to wander into our yard. Baring teeth, and making noises that would scare the toughest of horror-movie watchers, Barney met the intrusion with determination, even though he was much smaller and shorter than the offending breed. The confrontation lasted only a few minutes, thanks to my brother, and Barney emerged unscathed. Well, almost unscathed. He lived the rest of his life with scars from one hole in each of his floppy ears... and a hole in his head (though not through his skull).
The days of walking the paper route eventually ended for my brother. We all became busy with the next stage of our lives, and began doing other things in the afternoons after school. However, one day I noticed that Barney was missing. Asking my brother where Barney could be, he looked at me quizzically, but had no answer. After an hour had passed by, we both decided we should start looking. Heading back toward the Akers' house, we caught sight of Barney on the next block over. Calling to him, we noticed that he stopped and looked at us, but didn't come when he saw us. Instead, he continued down the road. Puzzled, we decided we would follow him to see what he was doing.
After a few minutes, it dawned on us what was taking place. He was walking the old paper route! After asking around, we found out from neighbors that he actually walked the route every day, just as he had with my brother. Sometimes he was early, and sometimes he was late (which actually mimicked the way the papers had been delivered, much to my brothers chagrin), but he was there, all the same.
The faithful guardian, the lone sentinel, Barney remained until many years later, when he became too old to fulfill his daily mission. When arthritis set in harshly enough, Barney would take his post in front of the family television set, look up from his resting position and smile, while weakly wagging his tail. But that was alright; he had earned his discharge, and it was honorable.
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