A new chapter begins with a tearful goodbye and piece of my heart now broken. But, at the same time, I am filled with a deep sense of fulfillment, accomplishment, and pride that will stay with me all my life. I know, with every fiber of my being, that I did the right thing by my dog and I have no regrets. Only gratitude.
To love a dog is to make a great sacrifice. Their lives are never long enough. They bring fantastic joy to our lives, and sometimes horrible decisions to make. Decisions we owe them, decisions we owe ourselves, and decisions we hate but at the same time are grateful for.
Bailey is gone. Free from his pain... free to dance in the heads of those who loved him with the very best of memories. Free to be anything and everything we remember him to be.
It's a funny thing. Death is final, but memories are kind of like a toy lost under the bed. One day, out of the blue, you look under the bed and there it is - waiting for you all this time to bring a smile to your face.
Mendel, Lilly and I are moving. To a bigger house with a bigger yard in a lovely neighborhood. Young Bailey would love it here. Thirteen year old Bailey would have been tortured by the stairs.
I know I did the right thing.
Moving means packing things up, discovering toys under the bed. Yesterday, while packing some things from a shelf in my bedroom I picked up a sculpture made from coat hangers. My Dad made it in college for an art class while working to earn his Education degree. It's one of the most beautiful things I own.
The description he wrote to accompany the sculpture when he turned it in makes me both heart-wrenchingly sad and unbelievably happy at the same time. After placing it in a box and bringing it out to my car I decided that was enough packing for one day and headed off for a tearful drive to the new house. The sculpture now rests on a shelf between Bailey's paw prints and his ashes. Toys under the bed.
The accompanying paper reads:
I chose to sculpt a dog for the simple reason that I can related well to dogs in general and this dog (Bailey) in particular. Bailey is my daughter's dog and I spend time with him each day. He is a "rescued" dog who was neglected as a puppy and grew up at the Human Society. He never learned to socialize with people and suffers the ill effects of it, to this day. The Wisconsin Liberty Dog program trained him (with my daughter, Amanda's help) to become a service dog. Unfortunately, Bailey's inability to socialize with new people (he hides in a corner and shakes when in the presence of strangers) eliminated him from consideration. If I were to complete this project I would have another sculpture of a scared German Shepherd (the other side of Bailey) cowering in the corner and shaking.
But that's is not the side of this fun loving dog that I like to think about. I much prefer to "see" Bailey crouched and ready to spring, at one of the many toys Amanda has bought him. I delight in watching my daughter and her best friend play together. The image that always puts a smile on my face is Bailey running and pouncing on his Frisbee and sliding across the floor with his front paws on the coaster-like frisbee and his rear end in the air. It is the "spirit" of the happy Bailey that I tried to capture.
I cannot possibly express how proud I am of Bailey for what he was able to accomplish in his life, or how grateful I am for everything he has given me. Bailey left his scared version in the dust and never looked back. He learned to love people and even made regular effort to befriend any stranger who looked like they could give a good ear scratch. The obstacles he overcame were many, but he never let me down.
Very little in our lives was ever perfect. Even his very last day on earth was far from what I wanted for him. Bailey and I seemed to have an understanding - we never expected things to be perfect, we just took what we got and made it work, together.
Perhaps that's the greatest gift he has bestowed upon me. A complete lack of need for perfection in life. An ability to see the light at the end of any tunnel, to see potential... no matter how broken things appear. And most importantly, to remember what true priorities in life really are.
I'm not really sure why, but it doesn't seem right to continue my blogging here. A chapter in my life has ended and it seems fitting that this chapter end as well.
I will continue documenting our adventures at my new blog site - www.whitesmilingfaces.blogspot.com
It's not much to look at now, but I'll be working on it soon.
Until next time, here's wishing you lots of wonderful toys under your bed...
Goodbye, Bailey. I miss you. I love you. I am so grateful for you. I will never forget you.