Instead of always hearing about life on a rock from a human’s perspective, perhaps to mix things up you’d like to hear it from the floor-level vantage point of a 4-legged furry being….
My name is Barley and I’m a mature 57 years old. (That’s calculated into human years for you. I did you a favor and translated it as I know humans have a hard time with tricky conversions like Fahrenheit/Celsius, miles/kilometers, and human/dog years). And just to be clear, that’s Barley with a “B”. Ever since that movie about the yellow Lab became popular, I am constantly being mistaken for a Marley. It’s Barley and yes, my name is unique – just like me.
I’m not that keen on being called a “pirate” since I consider myself more of lady than that, but if you take into account that I’ve sailed the high seas, been involved in smuggling, I’m named after a beer ingredient, and have the infamous pirate one-eye (sans patch), I suppose you could categorize me as a type of pirate. Perhaps buccaneer or privateer would sound more distinguished. Or just think of me as a Keira Knightley character – an empowered damsel with a cutlass. Anyway, you get the picture.
I am relatively small, but not one of those “miniature” or “toy” versions of some designer breed. I like to consider myself a petite big-dog. Someone once told me that it looks like I accidentally got shrunk in the dryer, like your favorite wool sweater. Luckily, my size has come in handy throughout my life since it makes me highly transportable.
I never knew my real mother since I was adopted at 6 weeks old, but I consider my adopted mother my true mom, even though I’m biologically older than her now. She’s just like any normal mom; we have communication issues, I ignore her demands more often than I probably should, and she’s always fussing over me and worrying about me.
I’m from a small town in upstate New York, although I’m regularly mistaken for being a local Bahamian Potcake. I’ve road-tripped across the USA four times, have lived in the mountains of California, the cool coastal beaches of Washington State, and in sunny Florida before I finally landed on a 32’ sailboat in Charleston, SC and headed south to the Caribbean.
We set out on a sailing adventure headed towards the US Virgin Islands but only made it as far as the Bahamas and decided we wanted to stick around. We island-hopped throughout numerous regions of the Bahamas and I was able to run freely on more remote and beautiful beaches than I could have ever imagined in my wildest doggie dreams.
My all-time favorite island, however, is Norman’s Cay. You know the movie Blow with Johnny Depp where the druglords took over an island and used it as a stopping ground to transport drugs from Colombia to the US in the 1980s? Well, Norman’s Cay was the real place where that actually all went down. Maybe I landed there and felt like I fit right in since I’m technically a pirate and it fits in with my persona. It was a dog’s life on Norman’s Cay. After Mom disembarked the sailboat, we stayed in a little cottage on land and every morning I took myself for a walk on the deserted beach. Then I might make my way up to the island’s only restaurant, The Beach Club, and hang out there to watch the comings and goings and try to sneak the occasional french fry from generous customers.
I had plenty of friends of my-kind who also hung out at The Beach Club. Salt & Pepper the Lab and Chihuahua; old lady Brandy, the grumpy Jack Russell; Lilli, the young and spirited Yorkie; and Brock the blonde Potcake, who struggled with a bit of OCD but seemed to calm right down once I invited him to stay indefinitely at our cottage. It sounds like a lot of dogs hanging around, but you hardly knew we were all there. It was usually too hot to do much else besides find a shady spot to quietly laze the day away.
At the bar, there were always sail boaters and pilots and loads of interesting stories to listen to; stories of the high seas and first-hand accounts of the drug-running days. Oftentimes the bar would stay open until late into the night with plenty of carrying on. I’ve seen things that I probably shouldn’t repeat – you know the whole fly on the wall thing. Mom helped out at the bar and sometimes in the kitchen. That’s where Mom met Mark, who I lovingly call my stepdad, since he wasn’t around for my childhood, but took me under his wing like a real dad would.
Mom got really sad when Mark got a job on another island about 20 miles away. You know 20 miles wouldn’t sound far in “the real world” but out in the remote islands where we lived, it might as well have been another planet. They tried calling each other every night but the cell company kept dropping calls and the internet was so bad that they couldn’t Skype each other either. If it actually were another planet, I’m sure NASA would have had the mechanisms available in order to communicate, but unfortunately it was just some technologically forgotten corner of planet Earth. Mom didn’t know what to do because The Beach Club was about to close down and Mark was going to be out working on that island for the next 2 years. They couldn’t imagine not being together for all that time, much less not being able to even talk to each other!
Eventually they had the great idea to send Mom to EMT school to become a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician so she could take care of construction workers that might hurt themselves on Mark’s remote jobsite. Mom and I flew all the way to Washington State where her family lived so I could stay with Auntie Kim while Mom went to EMT school up in the mountains. I’ve flown in charter planes on Mom’s lap a lot, but I hated flying commercial and Mom promised never to do that to me again. She was even so adamant that I didn’t have to fly in the cargo hold that she went ahead and got me registered as a service dog so now I can fly on the commercial airlines in the cabin like normal people. It’s much more dignified.
When we got back to the Bahamas, Mom was offered a job on the island where Mark worked. Hurrah! But there was one problem: ME. Mom couldn’t leave me behind, but it was the private island of a very high-profile person and we knew that dogs were a no-no. So that left only one option: smuggle me ashore.
We flew on a charter plane to a nearby island with an airstrip, and then boarded a small boat to go to the private island. When we got close the island, Mom put me in a duffle bag and covered the top with a blanket so I could still peek my nose out. I’ve spent most of my life being toted around in bags and backpacks so I was used to it. When she opened the duffle bag, I hopped right into it because I was just glad to be coming along. We snuck into the 20×20 sq ft room that was to be our home for the next year and a half and I learned really quickly not to bark at all. Normally I would bark when someone knocked on the door or entered the room, but I knew that this was a super stealth mission and I had to keep my presence under wraps.
Mark was working on a project on the other side of the island so he was one of the few people that was granted his own transportation. Every morning and evening Mom would lay the duffle bag down on the floor and I would crawl into it. We would take the transportation to an empty beach on the other side of the island so I could run around and get some exercise. On Sundays, we would sneak aboard the boat and go to a different island so I didn’t have to be incognito for the day. Luckily, with 2 years living on a sailboat under my belt I was used to being stuck in small spaces and I was just thankful that I was able to be with Mom.
There were very few people that knew I was on the island for the first 6 months but after a while, the island managers finally spotted me, and you know what? They didn’t even mind that I was there. I was finally free to be out in the open, come out of the closet, if you will. I even became sort of an island mascot. There were 350 workers who were living on the island, away from their families and their own pets, so they all liked visiting me in the office and giving me lots of attention. I even made a friend in the kitchen who would save me delicious scraps of chicken and steak and would sometimes cook me a special doggie meal.
Mom and Mark finally finished up working on that island and went to a new island. We’ve been on Harbour Island for 2 ½ years now and I would consider myself semi-retired from piracy. I don’t need to sneak around anymore and pretty much just lounge on one of my fluffy beds scattered throughout our expansive 1100 sqft house, or if I’m feeling outdoorsy, I sprawl out on the grass in the sun. I really missed grass when I was living out in the islands, but now we have a proper yard that I can roll around in it to my heart’s content.
There are probably new islands on the radar someday, new adventures to experience, and new scents to smell. And I may consider coming out of pirate dog retirement if a special mission required it. But the important thing is that I know that no matter what, I won’t be left behind.