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My Excellent Life,
by Barkley Kochenburg, told to Diannek

Hi, I'm Barkley. That's Karen with me. We are currently in a long term (I hope) relationship. I've kicked around a lot, been here and there, but I've never had a gig quite as good as this one. Karen is the best, ever. And I should know.

I left home when I was just a pup. I can barely remember my birth family but I was a happy little doggie. I remember being taken away from my mom by this big guy who smelled funny. He smoked a lot, and he had a stinky truck with a cage in the back. It smelled like -- hmm -- dog poop. Off we went, to some sort of camp.

It was a special school, but I've learned since then that it wasn't your typical obedience school for good doggies. Nope, my school days were different. They wanted me to become mean, so they did bad things to me. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, I was just a little kid. I tried to growl and snarl, bark really loud, and fight. But I wasn't very good at school. They hit me, kicked me, hollered at me, and starved me. It was so awful, especially for a dog like me, sensitive, you know. They even tried to make me fight other doggies, black ones like me. I was so homesick, frightened and alone. I was a bad dog school dropout.

I ran away. Yup. I'm a good runner. I snuck out one night when they accidentally left the cage unlocked. Uh-huh. Just like that. There were guard dogs all over the place but they just watched me go without lifting an ear. They were as tired as I was. I left because I just couldn't stand those mean people any longer.

I wandered around and I was hungry. I'm always hungry. Maybe it's because of those old days. When I was on the road and running, I ate everything I could find. Dead things, garbage that people threw away, animal poop, rotten fruit, other things I won't even mention. You name it, I ate it.

One day I got picked up off the street and was taken to an animal rescue place. Another cage, more doggies like me, but this time I got a bowl of what they called dog chow every morning. Delicious. I'll never forget chow time. And nobody hit me or was mean to me. They gave me a bath and did some other crappy things to me, like shots, I hate shots. I shivered a lot even though it wasn't cold. Then I got lucky. A nice lady came along and took me home with her. She put me in another cage but this time I had a blanket to lie on, and it was warm. That was so nice. I love blankets. I had to stay in the cage most of the time, but I knew I was safe. Twice a day they let me out to pee. I can hold it for hours, but only twice a day, gimmie a break! I spent most of my time sleeping, dreaming of my next walk and then my food bowl.

Months went by, maybe years. I'm a dog I don't count such things. Then Karen came into my life. She was friends with the nice lady with the cage. Karen is even nicer. I love Karen and her three cats. Life is so good now. I don't live in a cage any longer. I have the run of the house. I'm a house dog, yippee! And Karen takes me places. She keeps talking about how old I am because sometimes I limp, and I've got a few gray furs. I don't know my birthday, so I made up a fake date for my facebook page. I pretend to celebrate it and thank everybody for their thoughtfulness. And I get presents. I love toys, and rawhide bones. I like to watch TV. With Karen. Whatever Karen loves, I love. Like her mom, I love her mom too. I would do anything to please Karen, the love of my life.

Here I am on vacation with Karen. In June we went on this long road trip to look at rocks. We saw rocks all over the place: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, you name it, we camped there. We climbed over rocks, sat on rocks, took pictures of rocks, slept on rocks. Honest, that's what we did. I'm not kidding. I don't like tents, or heights and overlooks, or vista points of interest. But I do like chasing small rabbits and scaring the daylights out of birds. I even tried to lick an Elk's nose, but he wasn't having a good day. I also like big trucks and things that smell funny. I like to pee on trees, imagine the fun I had here in this picture. We are in a national park. I love parks. This is one of my favorite places of all. I peed on every tree, well, almost.

Here I am at the Grand Canyon pretending to contemplate the view. In reality, I'm scared to death and could care less about beauty, or rocks. I'm color blind you know. There's no place to pee. I just want to go back to the car and try to convince Karen that it's a motel night. I love motels, the soft beds, good treats, some TV, and Karen, whom I adore. Can we go now, please?

We were on vacation for a long time. I thought maybe we were never going to go back home to the cats. Ha! Poor cats, they never go on vacation. I was so surprised when one day, after running on the beach and having a great time with Karen, we turned onto a street that I recognized. It smelled like home, it looked like home. The cats were there waiting for us. My bed was there, my toys, my blanket. Home sweet home.

I'm a lucky dog. I love my life and I love Karen. And I don't care whether I ever go on vacation again. As long as Karen is there to take me for a walk and fill up my food bowl, and then let me cuddle up with her and my blanket, life is sweet.

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