Pack of Two
I want to write about Bailey while she is still with me. My sweet little girl is rapidly declining and it’s breaking my heart. I know she has had a long, healthy life, full of nothing but love, but letting her go is going to be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I don’t know if it will be a week or a month, but time is not on her side. Her body is failing her. Her mind, her spirit and her tenacity are all there, but her legs can’t hold her up any longer and it’s painful to watch.
Bailey came into my life on a whim. I always had dogs growing up and it had been some time since a dog had been in my life. I thought I would just go to the Animal Shelter and take a look. Who was I kidding, but that is what I had told myself. My son, Jarrod, had just turned 13 the month before. He came home from school and I said, “C’mon, let’s go maybe save a dog.” I told him that we were just going to look, but if the right dog was there for us, we would know. We spent a lot of time going up and down the aisles, my heart hurting for every one of them, but none of them seemed to fit. We had two cats at the time so we needed a cat-friendly dog and their bios weren’t very promising. We were left on our own to peruse. We passed by the “Sick Bay” area several times without going in, but just as we were ready to leave and passed by the doorway again, I turned and went in. There she was, all alone. The card on her crate said Chocolate Lab (they didn’t mention there was pit bull mixed in). She was so tiny, only eight weeks old. She and a litter mate had been dumped on the street of the shelter. Her litter mate had been adopted. We took one look and that was it. No question. They gave her to us right then and there, wrapped in an old towel because she was dirty and stinky. I will never forget the ride home, Jarrod cradling her like a baby, she a little feisty at first, then calm. We had nothing at home for a puppy. We carried her into Safeway for puppy supplies and then home for the beginning of our adventure together.
Bailey was not an easy puppy. We had no problem housebreaking her, she was smart as a whip. The standard commands came very easy, but she had more energy than we could ever possibly contain. She was extremely destructive and only calm when she was asleep. The first few months were not pleasant. I fell in love with her instantly, but everyone else hated her, and I am not kidding. My mother told me I had to get rid of her. I had friends who didn’t say very nice things about her. I had many moments when I thought to myself, “What have I done?” I thought a puppy would learn to get along with the cats. I thought they would put her in her place and she would realize they were in charge. I could not have been more wrong. Here was this tiny baby of a dog relentlessly pursuing them. She only wanted to play, but they wanted nothing to do with her. They would bloody her snout and she would go back for more. Shortly after getting Bailey, our beloved cat, Louis, was struck by a car and killed. I blamed myself. He was away from home more often. I was devastated, but it made me more determined to save this crazy, mongrel, devil dog. Here was my thought. She and I were stuck together. I knew that she was not adoptable with her out of control behavior and that if I returned her (I could never!), chances were slim to none that she would be placed permanently. So I set out to make her a good dog, and eventually she was a good dog, who became the best.
Bailey is the most independent dog I have ever encountered. She is neither needy nor jealous. She eventually had to share her home with two more dogs, both male and she was in charge. She was truly the alpha. She was the first to arrive and we always gave her that respect. Her food bowl was placed down first and she was the first to be handed a treat when the three were waiting. Neither boy ever challenged her. She couldn’t care less if either of them were getting attention. She would watch with indifference. Almost like, “Big deal, I was here first, they love me best.” Perhaps she could read me, because that was the truth. I truly loved my other dogs, but she and I had a bond beyond what I had with them. Maybe it was those early, challenging years when I refused to give up on her. Whatever it was, she was mine and I was hers.
I love her personality. I love the independence. Even so, at times she needs reassurance and it is always to me that she comes to. She has moments of vulnerability, when for some reason there is fear or doubt about something and that is when I see how much I mean to her. She is never one for affection, though she loves to be scratched behind the ears. She will never roll over and let you scratch her belly. She doesn’t like cuddling. She will growl and get up if I try to have a little love fest with her, but if she were to tolerate it from anyone, it would be me and occasionally she does. I socialized her early on with other dogs and in her younger years she liked to go to the dog park, but she was very protective of me. I couldn’t visit with other people because eventually their dogs would come around and if they got too close to me, she would attack. We had to stop going. It was more of a warning on her part, but still, bad dog park etiquette.
She is an outdoor kind of girl. She has always been a house dog, but much prefers being outside. The challenge this winter is making her stay inside because the cold weather isn’t good for her joints, but she won’t stand for it. She hates the rain because it forces her to be inside and she will vocalize her discomfort. She has always been a talker. If she is unhappy about something, you know it. If she is ready to eat, she will tell you. She snores, but never passes gas (thankfully), and she has had more nicknames than I can remember. A few that have stuck are Missy, Bailey Bob, and Puppet, at least from me. Many throughout her life have given her nicknames. I think Satan might have been a very early one.
So that is a glimpse into the life of 15-year old Bailey. There is so much more to this little brown mutt. She is my best friend and there will never be another like her. She did turn out to be the greatest dog and everyone that knows her, loves her, including my Mom who is making her way up here in a few days to say goodbye. I remember when Louis, our cat, died. Jarrod was beside himself with grief. He had been with us for eight years. Jarrod told me that when he got older, he would never have a pet because it hurt too much to lose them. I told him that he couldn’t think that way because the number of dogs and cats that need homes far outweigh the people that will take them in and love them and this is the price we have to pay for them.
My dear, sweet Bailey, the pain of letting you go will be worth all the years of comfort, love and joy that you have given me and forever you will be in my heart.