I'm sure you've heard people say it before. I know I've said it to people myself, quite a few times. But, if you don't have a dog, or have had a dog, you probably won't understand this post. But if you are a dog-lover, then you know - they're not just a pet. They're a member of your family. They can be your confidant, your comforter, a companion, entertainment, exercise and so much more. And yesterday I had to go and say goodbye to my sweet little blonde girl, Bailey. My heart is broken. But I knew it was time to say goodbye.
Several years ago, my Dad and I had taken our family pet, Maddie over to the local pet store to visit with the pet-rescue group that was having their open adoptions day at the store. We had adopted Maddie from them a little while before, and we were going over to say hi, and just take a look around. It was a nice walk, and during our visit with the rescue folk, I noticed that there was a slightly older lab in a crate lying on the floor. She would lift her head up every time someone went by, but most people - even people who rescue pets - are looking for smaller and younger dogs. She lifted her eyes up hopefully to me and I spent some time just talking to her and petting her through the crate. One of the women working with the rescue said to me "Oh it's sad, she's so much older and she hasn't even been taken for a walk today. People all want younger dogs." Well - I thought - we could at least take her for a little walk, poor thing. So I asked my Dad and he agreed and we got a leash for her and went for a quick walk around the plaza. Now the funny thing is - our dog Maddie wasn't exactly the most friendly of dogs... but she took to this "Sadie" right away. They were just pattering along beside each other, bumping noses and being friendly. Before we rounded the first corner of the plaza, I knew I wanted her. By the time we rounded the second plaza I was working my best persuasive magic on my Dad (you're a sucker Ol'man, but I love you for it) and by the time we got back to the store, I knew she was coming home with us.
I'll admit, that at first, there were people in my family that thought this was never going to work - TWO dogs? We were NOT two dogs in one household people... but it worked. It just worked. We argued for a while and decided we were going to re-name her Bailey. And after a few weeks of "Sadie-Bailey"ing her, we dropped the Sadie and that was that.
Now, Maddie and Bailey were perfect together. Mads was seriously bossy, had collie in her, and we think - she just figured that Bails was her sheep. She'd herd her around the backyard, and Bailey would just do whatever Maddie wanted. They grew together. They snuggled, they played. They were sisters. Sisters of the heart. And they were ours. Our family.
Bailey was my special girl though. She slept in my room, spent a lot of time with me. Was the loviest, kindest, most gentle dog you'd have ever met. Dumber than a sack of hammers too - but sweet. And I loved her empty little head.
When I went away to work in North Carolina for a couple of summers - my Dad sent me letters from Bailey. And pictures of her at the cottage "missing me". And when I got married, and moved out - it was clear that Bailey would not be coming with me, because she had Mads at home, and well, she was the family dog... not mine.
Last year, very suddenly, Maddie passed away. Evidently she had had an enlarged heart and suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. We were completely shocked. Bailey had been so much older, and we all assumed she'd go first. We told ourselves that we would have been prepared if it had been Bailey... and we grieved Maddie's loss. Hard. Because she was family. And we missed her. I missed her so much my chest hurt. I still do.
And yesterday, my Mom told me that we finally had to let Bailey go too. I went over to their house, I spent some time with her, I loved her, kissed her empty little head, and told I loved her. Over and over and over. And then I said good-bye. And 1 year and 4 days later, Bailey went to join Maddie where they could be together again.
My heart aches. My chest hurts. There is a huge, blonde hole in my heart. And if you've never been a dog owner, then you cannot understand. But I miss her. And I am grieving her loss.
She had a good life with us, and I am trying to focus on that. But it is so so hard to say goodbye. And no matter what we might have told ourselves a year ago - you are never ready to say goodbye.
My Copper is getting a lot of love these days. He doesn't understand my sudden need for his furry little self... but somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that this grief will come around again. And I intend to make every day of Copper's rescued life to life with us count. Because he's family. Because Maddie was family. And Bailey was family. And because it's hard. And because - that's love.
Goodbye sweetheart. I'll miss you Bails. Love.
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