Opinion: License to fill
It’s been a rough week for me. We had been together for almost 25 years and we were very attached. For reasons way too complicated to explain, regulations at the BMV would not allow me to renew my BARNEY8 license plate. What an emotional goodbye we had.
For those who don’t know, Barney was my beagle who accompanied me on WISH-TV, Channel 8, for more than 12 years, entertaining viewers with his unpredictable antics each morning. Next month marks the 25th anniversary of when I found him on my doorstep on my way to work at the TV station. I soon started taking him to work with me every day at my wife’s insistence (he was destroying the house). He became a TV star very quickly and I celebrated our working relationship by purchasing a vanity plate with his name and the station’s number.
Barney was on TV with me for so long that some people who saw the eight next to his name thought there had been eight different dogs, kind of like Lassie. But there was only one Barney, and although he died in 2003, I continued to renew the plates. Doing so kept his legacy alive. People who passed me on the street saw the license, honked and waved. How cool is that? And folks were still doing it … until last week.
Because of this incident, I have been thinking about some of Barney’s escapades. So, in honor of Barney’s “birthdate” and David Letterman’s retirement, here are my top 10 Barney moments.
10: On his first appearance on TV, he pulled a grass skirt off a senior citizen doing the hula at a retirement home.
9: After taking a few obedience lessons from an animal behavior expert, Barney dug up a rose bush and ate the microphone cord during one of my live segments while the veterinarian looked on in horror.
8: He stole a steak from the kitchen at the grand opening of Ruth’s Chris Steak House
7: He was “arrested” by police for sneaking into a Kroger and stealing a rotisserie chicken off a display cart.
6: At the Natatorium, Barney climbed the steps and walked out onto the diving platform some 60 feet in the air.
5: He got loose in Market Square Arena and was finally found downtown by IPD. They called me and begged for me to come get him. His howling was driving them crazy.
4: He ran away from home and was found 25 miles away a week later.
3: In a search-and-rescue dog demonstration in a granite quarry, he found me twice as fast as all the professional tracking dogs.
2: In a demonstration with six coonhounds, my beagle successfully followed the smell of a pepperoni stick to a picnic table, while the other hounds followed the raccoon scent to a tree. Guess who got the better deal.
1: Barney passed at age 14, hours after spending an entire day at the Indiana State Fair with adoring fans. That week, I got 2,500 condolence emails letters.
In the past 25 years I’ve had six different cars and I’ve had another beagle sidekick, but I have always renewed that same license plate. Now, I have a new plate with a combination of letters and numbers that I’ll likely never commit to memory. But that’s okay. I hung BARNEY8 on the wall in my office. We did 2,445 shows together. And that’s a number I will always remember.