Previous Charleston resident writes inspirational book for children based on true events
Even though Barney the beagle, the lovable dog on wheels that captured local and national attention, has died, owner Robert Reintsema has made sure his memory will stay alive for years to come.
His book “The Little Dog That Couldn’t But Did!” was written about Barney’s life in the hope that it would inspire people with handicaps and disabilities. He hopes children will learn valuable life lessons from Barney’s story.
Reintsema said he didn’t intend on publishing the book for the public, but after talking with some friends, he realized that he could make a difference in someone’s life.
“The book was not intended to be a book, but a family keepsake of Barney so we could have long-lasting memories of him,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be finished photographs, but it is supposed to be more of a scrapbook. I wasn’t striving for the perfect picture quality, but I basically had to work with what I had.”
The book chronicles the dog’s life starting from when he was a puppy, but with a unique twist — the book is written from Barney’s point of view. Barney talks about his life-changing event, which took place Nov. 7, 2000, when he took a leap off his owner’s bed and ruptured a disc in his back. His spine had been seriously damaged and although he still had feeling in his back legs, he couldn’t put weight on them. He was unable to support himself and couldn’t walk. After hearing the news, Reintesema couldn’t think about putting his dog to sleep, and searched for a way for Barney to get around.
After Barney had surgery, Reintesema said his wife, Judy, went on the Internet and found a custom-made canine cart for Barney. This device, resembling a Chinese rickshaw, was made so Barney could go wherever he pleased and live a normal life.
Joyce Buckalew, the dog’s longtime pet nanny, contacted the media to tell them of Barney’s story, and he became a star. His story quickly traveled from local news outlets to CNN, where the world fell in love with the beagle.
Barney lived to be 13 and a half years old before Reintesema had to put him to sleep in the fall of 2008.
“He was in that cart for eight and a half years,” he said. “We finally had to put him down because his front legs went out and he didn’t have a way to get around.”
Reintesema published his book through Lightning Source, a business unit of Ingram Content Group, and edited the content to make the book marketable for children. The theme of the book is “Be like Barney — be all you can be,” which he said fits well for the elementary school-aged readers.
“What I’m trying to do with the book is get it into children choice reader programs,” he said, adding that he is trying to work with the Wounded Warrior Project. “The other natural market would be in children’s hospitals, veterinarian offices, pediatricians and kennels.”
He has gotten feedback from several libraries regarding the reading level, and they think the target market is anywhere from the second to sixth grade. Reintesema seems to think the age range is so broad because he used upper-level words such as “connoisseur” and “Chinese rickshaw.”
The main thing Reintesema wants people to get out of the book is not to dwell on problems you may have, but instead find a solution. In Barney’s case, he said, the solution was finding a device to help him get around and continue his long, happy life despite his handicap.
“The Little Dog That Couldn’t But Did!” is currently under review for sale at Taylor Books. It can also be purchased at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.
Contact writer Shawnee Moran at 304-348-4872 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shawneemoran22.