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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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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
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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
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.
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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.
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Oh Gina, the lovely Baily. Your story really moved me. xxxxxx
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!
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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.
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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.
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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”.
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.
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[…] was the second (after dear Bailey) that I’d made the hard, hard decision to let go before they were obviously on their way out. […]
Gina, My heart goes out to you…Our beautiful Black Lab Lady also had to be put down due to cancer of the head…Her first sign was to sneeze blood…the vet told us it was head cancer, with no cure…I fought to keep her alive on steroids, and loving care…she lived only one month after the diagnosis, having a seizure, and was unable to function anymore at any level. We put her down with a very sad heart, but I remember what my mother told me as we were growing up and lost our Laddy…She prayed and thanked God that we were allowed to have her on this earth, and we gladly give her back to you dear GOD who also created her and loved her, Sincerely, with love, arlene Landers
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I’m so sorry you lost your Bailey too early like that. this is a beautiful post. She was a special girl for sure, a blessing you didn’t realize you had at first. I laughed at the part about getting her in the truck. Been there. lol But I cried through the rest of it. I’ve lost so many dogs and horses over my many years, alot way to soon like Bailey. I lost my precious little Pit mix Holly last fall to stomach cancer and my Husky mix Stink to hip problems and old age. I miss them terribly still although my son got me a new boy for Mother’s Day. He’s so silly and keeps me laughing. He loves to watch rodeo and horse races. Gets really excited. Bailey reminds me so much of a dog I had years ago, Blondie. She was my shadow, I couldn’t go anywhere without her. She went to all the horse shows, friend’s houses, everywhere. I tried to leave her home once with my kids and their Grandma when I went to my best friend’s, who had aggressive dogs—-she jumped through my bedroom window screen and chased the truck up the road. so she went with me. She was a big goof ball, loved to play, chase cats,but wouldn’t hurt them, just wanted them to run. followed me everywhere on foot or horseback. When she fell out of a tree ( she climbed things )and broke her back and was at the vet’s I had to go feed her or she wouldn’t eat. She couldn’t use her hindquarters after that but like Bailey she was still always happy and smiling, ready for anything, still chased horses and cows scooting along. I’ll never have anyone else like Blondie and I miss her still after 30+ years. A dog like that is part of your heart and soul forever. I know how much losing Bailey hurt and how much you miss her.. Thank you for sharing her story. God bless all our special dogs. I thank Him every day for all the wonderful dogs and horses I’ve had, they have made my life so much better, even though it hurts so bad to lose them.
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