Monday, March 24, 2008

A woman's best friend

By Kathryn Reed

At larger newspapers people are assigned to write obituaries. In fact, when someone is on their death bed or getting up in years, it’s essentially prewritten. A few fresh quotes, date of death, and inserting services are the finishing touches, so to speak.
I suppose I could have started this months ago. Mentally, I did. Though the finality of it all will take some time to hit me, the reality is Bailey is gone.
Her vet, Kelly Doria, who I think the world of, came to the house less than an hour ago and euthanized her. Bailey would have been 15 in May.
Kelly was wise to tell me to make sure Bailey had a good summer because it may be her last. We walked when I didn’t want to. I threw the ball a little extra. She got more massages. She was in my Jeep going on errands or in Sue’s carpeted truck bed.
She went camping in September at Lake Almanor. She swam. She canoed. She laid by the campfire. If only she could talk – to hear her stories.
Walks at Cove East diminished to once a week, and at that we had to drive her to the trailhead. Finally, walks were something of the past. The seizures started in January. She had three the day before she was put down.
Sue and I took her to the Lake in mid-January. I don’t know if it was more for us or for her. I just felt like she needed to see the Lake one last time. She didn’t go in. She looked at it, walked on the beach near the Beacon a bit. I carried her across the snow. It was sad – and, yet, cathartic in some ways.
I remember bringing Bailey home – her riding on my lap. I thought Mike and I were just going to look at the litter. I’ve since been told there is not such thing as just looking at puppies. I picked her out. She was the smallest one of the black Labs.
I had grown up with Dachshunds, so a big dog was new to me – despite the few months I had with Mike’s other Lab, Gumbo.
She loved his Jeep, going out on the boat, swimming.
I remember her encounter with a skunk – the skunk won. It was the first time I had taken her in my car. I stunk, she reeked, the car was nasty for weeks. The bathtub looked like a crime scene as I used tomato juice to rid her of the stench.
Bailey endured a custody battle – with me finally getting full custody and Mike having visiting rights whenever he wanted. As her health began to severely decline last fall, I emailed to say her time was short and asked if he’d like to see her. He said her kiss from the previous winter still lingered.
Bailey was an outdoor dog much of her life. Then she slowly was an indoor-outdoor dog. And when Sue came along, she thought Bailey shouldn’t have to put up with the cold of Tahoe. From then on, the indoors were more her territory.
The first time Sue took Bailey for a walk it was really Bailey tugging her along. Bailey had her wrapped around her paws from the get-go.
A spoiled love sponge is what Bailey was.
When her people were out of town she stayed with family or friends. We even convinced her Tahoe Daddy (aka Billy) to leave law school last October for a long weekend to come stay with her one more time. We would find tennis balls in the hot tub after he was here – not knowing if Bailey got in or Billy threw the ball from there.
As Bailey’s back legs got worse, Roni and Brenda and Rene and Celine each loaned us ramps to put on the back stairs. It helped her immensely.
I’m not unique in loving a dog so immensely. We would go on walks, hikes and just sit. We’d talk. She spoke with her eyes, a gesture of her paw, a wag of her tail and her endless warm kisses.
She made me feel better me when I was down. She welcomed me back into her life when I took a six-month sabbatical from the Chronicle and my life in general. She showed me what unconditional love is.
I called my friend Joy for advice – more than once, but finally almost for permission. She asked me what Bailey’s eyes said. “Tired” was my reply. And they seemed sad. It was time. This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever made. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive. Bailey was with me for a third of my life – we were best friends.
We spent the morning of Feb. 8 together … both of us on the floor. It used to be that when I’d cry she would console me. Today, her kisses were bittersweet. It only made me cry more.
I’m used to Bailey being behind me as I write. Lying behind my chair or in the hall. If I thought I worked alone before, I think I’m going to be in for a helluva rude awakening in the coming days and months ahead.
Goodbye, Bailey – I will always love you and never forget you.

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