A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on our yellow lab Molly and how she has taught me so much but we have another furry member of our family that has taught us some important lessons as well. Bailey is our nine-year old chocolate lab. Of our two dogs, she is the most laid back and truly the easiest kept dog ever. As long as her basic needs are met (food, shelter, potty breaks), she’s content to just hang out by my side. She’s my alarm clock, my reminder to let things go and not stress so much, my constant in this sometimes chaotic life. No matter what is happening in our day, she’s the one thing we can count on to be “normal” and completely unaffected by our craziness.
When Bailey was born she was pushed from the rest of the litter and almost died. Found cold and barely breathing, she was taken to be warmed and bottle fed until she was strong enough to return to her family. She slept in the bed with her people and was spoiled from day one. We were honored when we were told that we were the only people that she would be allowed to go to (otherwise they were keeping her). Because we were entrusted with this beautiful sweet girl, I’ve tried to be even more vigilant when it comes to her safety and well-being than normal. She’s my four-legged baby and always will be. My Bailey.
When we first brought her home, Molly was only a year old and was still pretty rambunctious. Poor Bailey could hardly use the bathroom without being upended by Molly on one of her romps through the yard. Because of this, Bailey has always seemed like the submissive one…to Molly. However, if she finds something that will run from her, she’ll chase it until it’s out of sight and then come running back to me with the biggest “smile” on her face. She’s so proud of herself! She might be bullied by her “sissy” but she’s no pushover. It makes my heart happy to see the sheer joy on her face.
Sweet Bailey would have made a perfect mommy dog (if I believed in breeding) we’ve found. When she was two, Matt brought home a 2 lb kitten that had been found in the median of a busy intersection where he worked. Within a few days, the kitten realized that the dogs weren’t going to eat her and proceeded to “adopt” Bailey as her mother. She’d curl into her as she laid on the couch and suckle on Bailey’s lower lip. I couldn’t believe it when Bailey just laid there and let her do it. I think it was more of a comfort thing for the kitten than a need for food though because she only did it when she wanted love. To this day, they are still the best of friends.
A few days after she turned two, Bailey had her first TTA surgery to fix a torn CCL (basically the same an the ACL in humans). The recovery was rough but after about nine weeks, she was better than ever. However, the surgeon who did the surgery advised us that 60% of dogs that tear one CCL will likely tear the other one within a few years. Like clockwork, the second CCL was torn about four months before she turned five. She had her second surgery at the end of October and this time took almost six months to heal. It was horrible watching her struggle through the winter with one arthritic leg (due to the first surgery) and one leg that was taking its sweet time healing properly. She pushed through it like a champ though as long as I stayed by her side as much as humanly possible. At night, I’d lay on the floor with her while she would try to get comfortable enough to drift off to sleep and she’d lay her big head on my chest and sigh. She’s never been an “in your face” affectionate dog so this time with her was really special to me. She’s such a brave and happy girl. I think that helped in her healing. Of course, it also helped her become even more spoiled and even more essential to the beating of my heart.
There have been times when I’ve wondered why she was pushed from the litter, if there was something her mom sensed about her that wasn’t “normal”. If there was some abnormality in her legs from birth that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. But then, I look at our special girl with her crossed-eyes and stiff-legged walk and I am reminded of the movie Forrest Gump and how, even though the character was a simple man who started out life with some physical disabilities, he still had an amazing ability to love even those who seemed unloveable. I couldn’t imagine what my world would have been without Bailey in it. It makes me thankful that we, as humans, don’t always “let nature take its course” and that we sometimes go above and beyond to save something we feel is precious enough to be saved.
When I look at Bailey, I’m reminded me to never give up, no matter the odds. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed even if our greatest joy is only an occasional burst of energy that makes us feel free from the burdens of our physical pain. Instead of seeking material things beyond our basic needs, we should all be content to just breathe a sigh of relief when those needs are met. We should enjoy every moment we are given with the ones we love and live life with a big goofy smile on our faces, just happy to be alive because life really is “like a box of chocolates”.