Barney and the Shopping Cart


Original story by James Henerson

At this moment, Barney, my golden doodle, is lying by my desk, looking up at me with that ‘Why aren’t you taking me for a walk?’ look in his big, fur-fringed brown eyes. It’s a habitual glance, and it never fails to stir just enough guilt so that, more often than not, I stop what I’m doing and take him for a walk. Little does he know that on this occasion I’m writing about just that, a walk taken four-and-a-half years ago.

Barney, or Barnes, Barnaby, Barnacles, or occasionally Poodle Paws, (depending on how whimsical I’m feeling), was my six-month old, fifty-pound puppy when I succumbed to one of those looks and consequently hooked on his leash. With his behind wriggling and his tail waving, we set out for Whole Foods, our local supermarket, some six blocks away in Sherman Oaks, California. With frequent stops for sniffing, marking, and once for a pooh stop, we made our way down my steep, curving driveway onto Kingswood Lane. We then made a quick right turn onto Woodcliff, which is a hillside route to the west side of Los Angeles for those wanting to avoid the 405 freeway (frequently a parking lot). We made another quick right onto Saugus, which crosses Valley Vista, and on past Sutton and Greenleaf into the Whole Foods parking lot.

I tied Barney to a shopping cart with his leash, told him to stay, and hurried into the market. In defense of Barney’s future actions, I must admit that at six-months old, the doggie equivalent of a toddler, the command ‘stay!’ was not yet in his repertoire.

Before I could head for the check-out stand, a voice came over the loudspeaker. “Will the owner of a tan shaggy dog please come to the entrance?” A stab of instant fear. Oh my God, he’s been run down in the parking lot! The checker pointed. “He went that way!”

That way, lay Sepulveda Boulevard, a major north-south highway, always crowded with speed-limit testing traffic. Fear transformed instantly into panic. I ran to Sepulveda, dashed twenty paces in one direction, twenty in the opposite. No Barney, but a shopper who had just parked in the Whole Foods lot pointed toward Saugus, mercifully away from Sepulveda.  “I think he went that way.”

With my heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing, I sped up Saugus until I could see the end. No Barney, but there were several streets leading off from Saugus to the left. He could have decided to take any one of them. I was immobilized. What to do?

I made a command decision. Run home, pick up my car, and canvass the neighborhood. At warp speed, I sprinted the last four blocks, arriving at the foot of my driveway near to cardiac arrest. Exhausted, palms on my thighs, girding myself for the final ascent, I heard a galvanizing sound: woof.

And there, sitting in front of the entrance to the house, still attached to the Whole Foods’ shopping cart, having dragged it six long blocks through four unfamiliar turns, and up a steep driveway, the expression in his eyes said something like ‘Where the heck you been? I’ve been waiting here for hours’. It was Barney, the intrepid golden doodle with the internal GPS.  Lassie, eat your heart out.


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