But as time moved on, Barney grew into a strong, sixty pound sled dog. And because he was so crazy to hook up and run, I started putting him up front, since that often quiets a rowdy dog down. And darned if he didn't turn into a lead dog. When it was time to retire Springer, my old leader, Barney stepped up and became the main leader. No matter how bad the trail or steep the hill, Barney was up for it. He didn't like to stop for breaks, after a few minutes he was whining, ready to go again.
But like all good things, they come to an end. First I noticed he had trouble with the speed on the downhills, so tried to keep it slow. Then he started limping occasionally, but always wanted to go again. Last fall he did fine on the early training along the highway but when we switched over the more remote trails that were soft and punchy, he struggled to keep up. Finally decided to leave him home and he was fine with that, happy to just run around the yard and bark a lot. He started having trouble jumping up on his house, then quit eating all of his food. When he didn't eat at all this weekend, well it was time. Took him into the animal shelter where he was euthanized. I know it was for the best, but it's like losing a good friend. Well if there's a dog heaven, he'll be up there, barking and running around like when he was a pup. Good times again.
Leading the team home. While Spuds was a little better on commands, Barney likely was the hardest working dog we've ever had. He was an animal!