The Dog Who Was Thereby Ron Marasco
No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.
Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate
No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.
Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman-occupied Judea.
On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.
In first-century Judea, a half-drowned puppy is rescued by a kind couple who show him love and kindness. When the dog, called Barley, is uprooted from this home and becomes a stray living on the outskirts of Jerusalem, he meets a homeless petty thief named Samid. Together, master and pooch hear talk of a kind and knowledgeable teacher from Galilee who preaches in the streets. When Samid is arrested by Roman soldiers to be crucified, rumors indicate that the preacher will share his fate. Barley observes firsthand the deaths of his master and the teacher of Galilee. VERDICT Through the touching tale of a stray dog who witnesses the ministry of Jesus, Marasco's (Notes to an Actor; About Grief) first novel offers an unusual perspective on Christianity's beginnings. Lovers of canine stories and readers of biblical fiction will be pleased by this hopeful tale.
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The Dog Who Was There
By Ron Marasco
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Ronald D. Marasoc, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Barley was lying with his snout resting on the hearth, looking up with his alert brown eyes, watching Adah cook dinner. She was sitting, as she always did at this time of night, on her small stool and stirring a pot of something that, to Barley, smelled delicious. It was nightfall in the small home that Duv had built, all by himself, when he and Adah first became husband and wife, many years before Barley had come into their lives.
The walls of the homey, one-room house were thick, made out of light-colored stone and coarse mud, from the region of Judea they lived in, that Duv had sanded smooth with his own hands and had painted a peaceful shade of white. The stones had no sharp corners but curved softly, giving them a rounded feel that made the whole house look to Barley like the body of a jolly, well-fed person. The ceiling was low, which was a fine fit for Adah and Duv, since neither of them was very tall. The house had only one window — a large oval whose sill Barley loved to sprawl out on and look out onto the comings and goings of neighbors, goats, donkeys, and other assorted travelers on their way up the little road to the long thoroughfare that led to the marketplace or down it to the small pasture at the end of their street.
The whole house had a snug atmosphere that made Barley feel safe. He especially liked the comforting feel of this time of day — the lamp-lit, end-of-chores, dinner-cooking part of early nightfall.
It was at times like this that Barley felt life was good and that it always would be.
Whenever Barley got this feeling, he would roll his small body onto his back, allowing his scruffy off-white fur to push into the smooth hearthstone below him. Then he would raise his pink belly into the warm air of the room, let his paws dangle anywhere they wanted, and look up at the low ceiling and say to it with his eyes: Ceiling, life is good, isn't it? And he'd answer his own question by wagging his tail back and forth — quick as a sickle, swishy as a broom.
Tonight Barley's wagging was particularly enthusiastic because it had been a fine and fun day. It had been spent with his masters, Adah and Duv, doing chores that Barley found particularly interesting.
The morning, like most mornings, was spent watching Duv and Adah work in the tiny, well-tended front patch of land where they grew vegetables and had a large olive tree that always seemed full of thick, healthy olives that Barley liked to smell. On sunny days, like today, Barley always felt good-weather frisky. And when he felt this way, he would never leave Adah's or Duv's side in the garden, watching with great curiosity each new chore and even trying to lend his help. He'd often stick his tiny snout so close to what one of them was doing, he'd almost get conked on the nose with whatever tool they were using until they would say something like, "Do you mind, sir?" or "It's hard enough to weed without you licking my ear."
The second half of most days was the time Adah and Duv would each do their own work. And Barley would divide his time, being alongside one or the other of them throughout the rest of the day, each day, the seven happy years he'd lived with them. Today had been water day, so most of the afternoon was spent accompanying Adah as she carried the heavy, clay water jugs out of their house and down the path to the well in the middle of the neatly-kept dirt road that was shared by all the other little houses in their neighborhood — five or six in all.
Adah was an older woman, in her fifties — an old age for a woman in this place and time. She was rather short, and her body was somewhat plump in spots — which Barley liked, because it made her lap so comfortable he'd often hop up on it to watch her sew. Her hair was gray, her skin was soft and a little saggy in places, and her eyes were warm. When she smiled, Barley thought she looked as young and pretty as a little girl. But because she was old, some of her bones were stiff and unsure, so she moved slowly and carefully. Adah was not afraid of the hard work it took to keep a house well run in the first century AD on a humble street on the outskirts of Roman-occupied Jerusalem — even if the chore of the day was something strenuous like lugging water jars to the well, as it had been today.
Barley had been taught that, when accompanying her on this task, he should not walk within the usual petting distance, right near Adah's feet. It was fine to stay that close during all the other chores, and he would gladly accept the little pats she'd give him every few minutes or so — stopping her cooking or sewing or washing to lean down and give him a quick rub and a "Hi there, you" or "Good boy." But Barley knew he had to take special care on water-carrying days not to be too close when he walked with her. That way he'd never accidentally trip her as she hauled the heavy, brimming water jars back and forth between the well and their house.
It had almost happened once, a few years back, but they escaped with just a cracked jug and with water all over them both, which Duv, when he looked out the window and saw them, found funny. After that day, Barley had been trained to be cautious. He was small enough — between twenty and twenty-five runty pounds and less than a foot and a half high — that you could miss seeing him underfoot, though he was agile enough never to get stomped on. Usually Duv only had to correct him once before Barley understood, and Barley's affection for Duv made it easy to comply with the few rules that Duv patiently taught him. In all the years they had been together, Adah had never heard her husband raise his voice, a characteristic she attributed to the fact that she'd married a man "whose name rhymes with love."
The main rule Adah insisted on was that Barley never bite.
"A good dog doesn't bite," she said.
Barley liked watching Adah and Duv work. But he also understood that dogs have their chores to do, just as people do. His job was chasing birds in the yard — even though he was never able to catch any — and being petted, and being good company, and keeping the people he loved safe by watching over their tiny house and barking to let Adah and Duv know when a visitor came up the narrow path to their door.
Of all the little family's chores and rituals, it was Duv's job that seemed to Barley the most interesting of all. Duv did wood carvings — intricate little sculptures that were, to all who saw them, nothing short of lovely. That's why Adah disliked it when people in the marketplace called Duv a woodcarver. These little creations were so beautiful that to call Duv a woodcarver would, in the famous words of Adah, be "like calling God a world-monger."
Figurines was what he and Adah called them. And once a week, on Friday morning, when everyone in town was busy shopping for the evening's Sabbath meal, Duv and Adah would take the beautiful little figurines he sculpted from wood to the busy marketplace on the far side of their region and sell them.
These figurines were always of the same subject.
But because Duv worked so hard to make each one of his wooden birds a special work of art, customers in the marketplace willingly parted with their coins to buy the charming trinkets. Duv was so good at what he did that he and Adah usually sold every figurine and would return with a coin pouch filled enough to get the three of them comfortably through the week.
Duv's small workbench was in the back corner of the low-ceilinged house. And Barley would watch as Duv worked there, for hours each afternoon and evening, diligently carving with his sharp, homemade tools into little blocks of wood the treasures that made him known, jokingly, by the neighbors on his street as the Bird Rabbi. Barley loved observing Duv as he sat hunched over a small piece of wood, his sun-weathered face down close to whatever detail he was expertly carving, occasionally blowing away the little curls of wood he'd shave off, which Barley loved to watch flutter to the ground like even tinier little birds.
Bit by bit, Duv would turn each piece of wood into the shape of a beautiful bird, every one in a unique pose. Then he would use an array of small twigs, the ends of which he had frayed with a tiny knife and made into brushes, to color his creations. Barley loved seeing Duv dip the different brushes into pots of interesting colors that Adah made for paint, using things like blackberries and crushed lily pollen and various plants she squeezed to drip out their pretty juice.
Even though Duv was strong for a man of his height, and had big hands and thick fingers, when he worked on the figurines — carving delicately, painting them gently — he put such lifelike detail into the sculptures, making the birds seem so real to Barley that, one day, the most astonishing thing happened.
Duv had just put the finishing touches on a figurine he'd worked at all day. Barley was lying by the fire next to Adah as she stirred the pot of dinner. He glanced across the room at the freshly painted bird sitting on Duv's workbench — a bluebird figurine with an orange beak and shiny, dark-green eyes. Suddenly, as Barley was looking up at the sculpture lazily, the bird turned its head, stared right at Barley, and winked!
Barley stood up and began to stare at the bird, to bark and bark at it until, finally, the bird winked at Barley one last time, turned its head away, and went back to being just a piece of painted wood drying on the workbench. Duv and Adah enjoyed Barley's reaction to the figurine very much. Adah even chuckled to her husband and said, "It's a compliment to your work, dear." Barley didn't know what this meant, but he never wanted to see one of the birds on Duv's workbench do that again. And, thankfully, none ever did.
Barley could tell by how carefully Adah and Duv handled the figurines that they were fragile and important. Duv even made a special basket in which to carry them during their long journey on foot to the marketplace. Duv always filled the basket with a heaping pile of fresh straw, and the birds certainly had a comfortable journey as Duv and Adah carried the basket-each holding a handle — a family of Duv's lovely creations nesting between them. And along the way to the marketplace, Adah would hum little songs. "My wife is a hummer," Duv would say to people about her, smiling.
On one side of the bird basket was a large wooden handle. That was the side Duv held on to when they carried it to market. On the other side was a smaller handle that Duv had carved and smoothed perfectly to fit Adah's smaller hand. And Barley had watched Duv work for two whole nights to craft a round lid for the basket that fit onto it perfectly. It was made from thin cedarwood, and around the perimeter, Duv had carved the words of an old prayer he loved, measuring perfectly so the last letter of the last word came back around to meet the first letter of the first word.
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
And if that wasn't enough, he cut into the lid several precisely rounded holes. When Adah asked what the holes were for, Duv quietly answered in his usual matter-of-fact tone, "So the birds can breathe."
Tomorrow was a market day, so Duv was still daubing a final little flourish of color on the last bird of the week. Tonight dinner was looking as though it might be a little later than usual-even though Barley was by the hearth, waiting for the best moment of the day, when Adah would reach up to the shelf for Barley's wooden dinner bowl. On nights like this, when dinner was delayed, Barley would often doze off, breathing in the smell of the cooking meal between each peaceful snore.
Some nights, just before dinnertime, Duv would get up from his workbench and join Adah by the fire, and the two of them would pet Barley lightly at the same time, trying not to wake him. Which made Barley wonder if petting a dog together was how old people kiss, though Duv would sometimes kiss Adah anyway.
And some nights, as Barley drowsed, the fire in the hearth would paint moving images and shadows on the walls of the room, and when Barley closed his eyes to doze in their flickering light, soon his memories would paint their own pictures on the walls of his snoozing mind and Barley would have dreams-dreams that were vivid, real, and exact.
Tonight the dream began with an image.
Over seven years ago, when Barley was first born, he was lying in the sun next to his mother ...
This was Barley's very first memory, in the earliest days of his life. The dream began with the memory of the afternoon sun moving across the field all morning till it finally came to shine on Barley and the other pups as they lay in the curve of their mother's belly. A week before, Barley's mother had given birth to a happy, squirming litter of puppies, the smallest of which was Barley.
Most of those early weeks of life had been spent lolling happily in a small clearing amid acres of crops and high grass that was their home. The clearing was on the farthest end of a landowner's large field along a rarely traveled stretch of swaying wildflowers and reeds. There, amid a thicket of low bushes, the property abruptly ended at the bank of a wide, fast-moving stream. This stream filled the field, day and night, with a constant gushing whoosh, and flowed for miles and miles through this region of Judea. The area was alive with birds, all variety of wild foliage, as well as other splendid sights for a new dog to see.
Barley and his siblings would spend the day looking up at the blue sky, which was how he first got introduced to butterflies — which Barley was very anxious to begin chasing as soon as his wobbly new legs were ready. By the end of most of those early days, when the sun sank below the line of the grass up above the small protected clearing, the family was ready for a well-earned night's sleep.
Even though Barley would feel tired, the darkness at night would scare him and keep him awake. Barley was the smallest pup in his family, the runt of the litter, and on nights when he was fearful, his mother would lower her comforting brown eyes to watch over him in the moonlight, and sometimes lean her head down to lick her small son's tiny snout. And Barley would press his head deep into his mother's soft belly. Barley noticed that when he pressed his tiny triangular ear into his mother's chest, he could hear coming from deep inside of her a kind of music, a gentle beating — bum-BUM, bum-BUM, bum-BUM — that let Barley know that, even when his mother was asleep, she was still taking care of him.
Since the part of the dream Barley was having as he lay by the hearth at Adah's feet was happy, he began to wag his tail, even though he was sound asleep. Soon Barley's dream wound its way to the memory of the very first friend Barley ever had. No one had made little Barley's tail wag as much as he could.
Barley was only a couple of weeks old, but his eyes were now fully open and happily taking in all the new sights. And his tiny legs had grown strong enough that he could amble to the edge of the clearing to spend part of each day looking out at the waiting world beyond. One morning he was peering out through the tall grass at the rolling acres that ran along the nearby stream when he saw a sight that made him realize there were more creatures in the world than just dogs, butterflies, birds — there were other creatures that were far larger and more interesting that he had yet to meet.
Walking straight toward him was the boy he would come to know as Micah.
Micah was thin and small for his ten years, with dark brown hair and eyes so clear and green Barley could see their color even at a distance.
When Barley first saw him, Micah was carrying a huge basket, twice his size and tied to the boy's back with coarse rope that made ruts in his slight shoulders. The basket was filled with the firewood that Micah's father made him gather and carry. His father didn't need the firewood. The man was a wealthy farmer with a small army of farm laborers at his disposal. But Micah's father forced the boy to do things for reasons his young son didn't understand — or understood to be wrong.
Micah tried to sit down on the ground and rest a moment, but as he tried to pull his arms from the rope, the weight of the basket pulled him over. As he struggled to get free of the basket, he said with a burst of frustrated emotion, "This is so-so-so heavy. I can't do it ..."
Excerpted from The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco. Copyright © 2017 Ronald D. Marasoc, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Ron Marasco is a professor in the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His first book, Notes to an Actor, was named by the American Library Association an Outstanding Book of 2008. His second book, About Grief, has been translated into multiple languages, and he is currently completing a book on Shakespeare’s sonnets. He has acted extensively on TV—from Lost to West Wing to Entourage to originating the role of Mr. Casper on Freaks and Geeks—and appeared opposite screen legend Kirk Douglas in the movie Illusion, for which he also wrote the screenplay. Most recently, he has played the recurring role of Judge Grove on Major Crimes. He has a BA from Fordham at Lincoln Center and an MA and Ph. D. from UCLA.
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I'm sorry, I don't think I have ever given a book such a bad rating, but it is really not my kind of book at all, and it is not, in my opinion, even well written. I mean, I love animals and all, but the story of the crucifixion through the eyes of a dog? Really? It seems sort of like an insult. I was given this book by the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.
Imagine you were a dog living in first century Palestine. That's what Ron Marasco's The Dog Who Was There does. The reader follows Barley from a puppy, who was saved from drowning by a kind couple, to a time when a homeless man was his master, to the time he meets the "Kind Man." View the cross from the eyes of a dog. The story is written in a very simple style that even a child could read.
First of all this story begins VERY slowly, I guess to build up to some sort of action. Secondly, and this may just be me, but I had a real problem with a dog telling/feeling a story about the love of our Savior. As much as I like dogs I'm just not sure that they can see a dog understanding how great the love and sacrifice of our Savior was for us, humans. This was just not my kind.of story. Too many "issues" for me. And I'm pretty liberal with my praise for books...authors take a lot of time and energy to tell great stories. Unfortunately, this just isn't one of them.
This is the story of Barley, the dog who had an encounter with the Messiah in Jerusalem. Barley was homeless, hungry and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. We see the teacher from Galilee through the eyes of Barley, a dog. The story comes alive in a way you never thought possible. Barley's story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly drowned puppy. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes for Barley, he carries the lessons of love and forgiveness out of the woodcarver's home and through the dangerous roads of Roman occupied Judea. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his new master experience struggles and revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story every told. Dog lovers will be entranced by this story. I love dogs and own one myself, who is the joy of my heart. I often find myself wondering what Sam is thinking and how he feels. I know he loves me, but I would just like to see into his mind. Ron Marasco has written a completely delightful tale that allows the reader into the mind of a dog and how he feels. I was in tears in places during the reading. One scene just did me in. This is a book you'll love if you love dogs and Jesus. *I was provided with a copy of this book by The Fiction Guild. My review is my own and honest opinion.
I looked forward to reading this book. I expected wholesome and heart warming as the dog Barley shares a behind the scenes look at Jesus Christ and his ministry while here on earth. Imagining walking along side him. It never occurred to me that Jesus would have a dog. But why not? How silly of me. One of the greatest gifts that he has given us is the companionship of a dog. The reader can't help but love Barley. It was a great story that opens the readers eyes to see what it must have been like being apart of Jesus' life being one of his followers friends. Being his 'best friend'. I kind of had this scenario going on in my mind but the connection between Jesus and Barley really didn't come out in the story until near the end. There is a lot of sadness in this story. In the beginning Barley is abused. In the end he suffers seeing the crucifixion. For additional reviews visit the Litfuse website.
The Dog Who Was There is quite unlike any other title I have read for some time. Setting a book in Jerusalem during the life of Christ is nothing new - but telling that story from the primary point of view of a stray dog is quite another. It granted a unique and different perspective and afforded a chance to observe events through literally completely innocent eyes. We are first introduced to Barley (so named for the barley growing around where he was found) as a pup abandoned and abused. Cruelly separated from his mother and siblings and tossed out into a harsh and unforgiving world, quickly Barley learns to fend for himself. But fortunately for him - a kind hearted merchant couple take a shine to him and he quickly becomes a treasured member of their family. But tragic events seem to mire Barley’s life - and this becomes the pattern for the book. Barleys search for a true master and the ones who fill that position down through the years. The book culminates at the crucification - and the prose penned here are simply stunning. Viewing such cataclysmic events through little Barley’s eyes is both harrowing and heartening. The ending was a complete surprise for me - and a perfect reward for little Barley and us as the readers. While a smaller novel than many I would normally read - it was engaging and entertaining and moving at the same time. Definitely a keeper.
I loved this portrayal of the final days of Jesus, and we are there with Barley, the dog we get to meet eight years before. We really are absorbed in the culture at the time, and I read the whole book with my heart in my throat, on the verge of tears. Guess I’m a dog lover, as if I didn’t know. I found myself quickly absorbed in this story, even though I knew part of the ending, but all along rooting for the dog. The author did a great job of keeping my attention and page turning, and felt that this was a book that I could share with my older grandchildren, they are tender hearted too, with Easter coming I fell that this might be a good reminder of their faith. I loved how the author incorporated one of the thieves that had become Barley’s master in the final parts of the book, and the death of our Lord. You don’t want to miss this one, but have the tissues handy. I received this book through Lit Fuse Publicity Book Tour and was not required to give a positive review.
The Dog Who Was There is a poignant and touching tale! Cleverly crafted, Ron Marasco delivers a message of unconditional love and loyalty in a most creative way. Told from a pup’s point of view, I enjoyed experiencing first century Jerusalem through Barley’s eyes. His heart-wrenching story took me on an unexpected journey that stirred my emotions and warmed my heart! I received a complimentary copy of this book. No review was required, and all thoughts expressed are my own.
For anyone who love pets, we know that these creatures can be the most innocent of all. They love unconditionally and trust without measure. Pets can be like little children. In this book it begins with Barley, the little pup that was ripped from his mother but saved by a loving couple. Through heartache and despair, Barley is thrust onto an ever moving path. Told in the fashion of Milo & Otis and The Jungle Book, the reader is both the dog and the people around him. We can see in detail and feel with such passion the loneliness, fear, hope, and love. The story is written in a simple way, and yet it speaks volumes. Such simplicity brought about the strongest of emotions, especially as we witness the last days of Christ before His crucifixion. The Dog Who Was There could become a timelessly story that would span the ages of all readers. From young to old, this book has a lesson for all and shows the wonderful and awesome power of love. Definitely a keeper and one that I think most everyone would enjoy.
I'll admit that while I have a certain fondness for animals in real life, I don't really do animal tales. The thought of reading a novel about a horse or watching a movie about a whale just doesn't appeal to me. But perhaps what intrigued me about this particular novel was the idea of viewing some of "the greatest story ever told" from a new-to-me type of angle. So I did indeed pick up The Dog Who Was There by author Ron Marasco. And I wasn't disappointed. No, this isn't a story about a dog who follows Jesus around everywhere. In fact, for a while, I found the parts where Jesus showed up to be the least compelling of the novel. Much like an extra guy who didn't quite fit in the story, in person. And I thought that perhaps His presentation here leaned too much toward the kind of soft and radiant Christ Who appears in Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur, not enough like a man Who used to work with His hands and would've spent a lot of His time in the sun and dirt. But, once it's all weaved together, He ultimately does fit in this account that centers on a lovable and courageous dog, Barley. Seriously, Barley's engaging and poignant story put tears in my eyes at least three different times. And while there's a simple, storybook feel to the characters and maybe some head-hopping (like hops from Barley's head into human ones), there's genius in the novel's layering and delivery. It's the kind of book that makes you want to be a better person, and that says a lot. I'd recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Christian and Biblical Fiction or inspirational stories, whether you're usually a fan of animal tales or not. ______________ BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
Ron Marasco has presented an interesting twist on the story of the Jesus' crucifixion in the novel "The Dog Who Was There." Barley is a dog who tells his story of living near and in Jerusalem. He has loving human companions but when tragedy occurs, Barley strikes out on his own. He meets Samid, a petty thief, and his friends. He learns of their struggles to survive and their take on the teacher from Galilee. Barley's encounter with Jesus as he walks to Golgotha as well as his thoughts on what he witnesses is moving. I particularly like the twist in the story as it ends. Very unexpected!! I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group and was under no obligation to post a review.