The Old Couple and the Little Dog: Honey Barnes
Tsunamis, cyclones, tornados and avalanches create destruction, damage, death and devastation in their wake. No one can stop what happens and no one can prevent the outcome. As we listen to author Honey Barnes describe her life, what happened to her son Chip. The descriptions are so vivid, candid and honest that readers can picture her life taking the form of a violent storm, catastrophic mudslide or torrential rain. Chip was born with a serious neurological problem that was misdiagnosed, mistreated and never properly treated. Congenital Toxoplasmosis is defined as: A disease caused by the sporozoan Toxoplasma gondii, especially: a. A congenital disease characterized by lesions of the central nervous system that can cause blindness and brain damage. b. An acquired disease characterized by fever, swollen lymph nodes, and lesions in the liver, heart, lungs, and brain. Imagine learning that your son has this illness due to the fact that you were carrying all along. Depression, fear, anger, psychological problems, agitated and terrified were just some of words used to describe Chip and the end result would bring about a raging storm so violent that when the clouds settled and the sun would come out what was left resembled what we see on the news after a tornado or earthquake has struck.
Families often find it hard to deal with illnesses but when a family is caught as the author relates in a riptide dragging them down so far and causing the very fabric of their lives to shatter and tear sometimes the end result is equally as catastrophic as the illness. Author Honey Barnes describes within the Introduction what caused Chip’s illness, the fact that the doctors and hospitals could not figure out what to do, how to find a cure or treat him was heartbreaking. But, within this introduction you hear many voices of the author as she relates her feelings and frustrations about Chip and his illness but even more the wide rift and chasm it created between and her husband Wally. Working would be anyone’s escape and relieve but in 1985 Honey decided to quit work and took on a job as a part-time church secretary. But, things were just as tense as she describes and she and Wally became two residents in the same house but in entirely different worlds. With the support of her best friend Margie she weathered many more storms but when Chip overdosed on aspirin her life took on a downward spiral and now it was time to find her way back. A marriage that was as torn as a tapestry whose squares or afghan tells a story that can hardly be seen or recognized. So, did her life with Wally become a blur, a worn out picture of what it used to be until a miracle happened and it all changed.
Pets are special and often help people overcome many things. Honey was not about to give up on her life, let people intimidate her or just chuck it all in. March 7, 1995 a special present came into her life. A dinner out with a friend and a visit to a pet shop would be what she hoped the solution to her loneliness, sadness and bring some sunshine back into her life. So many dogs up for sale yet somehow Honey knew which one would be what you might say her soul mate forever. Love at first sight is what you might say as Honey was holding one puppy but could not take her eyes off of a smart, clever and really adorable Chihuahua that would become her best friend, gap solver and much more. Trying to come up with a way to convince Wally that she wanted and needed this dog she enlisted the help of her friend Bryce. Their plan was clever and the end result was how can anyone resist Chi Chi. But, first she had to break it to Wally who surprisingly enough decided not only to accept this precious animal but was sparked to take Honey and Chi Chi to France. How cool is that! So, maybe things were looking up for Honey.
The first step in caring for Chi Chi was to institute Operation Socialization which I think parents need to do with young children too. Having Chi Chi get used to noises, other dogs, animals, children different people, different races and more was a great way to start this program. Getting to know her neighbors and allowing them to hold, pet and play with Chi Chi amazing as you read Chapter 2 and hear the voices of so many when they interact with this precious dog. But, Chi Chi becomes housebroken except on rainy days you figure out what that means. Visiting Mother Barnes at her nursing home was special for both Mother Barnes and Chi Chi. But, who could resist showing her off even before they arrived at Wally’s mother’s room. Chi Chi was a big hit with so many and brought so many smiles. Learn what happens when Honey decides to take Chi Chi to obedience school. Her first encounter was with a trainer that was anything but kind or even obedient himself when it came to dogs and people. Finding Catherine was a blessing and what happens at the graduation will make you want to go out and buy some special treats for our Chi Chi. Throughout her life Chi Chi’s doctor was always there. Dr. Swenson was kind, loved Chi Chi and was the reason why when Honey gave her something she should not eat he managed to cure the problem without surgery. If you want the details read the chapter titled Graduation and Summer Break. Next, we meet a bully in obedience school and then poor Chi Chi does not like horses. But, why don’t you back your bags, get your plane ticket and join Honey, Chi Chi and Wally on their trip to Paris, visit all the sites, the great restaurants and get to know the wonderful French people that welcomed Chi Chi with open arms. But, when she returns learn what happen at the airport to Honey and what one inspector does that some might think is going overboard where others might say is just being cautious. We learn more about Honey’s family, her relationship with her siblings and why Bryce was such a support and good friend.
The pictures on pages 127-134 are priceless. Seeing Chi Chi in her straw purse and the picture of her with Mother Barnes, smelling flowers, with her birthday hat and with both Honey and Wally is priceless and brings the story alive. Friends and Foes enlightens readers into the man trips that they took, the reminder of what happened when Chi Chi was attacked in obedience school and another incident when with company. But, something happens what would change it all as Honey realizes that Chi Chi’s right eye did not look right and a visit to Dr. Swenson was vital. Extra eyelashes is what a specialist diagnosed the end result was surgery. The after care you have to read for yourself if you think just our medical doctors get confused and mistakes are made. Several specialists one that finally got it right but few that knew how to interact with Chi Chi.
There next trip to France was exciting but the plane ride would prove that not everyone was dog friendly. But, that was not all when their car was broken into and their things were stolen. Wally’s reaction really bold and harsh when Honey admits her passport was stolen leaving it in her camera bag. Is words were tough and the end result a visit to the police. Many trips, many shared experiences and one special dog that made it all possible. I think the coolest thing is when Honey got Chi Chi her first credit card which was for the benefit of AKC. How cool is that! If you want to see living proof check out the picture on page 131. Now, imagine that the clerks at the bank not reading the pre-approved stuff and Ms. Chi Chi Barnes was now the proud owner of Citibank Platinum Card with better credit than most humans. Both Wally and Honey used Chi Chi’s card and no one questioned them.
But, the next trip would prove quite exciting, tickets changes, shots needed and the entire incident is quite funny. While Wally takes a plane in one direction Honey and Chi Chi enjoy VIP treatment on another plane and the end result well you have to read it for yourself. Another trip would prove scary as Honey and Wally were robbed and Wally took charge. But, a trip to the Mirage and Chi Chi disappears but where? You have to read that for yourself.
Three lives that connected in a way that most would never know. Three lives that brought joy, love, laughter, happiness, tears, fun, adventure and life to each other. Memories are precious and new ones can never take their place but one dog named Bella has brought the spark back in Honey and Wally’s life. To find out more and learn just where they are now, the precious times they recount and how one dog can make you forget your aches and pains read The Old Couple and The Little Dog and know this: this old couple has more spunk and drive than people half their age. A heartfelt book that will make you laugh, cry, stand up and cheer and applaud and fall in love with Honey, Wally, and of course Chi Chi. Some storms finally end and the sun shines and the rainbow comes out. Told by Honey in her own voice in the first person this is one must read for everyone. Families are forever and so are memories.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
Let’s dedicate this to Chip, Mrs. Barnes, Rocky and of course CHI CHI!