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Travels With Barley

Motorcycling has been a part of Peter Burke’s life since his days as a young adult. Long trips on winding roads across the country offered a freedom hard to capture with any other mode of transportation. There was only one problem. Peter missed his dogs. And there were a lot of dogs to miss.

Peter wasn’t allowed to have pets when he was growing up; dog envy was a familiar feeling when he was around his friends. After serving in the Navy, attending graduate school, getting married, and moving to a 160-acre piece of heaven in Vermont, he was ready to welcome a dog (or two or three) into his life.

“My wife, Tamara, had a stubborn old golden retriever named Mercedes, and we decided to start fostering golden retrievers that had been abused, or had come out of puppy mills, to add to our family,” said Peter.

In addition to the foster dogs that came through their doors, the Burke’s own golden family grew – Molson, Tuppence the Wonderbitch, Tadcaster, Barley, Glenfiddich, Tulliver (Tully), Shot o’Glenlivet (Gilly for short), Killian Red and Saint Kazoo.

The idea of having a dog accompany him on road trips occurred to Peter when he attended a BMW rally and saw a sidecar. He had four goldens at the time, but it was Barley who took to the sidecar like a pro. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship built over 55,000 miles covering 36 states, and six Canadian provinces with a blog to document their travels – Travels with Barley. Barley became well known in the motorcycle community and he, and now Tully, are the only two canine card-carrying members of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America. 

A social butterfly, Barley made friends everywhere he traveled and developed a well-deserved reputation of being a world-class foodie – he could spot someone carrying an ice cream cone from a mile away. But in January 2015, Barley was diagnosed with lymphoma, one of the more common canine cancers. He underwent chemotherapy and went into full remission until November 2015.

“When he passed away, we received over a thousand cards, letters and emails,” said Peter. “They were from people who knew Barley, and people who were fighting cancer, too, holding Barley up as a symbol of courage. It was touching.” Barley’s love of life inspires Peter every day, and he continues to ride his motorcycle, but with a new passenger in the sidecar; Tully for now and soon Gilly (who is in training).

Peter and Tamara have opened up their hearts and home to golden retrievers, both their own and those in need of sanctuary on their way to a forever home. Having been personally touched by cancer, they also support the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study through an annual gift that is matched by Peter’s employer. The study was closed for enrollment by the time Gilly came along, and Peter said making a gift is his way of helping advance cancer prevention and treatment. He hopes what we learn will make a difference in the lives of all dogs.


Categories: Animal studies, Animal welfare, Pet health, Dog health, Animal health, Canine health
September 14, 2017