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Barry the (Problem-Solving) Cocker Spaniel - Short Story by Kenneth Nolan

My Uncle Tim was a quiet, polite man. He was unassuming, very gentle in his nature and much liked in his community. I never heard a bad word said about him. He died a while back and we all miss him greatly. He lived on Le Fanu Road in Ballyfermot with his roguishly loveable, big eared, elegant little furry brown (problem-solving) cocker spaniel dog Barry. As you may know Ballyer can be a mad auld kip so it wouldn’t be such a stretch to find a problem-solving cocker spaniel living there. Barry was Tim’s humble servant for years and they were great friends until they had a falling out, but we’ll get on to that a little later.

Anyway, people came from all over Ireland to Ballyfermot to see Barry the problem-solving cocker spaniel in the hope that he could solve a problem they may be having. They arrived with all sorts of ailments, worries and predicaments;

cancer, ugliness, bankruptcy, impotence, gout, acne, court dates for unpaid TV licenses, marital breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, roadside breakdowns, gonorrhoea, leprosy, diabetes, problems with decision making, baby making, money making, you name it!

Any problem you can think of, Barry has dealt with it at some stage or other. People would make appointments weeks and months in advance but always arrived at the house in Ballyer at their allotted appointment time, not a minute before or after. If you were late your chance was gone. Tim would meet the client at the hall door, take the 50 quid fee, and then bring them in to the parlour with offers of refreshments and maybe a word or two of a reassuring nature if the client seemed nervous, before leading them out the back to Barry’s kennel. The client would tell Barry his or her problem as quickly as possible in one sentence and Barry would reply

“Fuck Off and get a grip of yourself” The experience of having a cocker spaniel swear at them would immediately cure the client of the illness or lighten the load of whatever problem they were having. Tim and Barry were raking it in. In the space of six months the boys were rolling in it, literally in Barry’s case. Until the inevitable ‘difference of opinion’.

Barry got full of himself and demanded an 80/20 cut, in his favour of course. Barry felt quite justified in demanding new terms; after all it was he who was doing the problem-solving. Tim argued that he owned the house, owned Barry even, he put in the initial capital for the advertising, he paid the local hardshaws in Ballyer protection money and ‘wet their beaks’ to keep them from taking over the show. Tim also managed all the accounts and set up the website so a 50/50 split was more than fair. If anything a split in his favour was more in order Tim thought. Barry just said to Tim, “Fuck Off and get a grip of yourself” Ironically this was a problem neither of them could solve and the partnership ended.

Tim died a few months later of a broken heart and several dog bites. Barry gave a graveside oration in Mount Jerome. It was gruff and short and to the point. Barry didn’t seem to take Tim’s passing too badly and he actually went from strength to strength in all his endeavours. He got special dispensation from the courts to become a legal citizen, the first cocker spaniel in Irish history to do so. He was his own man (or dog you might say) and no one was gonna try to take charge of Barry now or you may bet your last penny what they’d be told. He kept the house in Ballyer, believing he should stay with his own kind. Tim had foolishly left the gaff to Barry in his Will although there was a suspicious paw mark on the document. Barry got outta the problem-solving game and into show business. He was hired by RTE after sending in several eight word scripts. This new producer out in Donnybrook who had a notion to put out some more up to date edgy type stuff, saw one of Barry’s scripts and said it was sharp, non-conformist, straight to the point, slick, not a syllable wasted, in fact the best piece of writing he had come across in years. Barry said nothing, happily accepted the job and got on with it. Sure the scripts he had sent were originally letters of complaint.

Barry’s star was shining bright but he soon lost the run of himself altogether! Fame and the celebrity lifestyle took over and in very little time he was known more for his late night partying in Krystle and Lillie’s with Gerald Kean and d’like than for his problem-solving or eight word scripts. He developed a gargle dependency and a reputation in the press for having a short fuse and a foul tongue. Photos of Barry falling out of bars with headlines like ‘Talking Dog, Buckled and Barking Mad’.

He was taken to court during this period in a paternity case. A bitch from Clondalkin claimed he had fathered her 12 pups and was looking for maintenance from Barry. Barry refuted the claims bitterly. He said there may have been some cocker there but there was certainly no spaniel and a dog of his class wouldn’t go next nor near a common terrier like her.

However, Barry’s pleas of innocence were disregarded after it was alleged that Barry had rode the entire adult female cast of ‘Fair City’. The Judge ordered Barry to pay the monthly maintenance. Barry pleaded with the Judge explaining that coughing up for 12 pups would ruin him. The Judge said his decision was final and Barry should face up to his responsibilities. I needn’t tell’ye what Barry barked back at the Judge before being put on a lead and escorted from the courtroom. The Fair City rumours got out, and the tabloid press had a field day. It became a major scandal that RTE bosses found very embarrassing. More headlines like ‘Fair City Ladies Fair Game for Ruuuuuuff & Tumble’ and ‘Top Dog had Fair City Bitches in Heat’, not to mention my own personal favourite ‘Cock-a-hoop Cocker Spaniel Does’Em Doggystyle in Carrigstown’.

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