I grew up a “cat person.” When I was around 5 or 6, I began asking (begging) our mom if we could get a dog. She seemed reluctant, but said, “Maybe.” To my astonishment, shortly after, she told my brother, sister, and me that we were in for a surprise. She drove us to my Aunt Janie’s house, and told us that we were getting a kitten. Apparently, she was not quite up for the commitment of a dog, but had decided we could handle a cat.
We crept into my Aunt and Uncle’s garage on the South Side of Chicago and saw several adorable kittens. We chose a pretty black and white one and named her Misty. While I was excited about the kitten, I was still a little miffed that she wasn’t a dog. My mom said that we would do this for now, and maybe someday, when Misty wasn’t with us any more, she’d consider a dog.
Misty lived 21 years. In that time I came to appreciate cats. Misty and I were never close pals, but I liked her sass. She would swat at people as they came into our home from her perch on a ledge near the door. She hissed once in awhile. But, as a whole, she sat around, looked out the window, basked in the sun, and minded herself.
Jump forward to my early 30s. Patrick and I have three young girls. He grew up with dogs. He envisioned a raucous home with kids and pets. After much discussion, we decided we would get a dog. We chose Maeve. She has been the sweetest, most obedient, if not sometimes needy dog. She is great. That said, she was a lot more work than a cat in the beginning. I recall a few frustrating times when I was worn out and the last thing I wanted was to worry about training a dog. But, that faded and she became a seamless member of our family.
About 2 and a half years ago, Abbie began asking if we could get another dog. Now, this was shortly after I had delivered our youngest (and 5th) child. I was stretched thin and not ready for any more commitment. But, Patrick asked if I could entertain the idea for the future. I said, “Maybe.”
Eventually, as we do in marriage, I compromised. I said that if Abbie could demonstrate a serious commitment to caring for another dog over an extended period of time, I would consider it. Over several months, she walked Maeve consistently. She played with her and she fed her. She was willing to do what it took, which I was impressed with, as she was only in second grade.
Patrick felt that she had demonstrated enough commitment for us to deliver on our end of the promise. I agreed. Though, honestly, I had not fully and completely thought through the commitment. See, I’m the one who is at home the most. I am home with the kids most days, and I work at home on the other days. So, while committing to a pet was for the whole family, much of it would fall on me. This may sound crazy, but this didn’t actually hit me until it happened.
Patrick’s family had grown up with Airedale terriers. They are stately dogs with a true terrier personality–so I’d heard for years. However, I’d never fully and completely understood what that meant. I would learn!
We discovered that an Airedale breeder was in Whitewater, WI where we have a family lake house. We purchased a puppy and drove up last April to surprise Abbie. She had no idea where we were going, but learned she was getting her puppy when we pulled up to the house.
After the excitement of bringing the puppy home, naming her (we quickly decided on Bailey), and getting her settled, reality set in! Bailey was rambunctious. She was smart. She had a lot going on in her little mind. I’d leave her in our mudroom to find every shoe pulled out, the woodwork chewed on, toys mauled, and the wall scratched. I became frustrated quickly–realizing I was not equipped at that time to give this puppy what she really wanted.
She would play with Maeve relentlessly. Which Maeve grew tired of shortly. There were numerous occasions when I nearly threw in the towel and said we would need to find her a new home, as it was too much. She was very smart, she was very energetic, and I often felt I had little more to give.
But, then things changed. She began to mellow. I had a great conversation with a groomer who related a similar situation she’d experienced with her terrier. She had also nearly given up, only to realize that things got better and she loved her dog. I was feeling the same way.
Bailey and I had become pals. Sure, she’d still counter surf sometimes and run under our front couch to her “naughty spot.” But, she’d also hang out nicely in my room while I worked. After the kids went to school and when I took a break from working, I’d play catch with her, and she was always game. She had also become well-trained with sitting and eating treats very carefully. She had made her way into our hearts.
But, she would still run sometimes. If she heard the click of the door handle, her drive to run and play was irresistible. It was Sunday morning, and we were headed out the door to church. The kids opened the front door, and she escaped. Patrick and Abbie were on it immediately, as they’d been many times. Abbie grabbed her treats, and Patrick grabbed a favorite toy. She took off down the block and the walked closer to entice her back. She circled back and Patrick nearly had her, but then she darted off and ran straight for the busy street.
She was hit immediately. The car didn’t stop, but the family behind did. They drove Patrick and Bailey to the vet 3 blocks away. I learned of the situation after I heard Abbie come home hysterical. Not knowing how badly she’d been hit, I was hopeful she’d be okay. Patrick called and told us to come. We frantically gathered everyone in a haze and drove up to the animal hospital. I looked inside the hospital and saw the look on the face of one of the front desk attendants. Her face told me Bailey’s fate. She looked upon us coming in with pity. She knew dogs that came in in that condition didn’t make it.
We were funneled into a private room and told they were attempting CPR. In a few short minutes, we were informed she did not make it. They said we could say goodbye. The kids were shocked and heartbroken. Abbie was angry and devastated. Eleanor was quietly crying. Maddie was scared to look at her. Noah was crying and Elliot was not sure exactly what was happening. As I walked into the room, the lack of energy was painful to see. This dog that had been extremely boisterous, lay quiet. She looked perfect. As I looked around at my kids all I could think was how precious life truly was. It can be taken in an instant. I prayed quietly for Bailey, but also for them and the grace that is their lives. I couldn’t imagine…
Losing Bailey has been hard, but it has also been a demonstration of the grace and support around us. The outpouring of condolences was so amazing. Her death has sparked conversations about faith. She has helped us recenter on what is important. She has helped us learn that sticking to a commitment (especially when it proves to be challenging) can reap great rewards. Bailey’s legacy will not go unnoticed. She taught me more than I ever imagined she would. She missed her first birthday by one day. But, she packed in a lifetime of love, naughtiness, and joy into her “nearly” one year.
Miss you Bailey!