I’m not a pet person. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have one.
Missy is the opposite. If it were up to her, we’d go to the pet store and order “The Noah”.
Knowing my preference for a pet-less existence, she made me agree to it before we got married. Call it a pet pre-nup. Pet-nup? Pup-nup? I agreed to get a dog as long as she agreed that we would only have one dog and zero cats.
And so our life as a budding family began the way many do. We got married in August 2006, moved out of my one-bedroom apartment and bought our first house in January 2008, and in March of that year we went to the animal shelter to pick out our dog.
I’ll never forget that day. There were probably 20 or 30 dogs there ready to be adopted. We made the rounds a couple of times, but both of us were pulled toward the dog with the black spots and the boundless energy. He held eye contact with us the whole time we were on his row of crates. Did a couple of hops and spins and wagged his tail.
There wasn’t any debate, we both picked him. On the drive home, we threw out a few name suggestions. I know Bailey is generally more of a girl’s name, but for some reason it just felt right for him. Something about his spots and his smile made him look like a Bailey to me, and Missy agreed.
The animal shelter had him listed as a lab/dalmatian mix. We thought that was probably inaccurate, and our vet said he thought Bailey was a border collie/blue heeler mix, which is certainly closer to the truth considering Bailey never grew to be very tall and has never weighed more than 45 pounds.
Our vet guessed that Bailey was four or five months old when we got him, and he definitely acted like a puppy. He couldn’t get enough attention, and as a young, newly-married couple we were happy to give him plenty of it. We loved throwing him tennis balls in the back yard to fetch, and Bailey loved chasing them down and bringing them back to us. The only problem was that he never wanted to drop the ball back at our feet so we could throw it again. We had to wrestle it out of his mouth every time.
One day when Missy was at work, I was upstairs playing with Bailey when my cell phone rang. While I talked on the phone, Bailey kept jumping on me to try to get me to play again. After about two minutes of this, he quit jumping, took one step back, looked me square in the eyes and laid a giant dump on the middle of our rug.
“No big deal,” I thought as I calmly cleaned up the mess.
Just kidding, I was pretty pissed. Bailey spent the next few hours in the backyard.
His favorite backyard activity has always been digging. He digs holes underneath the fence and emerges on the other side. We tried everything to stop him but he was determined. Sometimes he’d just go straight to the front porch and wait for us there. Sometimes he’d roam the neighborhood for awhile. But he’s always known his way back home, even when he was a puppy.
The first time Missy and I went out of town without Bailey, we asked my friend Spike to watch him. Spike lived across the street so it was pretty convenient. On the day we were getting back in town, Spike texted and said, “Just so you know, Bailey ate all of your shoes while you were gone.” Sure enough, he chewed right through several good pairs. Thankfully that phase ended pretty quickly.
My first major bout with depression came on my honeymoon, as I wrote about here. The second one I can remember came a few months after we got Bailey, on an afternoon when Missy was working and I was home alone. I just curled up in bed and cried for a solid hour. Although I’m sure he had no idea what was going on, Bailey really helped me through that just by being there and letting me pet him.
Bailey had about nine months as our only “child” before Addison was born. We were worried that he might get jealous as our attention to him decreased, especially after the poop incident. And as a parent you’re always worried that the dog might hurt your baby, either accidentally or on purpose.
I remember there being a little bit of jealousy on Bailey’s part after Addie arrived, but he’s been the perfect dog to have around children. By the time Myra arrived, he was completely mellow with the kids. He’s been ridden bareback like a horse by all four of them at one point or another, and he never even barks at them.
Now Bailey is getting old. He’s almost completely deaf and can’t see that well, either. He doesn’t run around the house or the backyard like he used to, although he can still get feisty on occasion.
He’s also taking advantage of all of the benefits of being old. He just jumps onto the couch or the bed instead of waiting next to it for us to give permission. We just let him get away with it now. He knocks over the trash can to eat whatever is in there, even though he knows better. A couple of times I’ve come home and Bailey has immediately run from the living room straight into his cage. He never does that so I knew something was up, and sure enough I walk into the kitchen to see the trash can knocked over and trash everywhere. He just went ahead and gave himself a timeout in the cage.
We don’t know Bailey’s exact birthday because we got him at the shelter, but because we got him at about 4 to 5 months old in March, we celebrate his birthday on the same day as mine — Nov. 12. And this Nov. 12 Bailey will turn 12 years old. He’ll get a big bone from Petsmart and probably some extra table scraps. I hope he has many birthdays left, but time isn’t on his side.
We thought we lost him for sure a couple months back. We went to Branson and Maddux let him out the back door of our airbnb, then didn’t tell us because he thought he would get in trouble. Bailey was gone for about an hour and Missy and I were scared to death because of course he didn’t know the area or his way back home — or so we thought. While we were scattered throughout the complex searching for him, he popped back up down the road when Myra and I saw him, and he immediately ran straight to our front porch.
He does that all the time in our neighborhood at home, but now that he’s getting older we fear he won’t be able to see or hear a car, or he’ll forget where home is. We remind the kids of how old he is, probably to a fault. The other day Hawk came up to me and said, apropos of nothing, “Bailey is really really old and then he will die.”
But of course it saddens me to think of how the kids will handle Bailey’s eventual demise. They haven’t had to go through a loss like that yet (knock on wood). They love him so much. I know it will be a big loss for me, too. He’ll always be our first “child.”
I’ll always remember his quirks. How he gets so excited on walks that he chokes himself pulling on the leash to go faster. How he gets so excited about getting a treat that he does all of his tricks — spinning, jumping, shaking a paw, sneezing on command — one after the other instead of waiting to see which one we actually want him to do. How he tries to cover his poops with grass in the same way that a cat covers them with litter.
But mostly I’ll remember the love and stability he brought to the Franklin house. Everyone thinks their dog is somehow different than all the other dogs in the world. Bailey isn’t supernaturally gifted in any way, but he sure is ours.
I’m glad I made Missy sign that pup-nup.