I used to wash Bailey in our front driveway because the hose was convenient. On one May day in 2008, in mid-lather, my phone rang. It was Brett Favre. Not loving retirement. Having second thoughts. I was trying to talk to him and wash the dog at the same time, and finally I had to tell Bailey to lay down and wait—for about 40 minutes. There she lay, all soaped up, just doing what she was told, as she always did.
Mostly, she was just an incredible companion. Didn’t bark much at all. Never whined. Went nuts when any of us came home, as dogs do. (She saved her going-craziest for Doug’s occasional visits over the years. Ten years after we adopted her, a Doug visit still prompted Bailey to go into orbit. Amazing how dogs remember so well.) And that’s why the last few days have hurt so much. My wife and I wake up and look on the floor; no Bailey. We walk back into the apartment, and we look down in our foyer; no Bailey. What an empty feeling. I assume we’ll have that empty feeling for a long time. A month, two months … I don’t know. I wish I didn’t have to feel that pain in my heart for the next month or two or three.
But by my calculations, we had Bailey in our lives for 159 months. I will endure a few weeks of the occasional dark thought, and I will think: Pretty good trade, 159 months of companionship and friendship and unconditional love for one or three months when sadness creeps in. In fact, that’s a fantastic trade. I feel the same as I did when Woody died: The easiest way to not feel this grief is to never have a dog. And what an empty life that would be.
In her final days, Bailey had been given some steroid pills to treat a bad limp. She had arthritis, and we had to lift her to stand, and she couldn’t put much weight on her right foreleg. So we’d take her out for her regular trip to the sidewalk four times a day, and by Wednesday, it was unbearable to watch her struggle to make it outside. First thing Thursday morning, when I approached her to tell her it was time to go outside, she wagged her tail so hard it hit the wooden floor like it was a drum. This dog was still into life. But the limp … just too painful to watch. We went to the vet a couple hours later. I had to carry her more than half of the three-and-a-half-block walk. We told the vet, Keith Manning, about her trouble, and he was nice and avoided our beseeching looks about the next treatment, and said her longstanding bulging disk was pushing on her spine and preventing her leg from working and, well, there wasn’t much he could do, and …
“Give us five minutes,’’ I asked him. He left the room, and Ann and I said our goodbyes.
Ann gave Bailey her last milk bone. “Good girl!’’ she said one last time, through her tears.
Then Dr. Manning came in, with his assistant, and we lifted Bailey up on the table. Ann and I held Bailey as Dr. Manning shaved her left forepaw. He took the long silver needle with the red poison, found the vein and pushed it in.
I whispered into Bailey’s ear: “Go play with Woody.”