It’s with the heaviest of hearts that I have to share some incredibly sad family news with you.
Friends in the neighborhood and my Instagram followers already know this, but for the rest of you, here it is.
We had to put our beloved Bailey down this week.
He was almost thirteen and we think it was cancer that ultimately decimated him.
He’d been in ailing health for some time, but over the holidays his ability to walk became even more limited. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t get comfortable and he’d groan. A trek up or down any stairs, even just a few, was almost insurmountable and caused tremendous pain.
The vet did an ultrasound and did blood work and we hoped that it was the best-case scenario: a pinched nerve and arthritis. Unfortunately, none of the prescribed drugs and rest helped him. His health (and probably a rumor) was catching up with him.
We had New Year’s Eve plans but cancelled them not wanting to leave Bailey’s side. Charlotte made homemade confetti poppers and we sat with him and tried to make the situation merrier.
New Year’s Day he was in so much pain, we took him to Dove Lewis (a pet hospital) and waited and waited as they worked to manage his pain.
Little did we know then that the walk to the car that day was the last time he’d take a step; they gave him massive amounts of pain killers to help with his pain. We chose to bring him home. They brought him out unconscious on a gurney, and the kindly techs helped carry him into the car.
We brought him into the house still in a narcotic sleep and laid him next to the Christmas tree.
We set up a fire, and sat with him for hours before his eyes finally opened.
Oliver and I spent the night on the floor of our living room with him, holding him and whispering to him. He was no longer eating and even drinking water — lifting his head was too painful.
We held him, and reassured him all night. The next morning, Tuesday, I told David that it was time to call the company who does home euthanasia. The kids stayed home from their first day back to school, and as we waited for the vet to come to our house, we continued to lay with him and tell him how much he was loved.
Bailey didn’t move at all for hours until he finally moved his paw on Oliver’s hand.
The vet who came to the house couldn’t have been more wonderful. She was patient and kindly and she made sure we were all ready. We all opted to be with him; Oliver was nose to nose with him and David and Charlotte had their hands on his body, petting him.
I’ve always been his mom so I held him in my arms.
We brought over his favorite stuffed animal and told the vet we were ready.
It was time.
Oliver said that as soon as the sedative took hold, he broke into a smile and we all felt his body relax for the first time in days.
He took his last breath on Oliver’s face — and then he was gone.
It sounds strange but here goes. His death was so sad but so terribly beautiful, too.
It was a good death– “Thanatos”– the kind we should all have, being swallowed up by a tsunami of love and gratitude before succumbing to a mercifully quick tidal wave.
But now words elude me as I try to express the gaping hole his absence has left in our lives.
Everyone one of us is reeling — and grieving.
For me, I miss the sweet soul who was my constant companion for almost twelve years.
Not many people know this, but Bailey was a breeder’s dog who was used to sire dozens of puppies, but sadly mistreated at the same time.
Details are few, but apparently he spent the first year and a half of his life in a crate outside, not allowed to interact with other dogs and offered very little human interaction.
He was surrendered to Golden Bond (a rescue organization) by his owners, and we met him at a foster family’s home.
I was madly in love with him from the first time we met.
He was so sweet and so familiar to me, like I’d known him before.
We committed to taking Bailey and shortly after he became Oliver’s 5th birthday present and kindergarten graduation treat.
He’s been a constant fixture in our lives, and there’s a very good chance if you’ve met me or seen me anywhere in town, you’ve noticed that he’s been by my side.
If I was in the kitchen, he’d be inches away from me or just sleeping on his bed within arm’s reach.
If it wasn’t too hot, he’d always accompany me in the car on errands,
and for the six years I drove for Meals on Wheels,
he’d go on my route with me, never touching the dozens of treats, uncovered and ready for delivery, atop the front seat.
(Never once would he grab food — on a car seat, on the counter, or even on the floor unless you told him it was his for the taking.)
If I was in the shower or bath, he’d sit outside the bathroom until I came out.
We were literally inseparable except when on vacations, and now that he’s gone, I feel unmoored.
Here’s a beautiful piece of poetry someone shared with me this week; it was written by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate and it was shared after he lost his yellow lab, Howard, at age fifteen.
Death of a Dog
The next morning I felt that our house
had been lifted away from its foundation,
during the night, and was now adrift,
though so heavy it drew a foot or more
of whatever was buoying it up, not water
but something cold and thin and clear,
silence riffling its surface as the house
began to turn on a strengthening current,
leaving, taking my wife and me with it,
and though it never occured
to me until that moment, for fifteen years
our dog had held down what we had
by pressing his belly to the floors,
his front paws, too, and with him gone
the house had begun to float out onto
emptiness, no solid ground in flight.
That’s exactly how I feel.
Everywhere I go, I see reminders of him.
Dog beds awaiting a soft fluffy creature. Dog bowls. Toys. Stuffies.
Even a certain fork brings back a memory.
And playing cards this week reminds me how much nicer it is when a dog is around.
And I was so sad he didn’t see that first sunrise after he left us.
These past five days without him have been dreadful.
I will just be going about my day and then I’ll see something and then just lose it remembering him and his sweet face.
Everybody loved him because he was the sweetest, purest, kindest animal I’ve ever met and he always seemed to intuit what anyone needed at any one time.
I’m so grateful, though, that we were able to give him the kind of passing he deserved– full of love, comfort and memories of our favorite times with him.
In those last few hours with him we reminisced about our lives together.
There were all those daily walks in the neighborhood and Grant Park just a few blocks away.
We told stories of all those parks we went to together.
All that time spent at Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island.
We remembered all those picnics we shared with him– always with something special saved for our precious pup.
And usually a snooze afterward.
We relived in words our camping adventure.
We reminisced about all those movie nights and football games in which we’d snuggle for hours on the couch.
A dog snuggle is hard to beat.
We also reminded Bailey of all those fantastic meals we shared together.
We also talked about this favorite routine we’d do with him.
Years ago we brought a pizza box home for the kids and Bailey got so excited by the idea of food deliveries that we regularly brought deliveries of food snacks to him to the door.
One of the kids would always leave the house and then arrive at the door with a warm treat.
Sometimes the snack would arrive in reserved pizza boxes
and Bailey would follow them whining until he was able to feast.
Other times the treat would just arrive at the door presented on a pretty plate
and more often than not, it would involve eggs.
And in that last hour together, our family talked a lot with Bailey about his favorite place to go.
Twice annually for the last eight years we’d rent a beach house and go there to celebrate his birthday and half-birthday.
We’d usually stop at Dairy Queen for a blizzard on the way there and I’d often just get a scoop of soft serve or small burger, something he could share — and then wear!– after.
We took turns sharing our favorite memories of him.
Playing with him on the sand.
Chasing frisbees and birds, stopping continually for a hug.
Few things in life are more enjoyable to me than accompanying a Golden to the beach.
And we reminded Bailey of how nice those rides home were, surrounded by Oliver and Charlotte in the back seat.
So goodbye, dearest friend.
Bailey, thank you for helping me raise my babies and showing them constant love and unconditional acceptance.
Thank you for your huge role in their lives.
You brought us so much laughter, and personally you reminded me that daily joy is a conscious decision, not a privilege to be enjoyed by the precious few.
And as we go to the beach next weekend for what we’d hope would be your next birthday celebration, we’ll miss you bitterly.
And know that I hope wherever you are, you are happy. And whole again.
And watching out over us still.
We’ll love you forever, Bailey.
RIP. Bailey Kline, Feb. 14th, 2005 – Jan. 2, 2018.