I always thought friendships between different species of animals only ever existed in the land of film, such as Babe and Zootopia, but Barlow the dog has proved otherwise.
A few years ago, Barlow had been on death row at an animal shelter, until he was adopted by Liza Mckenzie and her family, and with the McKenzie’s he clearly found his place.
However, a few months into his new life, Barlow was introduced to a number of newborn rats after the McKenzie family were asked to take on more pets – a teacher at their kids’ school adopted a rat who was pregnant.
Liza said she was unsure at first how their doggy Barlow would take to having rats around the house, or whether they’d be scared of him, so made sure they were all introduced, early and often.
Liza Mackenzie told The Dodo:
He fit into our family so well. We decided to take the three boys — Chippy, Dewey and Mud Truck.
Right from the start I noticed that while Dewey and Mud Truck seemed to veer away from Barlow, Chippy would always make a beeline for him.
Barlow enjoyed spending time with the little rodents as they roamed about and this was the start of a beautiful friendship between him and Chippy.
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 in his ears and Barlow would just lay there and, quite frankly, seemed to bask in the attention.
I really knew Chippy and Barlow were bonded when I saw 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.
It wasn’t just Barlow who grew close to the rats – the McKenzies had bonded with them all too, but sadly, a rat’s life span is only about two years.
A week ago today this guy had an infected eye removed (other side!) and he’s been slowly recovering. Slowly recovering, for a rat, apparently looks like slowly dying all of the time with intermittent periods of voraciously eating bacon. At one point, I know he was almost dead and I so I shot some more of his medicine down his throat and whipped up a homemade electrolyte solution of corn syrup, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar mixed into warm water and funneled down his throat with a syringe. He has been resting on a heated rice bag wrapped in fleece and being treated like a prince in hospice. Or in the recovery wing—hard to tell at this point. I told Burton if the round the clock love and care this rat is getting is any sign of my character, he should be doing all he can to make sure he grows old with me.
Dewey was the first to pass away of old age, followed by Mud Truck a few months later, but Chippy still had his canine carer Barlow, despite losing his siblings.
Unfortunately though, Chippy’s health began to deteriorate too, yet even during his decline in health, Chippy found comfort in Barlow and Barlow was only happy to lend a shoulder – or rather a paw/belly.
He loved to sleep next to Barlow’s warm belly as often as he could and Barlow was as gentle as he always had been with his sick friend.
I honestly believe that if Chippy hadn’t had as much ‘touch therapy’ from both me and Barlow that he wouldn’t have made it as long as he did.
Barlow says goodbye to his best buddy, Chippy the Rat. I wanted him to have closure and not to think that Chippy had just disappeared. I was surprised to see how intensely he reacted. He started trembling and shivering and at one point his teeth were chattering. ?#ChippyforPresident #chippytherat #animalfriends #rip
Despite being a rat full of fighting spirit, Chippy passed away and the whole family – including Barlow, were all gutted.
Barlow was given his own chance to say goodbye and Liza decided to film the sentimental moment in order 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.
As Liza approached Chippy’s grave, Barlow accompanied her in their back garden, burying him next to his other siblings, but when Liza had finished, Barlow wanted to stay by the grave and the stone marking Chippy’s special spot.
Over the following days, every time Barlow went outside, he’d always be found visiting Chippy.
Barlow’s expression of sadness for Chippy’s death continued, but eventually, the graveside visits became less frequent – something Liza says she’d like to think shows a form of understanding:
I think being able to process Chippy’s death in a way he could understand, smelling and licking Chippy’s body, helped him to move through what humans call grief more quickly.
I feel more at peace knowing Barlow understands exactly where his friend is and what happened to him.
[Chippy] was a special little guy. We miss him every day.
Losing a pet is never easy – and in Barlow’s case a friend – but the McKenzies will surely take comfort from the bond they had (and viewed) with Chippy, having a life-lasting memory they can all share.
A sports enthusiast with a BA (Hons) in Sports Journalism, who can be found predominantly at Villa Park. Having completed a Masters in Broadcast Journalism, she then went on to work at Sky Sports, the BBC, and the Mirror. When not engrossed in sport, it’s animals, guitars, and Liam Gallagher which take main focus.