My Crazy Cover Dog; Remembering Bailey

We brought these two back to the house; they’d been dumped and were running up to every car they saw that was speeding down our road. It was not going to end well if we didn’t do something. Our resident dogs were seriously upset about these “intruders” so I stuffed them in a stall until we could figure out what to do next.

Bailey was one of two half-grown black Labs that were dumped here in 2010. We already had three dogs. I assured my husband that I’d use my considerable internet marketing prowess (cough) to find them homes in short order. It wasn’t long before I was eating humble (marketing) pie and had developed a lot more respect and admiration for folks who foster and place unwanted dogs on a regular basis.

My experience validated the fact that big black dogs are the hardest to place (more here). Ironically there are legions of folks out there who already own big black dogs – and know (as I do) that they are great dogs. I also gained a lot of appreciation for HoofPrints Newsletter subscribers and Facebook fans, most of whom already have multiple previously-unwanted dogs. The average number seemed to be about six!

I named them Bailey and Ellie; after two characters in the then-new book A Dog’s Purpose. Newsletter subscriber Bonnie W. ended up taking the shy one – Ellie. But I couldn’t seem to find a home for Bailey. Local rescues stepped up; begging me to not take her to the shelter, where she’d surely get sick, and languish for months, if not years, before someone adopted her. They offered to work with me to place her, if I would foster in the meantime. Well, the foster quickly turned to forever.

But this dog was a pain. She was bargey and oblivious to commands. She was an attention-hog that got on the other dogs’ nerves. She chewed things up. The transition from a three-dog farm to a four-dog farm was not a smooth one. I’d raised and trained plenty of dogs in my life; all of which easily learned to not be a PITA. This one was different. It seemed that all we got done was grouch at her and she never really seemed to figure out why. I ended up deciding to take her to a dog training class. But first I had some logistical problems to work out.

Bailey had been on three car rides in her life (that I knew of) One to get dumped here, two and three were to and from the clinic to be spayed. So, her history of enjoying a ride in a vehicle was not so good. When I did a “test run” which consisted of yet another trip to the vet for the required vaccinations to attend class – it did not go well. She was afraid to get in. Coaxing didn’t help (although it did cause our other dog Puppy-Girl to try and get in – which only added to the confusion as I tried to keep her out). I didn’t anticipate all this happening; I had an appointment, so as the clock ticked, I ended up picking up her 60+ pound frame and stuffing her into the passenger side of the truck. She promptly launched to the driver’s side floorboard – where she could, oh, stomp on the accelerator. I tried to push her back to the passenger side when I got in, but seeing the open door caused her to push just as hard to get out; and she escaped. Again. And so it went. Must’ve looked like some kind of Chinese Fire Drill involving a dog. (with apologies for using what wikipedia is saying is “racially offensive slang”)

Seeing that this had potentially disastrous consequences safety-wise, I recruited my son to drive us to the vet – while I used both hands to hold the dog on her side of the truck. I knew then that setting off alone with this rowdy dog to a weekly class in a neighboring town was going to be a challenge.

HoofPrints Treat Pouch comes in several colors, shown here is purple. For more information, click here

I couldn’t have done it without HoofPrints’ Treat Pouch. This handy little number let me keep my phone, keys, driver’s license, etc. in a slim hands-free pouch around my waist – so I could wrestle the dog as needed. The added bonus is the separate compartment for the actual treats. It’s got a magnetic closure (so no distracting velcro sound when opening) and is separated from the phone compartment by a water-resistant barrier (so my phone doesn’t smell like salami).

Because I personally have a problem with getting much too serious about things, I made it a point to wear my Life is Short, Play With Your Dog T-shirt each week. My dog was such a maniac, and I was sure I’d be embarrassed by her out-of-control behavior, so I needed to “get my sense of humor on” in preparation. As it turned out, Bailey did not embarrass me at all. All we needed was the keen eye of a professional to help us locate and address problem areas, and we made great improvements. Dashing Bailey, who seemingly could not hold still for two seconds, quickly learned to stay quietly when asked. She was friendly with the other dogs in class, and interacted politely with their humans, too. She earned a diploma and got to pick out her own special toy.

Bailey and I are shown here with Deb Dolak of Over the Rainbow Dog Training & Behavior Consulting. She does not allow choke collars in her class. Food rewards are mandatory, and some of what folks were bringing as treats for their dogs looked better than what I’d had to eat that day. Deb encouraged chaos. We’d work on a specific behavior for a little while, then the dogs are all released to run around and play with each other. At first it was a free-for-all, with a lot of butt-sniffing and snooping around the room (which is a back room/storage area at a vet clinic) As the weeks passed, the dogs learned to pay enthusiastic attention to what was being taught and they looked forward to the short play sessions. There was no drilling – we practiced different things, and then moved quickly to the next exercise. The transformation was remarkable. With no drama, or punishment my dog’s focus improved dramatically and she not only behaved, but she did so fairly reliably in a distracting environment.

She not only passed her class, she also passed nine of the Canine Good Citizen Test requirements. The tenth we were not able to complete because we didn’t have an appropriate crowd situation for testing. I even made her a commemorative scrapbook page.

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Once her “light bulb” had come on, she didn’t look back. She became a fine farm dog; chasing away geese who pooped all over the lawn, killing muskrats that threatened the integrity of our pond’s banks, etc. But mostly, she made me laugh. I’d never encountered a dog that was so silly, who absolutely understood what laughing was, and did things on purpose to make you laugh more. Her default behavior was jumping. Like she had springs for legs.  For the most part I was able to thwart her her urge to jump and put feet on people – but that didn’t stop her from springing along beside me as I walked, leaping shoulder high and occasionally planting a friendly lick to my cheek. Which I allowed as long as no muddy paws touched my clothes. 

Photographers Lauren Duncan and Brittany Henderson didn’t capture a single image of her that failed to impart her charismatic silliness. As I tell in this story, Bailey is an explosive, enthusiastic jumper, but what the cameras saw made us laugh even more. You can see larger versions in my Facebook album here.

I experimented with makeshift jumps (buckets with a stick across) to take advantage of Bailey’s propensity for flamboyant leaping. Soon, I could hold any sort of rod (usually a broom handle) and she’d joyfully leap it – back and forth – until I told her to stop. It was a game she never grew tired of.

Note that the tagline says Orvis Cover Dog Wannabe. The competition was stiff and Bailey didn’t win the contest, but she’ll always be a cover dog in my mind. Photo by Lauren Duncan

Bailey didn’t limit her jumping efforts to conventional obstacles. Everything is fair game, at least once. The horses’ water tank was a regular destination in summer when it was hot and a refreshing dip was in order. The day Lauren and Brittany were photographing the horses was as good as any, and Lauren just happened to wheel around at the perfect instant and capture Bailey’s exit leap. The resulting picture is too good not to share. It epitomizes the life of a farm dog, working hard all day, making do with amenities that are available, and loving life the whole time. It occurred to me that Bailey might make a fine Orvis Cover Dog.

For those not familiar with the Orvis Cover Dog Contest – the Orvis Company is best known for its mail order fly-fishing equipment. This Vermont-based business also has a robust dog products catalogue. They partnered with the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit that invests in science to promote animal health, and is a leader in funding scientific studies for companion animals, horses, and wildlife. When Morris launched its Canine Cancer Campaign, they partnered with Orvis, creating the Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest. To date, over a million dollars have been raised and 11 major colleges and universities are conducting research funded by monies gained through this program. More info here.

What’s a sweet, friendly dog doing wearing that ridiculous pink spike collar? Those were originally developed to protect herding dogs from predators. (source) These days, the spikes are blunt and the collars are mostly decorative. However, with the addition of a rowdy male German Shepherd to our pack, benevolent Bailey needed something to discourage him from constantly pestering her. It actually was fairly effective. Until he figured out how to unbuckle it. Photo by Lauren Duncan

For years, Bailey was my shadow. No matter where I went on the farm, she was with me. Rob could always tell where I was; if I was not in the warehouse, Bailey’s position in the yard outside the house would pinpoint which room I was in. Any time someone would give her attention, she’d offer up her paw as if to try and pat them back.

She cheerfully trotted alongside as I logged many miles as I walked in an effort to lose a few pounds.

She didn’t judge on the days that I instead sat on the deck with unhealthy snacks and/or adult beverages.

She was content to snooze on her bed under the table in my office during busy season when I spent long hours in the warehouse.

She met each and every visitor here with a big, doggy smile. Once she figured out who was likely to have treats, she randomly offered up her best tricks without being asked.

She was pleasant when we brought home another, bigger dog because we thought we needed something that acted a little more like chief of security than official greeter.

She was, literally, a good girl. To dispute Billy Joel, not only the good die young, but this one did. She was only eight years old when she developed a sore on her hock. It was exactly where her weight went when she shifted her fanny to the side as she sat down, and every time she did the sore was being abraded; covered with dirt. It was nigh impossible to keep clean. In spite of about eight miles of Vet Wrap, it was continually irritated. She couldn’t stop bothering it. Thinking it was just a lick granuloma, I bought miracle salves, protective braces, and finally, a cone.

Farm dogs and cones are not a good mix. Her exuberance had not waned. I repaired the cone with Gorilla Tape multiple times after it got ripped on the fence. I retrieved it from under trees even though I had it fastened as tightly around her neck as I dared. My legs were covered with bruises from being rammed by that damn cone. I can’t imagine how sore her neck must have been. But she remained cheery and apparently unaffected by her miserable situation. And persistently licking that wound, no matter what I did to thwart her. By the time I sought veterinary intervention it was too late. It was cancer and it had spread to her lymph nodes. It’s been over a year and I couldn’t bring myself to share her story until now.

What a disservice that’s been, though, to not tell the story of a good girl who Lived an Intentional Life, without qualification or apology, as artist and author Mary Anne Radmacher quotes from her latest book Live with Intention (available here). It’s named for one of her most-loved quotes:

“Live with intention, walk to the edge, listen hard, practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”

Mary Anne’s words have inspired people globally for decades. I am pretty sure my dog never read Mary Anne’s quote, but she absolutely lived these words.

Some folks believe that our departed loved ones are always with us. How that manifests can be a matter of complex (and sometimes fierce) debate. I believe that, too, and sometimes a surprise in a photograph serves as a fun reminder. Shown here is a picture I took a few years ago. It was a clear, still night, with no recent rain and conditions were not dusty. I took several consecutive shots, trying to get Bailey to look at me – but this one is the only one that has the three circles in it (closeup here – the big circle is NOT the moon, the second is at the base of the chimney and the third is small, directly above Bailey’s left ear). Some refer to these as spirit orbs, to others they are just anomalous specks.

Whether it is true or not, it’s comforting to imagine that, as Beliefnet purports:

“When these “spirit orbs” or “angel orbs” appear near a single person or a group of people in a photo, it’s a sign that they are blessed with the goodness, positive energy, and protection of angels.  When orbs appear in a particular location, it’s also a sign that angels are hovering nearby and the location is particularly blessed.” 

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I know with all my heart that my Bailey was blessed with extraordinary goodness, and it’s also comforting to consider that my home might also be blessed.

Protect This Dog Pewter Medallion available here

Wanna read more?

Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! HoofPrints.com is my “real” job.

More dog stories are here

Farrier stuff is here

You can read more posts about horses here

For more fun on the farm, go here

Adventures in remodeling are here

Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here

Posts about food and recipes are here

Laughable housekeeping advice is here

9 comments

  1. Having lost my 14 year old choc.lab mix – Suzy Q – really enjoyed this, Gina. Suze was put to sleep in September & after 3 weeks of an empty house (my cat really tried to fill the void) I went to the local shelter and met several dogs & decided on Axel! Hes supposed to be a lab mix – maybe. Since his hair grew back (flea infestation) & some fat & muscle added he does look more like maybe. He is such a loving boy – 8 years old. And I’m so glad I found him. Juliette (cat) is NOT! This is the 3rd dog to come into her life & the one she liked or tolerated better was Cougar before Suzy. This time she really was disgusted when I brought Axel home. Shes getting better – not pleasant towards him but better.
    They are with us for such a short time but sure do make our lives so very much better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment. And thank you for taking in a shelter dog. Hopefully your gang acclimates and they are all friends soon. Sometimes it takes a while, though. Our Jack Russell attacked our German Shepherd for YEARS after we got him. Just recently she’s warmed up to him. I caught her licking his face the other day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was beautifully written for an amazing companion. I loved Bailey like she was my own and cried when I heard she passed away. I love reading your stories but I won’t read them before I go to sleep like I did this one. It caused me to have a nightmare about my own dog that he got hit by a car and broke his back. Lesson learned lol. Now we just need a story about Remi my man!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, toleration is the best we can expect from Juliette. And since Axel is VERY intimidated by her – they keep a wide space between them. Individually, they both are very loving – with ME! Sometimes it takes time and sometimes there just isnt time enough – know what I mean? Bailey sounds like such a sweetie. Like I said – such a short time that we have them.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved this post, Gina. I love all my dogs even though they aren’t the best (ahem!) barn dogs ever. Thank you for sharing Bailey’s story. I wish God could let them stay with us longer.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your story hits my heart since more than once I have endured such a loss. But with our latest rescued pup, Gigi, it seems as if she has picked up where my late “shadow” left off sleeping in his bed and having many of the same mannerisms and habits. Other of my animal stories are in my book ‘NATURE’S WISDOM”.

    Like

  6. Thank you for sharing, Gina. I didn’t want to cry but how could I not? It’s good to be in the company of humans who understand how our hearts break in a million pieces with these friends who love and forgive so completely. Bless Bailey and Puppy Girl and all of your friends, and bless my Sammy, Sundance and Jellybean.

    Liked by 1 person

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