Soulmates don’t have to come from the same species.
Barlow, the dog, knows the significance of being and having friends.
A few years ago, Barlow was another homeless and lone dog and was on the brink of death at an animal shelter. That all changed when Liza McKenzie and her family took Barlow into their home, and Barlow soon found his forever home and hoomans.
Liza was amazed at how well he fit into the family.
A few months after Barlow’s arrival, the family decided to expand their size again. A teacher at the children’s’ school had adopted a rat, which was unknowingly pregnant at the time of adoption, and the newborn rodents needed safe homes to live in.
The family decided to take in three male rats, all named Chippy, Dewey, and Mud Truck respectively.
Chippy was the special one among the three as he was born hairless.
It was scary at first as Liza was uncertain whether the rats would accept the dog in the house, and vice versa. So, she ensured that early introductions were made to avoid unwanted trouble. During the process, the hairless sibling demonstrated his fearless side.
“Right from the start, I noticed that while Dewey and Mud Truck seem to stay away from Barlow, Chippy would always make a beeline for him,” Liza observed.
It seems that Barlow understood that the rats were part of the family now and enjoyed spending time with them as the rats roamed around freely. He also knew when to give them space, which resulted in the growth of a blossoming friendship.
“Chippy was the only one of the rats who wanted to be as close to Barlow as possible whenever he was in the room. Chippy could nibble on Barlow’s big claws or poke around his ears and Barlow would just lay there and, quite frankly, seem to bask in the attention.” said Liza.
This would have seemed that these two made a unique pair.
The friendly presence of a smaller creature clearly appeased and comforted the dog who was once friendless. In return, he doted on his rat friend’s presence.
Liza noted how much time the pair would spend together when she noticed how Barlow would spend so much time licking Chippy “like he was a mother dog and Chippy was his baby. He would even share his treats with Chippy,” she said.
Throughout the years after welcoming the rats into their homes, it was only a matter of time before they had to bid farewell forever to the rats due to their short lifespan.
Dewey was the first one to pass on due to old age, and Mud Truck followed soon a few months later. Chippy was the last one of the rodent siblings to leave.
Even though Chippy outlived his siblings, his health began to deter as well. During the rat’s slow health declination, Chippy still looked for Barlow as a place of comfort, in which the dog was more than happy to do so.
Liza said the rat loved to sleep next to the dog’s warm belly as often as he could, and Barlow was always gentle with his sick friend. “I honestly believe that if Chippy didn’t have as much ‘touch therapy’ as he did from both Barlow and I, he wouldn’t have sustained this long.”
Despite being a fighter, Chippy still passed on. Even though the McKenzies were all sad, but they knew that Barlow had to understand that his friend would no longer be around anymore. The dog was given his chance to bid his final goodbyes.
Liza thought it would be a good idea to film the scene 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.”
Barlow then accompanied Liza as Chippy was laid down to rest in his final resting place next to his siblings. After all was said and done, Barlow lingered by the large stone that was marking Chippy’s grave. This was not the last act of devotion of the dog towards his friend.
During the upcoming days, the dog could always be seen visiting Chippy every time he was outside.
The bond of love the dog had for the rat not only remained but also changed the dog. Barlow’s visits to the grave became more infrequent as time passed on, which perhaps meant that Barlow understood Chippy had gone somewhere else Barlow could not follow.
According to Liza, she thought that by being able to process Chippy’s death in a way only Barlow could understand, such as smelling and licking Chippy’s body, helped Barlow move through what humans call grief more quickly.
Liza also feels more at peace that Barlow understands where his friend is and what happened to him.
Losing a friend is always difficult, and till this day, the McKenzies’ hearts are still healing. But the love that grew during Chippy’s short lifespan will always be something that Barlow and his family will carry on in their hearts forever.
Liza said that Chippy was indeed a unique little friend.
“We miss him everyday.”