Not unlike most kids, we begged our parents for years before they finally acquiesed and adopted us a dog. We found Barney at the local pound; he was a wild boar of a Golden Retriever we eventually tamed and had for the remainder of our childhoods. He was, for all practical purposes, a dream dog: sweet, smart, gentle and eager to please. As Barney aged, we all one by one moved out of the house; I became worried about my mother's fragile emotional state of dogless and kidlessness, so I took matters into my own hands.
For Christmas, in 1994 I saved the pennies made slinging pizzas and purchased for my parents a baby Golden Retriever. My thinking was that my mother would come to love him as he she did Barney, and eventually, when old Barney passed, this new one would lessen the blow.
Bailey came from what could well be described as a puppy mill, but my friend Jen and I were so proud of ourselves for "saving" him, we actually paid the mill people an upwards of $300 for the cute little guy. I promptly hid him in my pet free apartment, which I'd eventually get kicked out of for bad behavior, thinking I'd "save" him until Christmas. Needless to say, that lasted a night. The next day, my parents became the owners of the cutest, most expensive already- purchased, worm-filled puppy imaginable.
And then the unimaginable happened. Barney came back to life. Tasked with the training and care of this little wormy guy, the old dog we were sure was on his last lap before doggie heaven, sprung back to life in what can only be described as a determined miracle. He soon could be found chasing puppy Bailey around the yard, barking like a madman when he'd get away, and curling up next to him in the sun to nap.
Depressed and sad when Barney finally passed a few years later, I remember like yesterday Bailey's and sad goodbye cry as he curled up in Barney's old bed to mourn his old buddy's passing. And today, we mourn his in a cycle that has come full circle. A couple years ago he too adopted into his care a wild boar of a Golden we call Aspen, and we have watched as the same cycle repeated itself anew.
Aspen bounced onto the scene in all his goofiness and Bailey had a new lease on life. They played, took naps in the sun, cleaned each others' ears, and Aspen could often be found standing over Bailey to protect him as he napped. When I had a newborn and lived with my parents for a few months, Bailey would stand at attention when T slept on my chest. Any stirring from T and he'd nudge me awake. The same went for bedtime, naptime. Nine years later, T could often be found alone in the backyard, stroking him like somehow he knew he'd protected him, all those years ago.
In his latter years, Bailey became a fixture to all my parents' neighbors: wandering off when they'd least expect it, only to be found by various folks up the street--too blind to see his way home, too deaf to hear our worried calls. And always, smiling and happy to be led home by a stranger/friend. He had also recently become best friends with one of my mom's behavior disorder students, who would sit in my parents backyard for hours, stroking him, begging to walk him, talking to him.
This all is, until last night, when he laid in his bed a final time, closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Minutes before, my mom cradled him in her arms, told him goodbye and she swears, he held his head up and a tear streamed down his face.
One has never seen a happier dog. Half deaf. Half blind. Half full of cancer. And yet, always smiling, always happy, and always bopping around, trying to keep up with the other dogs 14 and 15 years younger than him. We will miss you so much, Bailey. The joy a dog fifteen years a part of your family brings is indescribable and knows no bounds.
May we all sunbathe and smile until our last tired breath.