Monday, April 03, 2006

Bailey. June 3 1993 to April 3 2006.

Bailey in Las Vegas, April 2001

Bailey, the schipperke who was the constant companion of Country Mouse since her 16th birthday, went to sleep for the last time today at about noon. He was 12 years old.

Born on a schipperke farm in Saratoga Springs, New York, Bailey came to the Davis family as a birthday present for a boat-obsessed teenager in July 1993. Schipperkes, being originally bred as barge dogs, are considered ideal sidekicks for yachties as they are alleged to have no desire to get in the water and thus will stay safely on the vessel. Bailey proved this canard wrong on multiple occasions, both by making the deliberate choice to go for a swim and also by displaying more confidence than sure-footedness while traversing the decks and gunwhales of numerous small craft. These vessels were all pleasure craft rather than working boats as the dream of the open seas proved to be a transitory stage of adolecence. No matter, as Bailey adjusted to life as dry-docked sailor with admirable ease and self-confidence.

From early on in his life Bailey heeded the call of the open road. Between joining Country Mouse's father for a sabbatical in California while CM was traveling with the Audubon Expedition Institute and accompanying CM and Weasel on their 2001 grand tour, Bailey clocked up over 25,000 miles of long distance travel. He crossed east to west, west to east, and went around much of the outside edge of the United States. A fan of the classic sites of America, Bailey visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, New Orleans, Cape Cod National Seashore, Savannah, Charleston, Las Vegas, Sedona, and the giant trees of Northern California, along with other smaller and less famous towns and hamlets. He always traveled well, although he gave the impression that he didn't much care for Nebraska.

Bailey, being underwhelmed by Nebraska.

Famously adaptable after making a big production of initial disgruntlement, Bailey moved house fairly often, if only for a temporary secondment to CM's mother or father while she completed her college education. Wherever Bailey lived, with or without CM and with or without other fauna, he was a master of imposing his personality on the household. After only a short while dogs and cats (and from 1999 onwards the boyfriend/fiance) with a greater claim to tenure would yield to his intrinsic unreasonableness and his Napoleon complex and in the interests of a quiet life would allow him to rule the roost. Since 2002 Bailey called mid-coast Maine home. He took particular pleasure in the proximity the fire station to his last home in Rockland as all the exciting sirens echoing out of the vehicle bays easily met his criteria for joy. While lacking the length of throat to generate a full-on howl, Bailey passed many a happy minute crooning along with the emergency services as they rushed to the aid of others.

Many dogs display a sincere earnestness that has rightly earned the animal the title of "man's best friend". Bailey was more suspicious of this canine attitude than many dogs, and prefered to adopt a gallic approach to life more in line with his Belgian ancestry. Notoriously disinclined to respond to requests that he stick around, come, sit, get off the bed, quit begging, not roll in dead things, or not eat mud, Bailey excelled at living his own life on his own terms. Attempts by anyone upon a first meeting to get Bailey to fetch something, shake, or perform any actions other than showing his teeth or briefly dancing like a bear would be met with a glance of withering contempt. Bailey was a brass tacks kind of dog; that biscuit in your hand was going to end up in his belly regardless and so he prefered that any tomfoolery be kept to a minimum and that the snack should be swiftly delivered. He disliked fastidious cooks who kept all the dinner ingredients off the floor, and felt that human beings who opened cupboard doors but failed to produce a can of tuna for him were charlatans and teases. Occasionally he would take matters of gastronomy into his own paws, such as during a 2003 dinner party during which he stealthily ascended the dining room table and polished off a scallop casserole before being spotted by a horrified guest. As Country Mouse remarked at the time, it is an arresting sight to see a dog gorging himself while standing in your dinner.

Much like those among us who enjoy an occasional fine cigar but find that modern mores frown upon us conducting our habit indoors, Bailey could occasionally be found in the garden enjoying a special "cat stogie". Although he probably understood that these treats bore nothing but ill-will for his digestion he became adept at rapid consumption of these illicit treasures even as those around him tired to intervene.

Whil he may have been an unpleasant eater (generating sounds unheard outside the 10th circle of hell while crouched over a bowl of kibble) Bailey redeemed himself in many other areas. A kitchen floor was never dirty in his presence, nor a seat ever cold. No ill-willed stranger could have ever approached his family, nor any threat be allowed to go unchallenged. While short of stature and slight of frame Bailey had the heart of a lion stuffed under his tiny ribcage. His most famous display of conspicous bravery came when he ran off a bear in California but he also showed a quiet tenacity when faced with life's troubles. Run over by a utility truck early in his life, Bailey rallied through seemingly endless surgeries and vet's visits. After his recovery there was nothing to indicate that he had come within a whisker of death and that he was held together internally by staples and pins. For many years after his final operation his only speed off the leash was a full gallop; albeit with a peculiar centrifugal shimmy that was more a result of his short legs and cylindrical body than of any medical intervention. After his near-miss Bailey appeared to embody Dylan Thomas's most famous stanza, Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Despite his innate courage, Bailey did indulge himself with some existential fears. Thunder would freeze him to the spot, even if the spot happened to be under the only tree on the tallest mountain for miles, and the buzzing of a fly would cause him to flee a room. Pehaps flies presented a special and real challenge for him, as he was born without a tail.

As Bailey's muzzle grew greyer he began to slow down a little but prior to the late spring of 2005 there was little to indicate that he would not enjoy a long pleasantly grumpy dotage. Around this time however Bailey began to show discomfort whenever his collar was slipped on in preparation for a walk. A visit to the vet last June revealed that Bailey was in the mid-stages of lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes. Apart from a little tenderness in his neck and some swelling of his nodes, Bailey did not appear to be in any discomfort and after an in-depth discussion with his vet it was decided that surgical or chemical intervention would cause more suffering than good. For the best part of a year after his diagnosis Bailey continued to live his life as always without displaying any signs of pain or disability.

In February of this year the usually sure-footed Bailey fell while trying to climb the stairs; a few days later he fell off the bed and landed on his neck. By this time his nodes had become noticably enlarged and his rear feet had begun to bother him badly. A trip to the vet resulted in a prescription to ease the swelling and also a realization that the end would be sooner rather than later. Bailey's body continued to fight but slowly his systems began to fail him. Old age and disease had finally caught up with him and the crisis arrived. After a trying two weeks of accelerating decline and much soul searching, Bailey took his final drive to Camden and the vet this morning. He died in the arms of Country Mouse, gently drifting off to sleep as she stoked his ears. He was a good boy even when he was being bad, and his storied bravery was on display right through the end.

Bailey sits proudly, having discovered the Grand Canyon. Or at least that's what he thought- we never had the heart to tell him otherwise


Mondale said...

We are moved by your loss.
Take care, you are in our thoughts.
Herr and Frau Random Doubt.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Bailey will run into Bates in fur heaven and they can hang together.

We all here at 420 send our thoughts to you.

Anonymous said...

We are so sorry.
And sadness is inevitable, but we must say we admire Bailey's family for the amazing quantity of their love.

JM, HP, & W

Listmaker said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this.

And if possible, can I put in a request for you to write my obituary one day? You are a moving writer. Please make sure to recycle this line in it - "He was a good boy even when he was being bad."

Bill Norris said...

Ah, hell.

If only half the people in the world were as pure and as good as dogs...

The one constant in my life over the last five or six years has been my pup--anyone who can't understand this sort of loss is someone I don't want to know.

Anonymous said...

Love and light to you - and with time and tears and long walks your hearts will heal.... Mags will find him and show him around and keep an eye on him for you, too...

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear that Bailey will no longer grace his presence on this earthly plain. However, he will eternally be running with the stars on the ethereal plain.


Aunt Martha

weasel said...

As much as I feel like by commenting I'm doing the internet version of standing awkwardly in the living room holding a tray of tuna finger sandwiches and adjusting my black tie, I do want to thank you all for taking the time to add your thoughts. I very nearly turned comments off for this post but I am very glad that I didn't: we both (and other dog Dinah if she understood what was going on) appreciate everyone's kindness and empathy.

mas said...

Very sorry to hear this news.

leelee said...

Alas, I too am sorry for your loss..we face the inevitable loss of our BUSTER as he will be 15 in June and although he is still in general good health he has slowed down to a snails pace. My little old man..

I am sure Bailey will be missed.

My condolences.


country mouse said...

Thank you to weasel for writing such a lovely and honest piece about my little boy. And thank you to Bailey for seeing me through the last 12 and a 1/2 years. I reached over the side of the bed this morning to pet him and for the first time since I can remember he wasn't there. Sometimes a pain, but always entertaining, at 17 pounds he may have been small but his presence was huge. A giant piece of me is gone but please know that all your kind words have helped me know that with time my tender wounds will heal.

Joe said...

My condolences (and Ms. PickyourBlog, as well). This was a very moving obituary. Bailey sounds like a grand dog.

youthlarge said...

i am so saddened by this news. i am having major pet emotions right now.

Benny said...

I'll miss you little friend. I'll help Dinah look after your Mum and Pop.

Debbie said...

:(I'm so sorry. Beautiful obit

ofarrells said...

I remember Bailey as a feisty little ball of fur many years ago. He was a great companion and your tribute to him was touching. We are so sorry for your loss.

Jim said...

I'm sure it always amazes the non-dog owners out there, when we wax poetic about our canine companions.

There's an obvious reason why man has sought the loyal companionship offered by a human's best friend.

As your eloquent elegy for Bailey clearly captured, dogs aren't without those traits that make us question the prominence we assign them; when the accounting is figured out, however, they always end up comfortably on the plus side of the ledger.

As they say, "the more I know people, the more I love my dog."

My sympathies to you and CM on your loss and thanks for sharing this wonderful piece with us.

Wes said...

Losing a pet is immensely horrid—I'm so very, very sorry. Bailey sounds like a magnificent pup. I’m sure he would be pleased with this eulogy.

bri said...

Oh, I am ever, ever so sorry for your loss. Please know that I will be holding you and CM and Dinah in the light and wishing Bailey a well-deserved rest.

It just sucks so, so much. I still miss my dog who died 6 years ago.

weasel said...

Everyone has been truly amazing. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My love and thoughts to you both dan and jessie. i'll never forget chasing bailey, or was he chasing me, hmm. anyway, we enjoyed chasing each other around your moms house jessie :) and i always enjoyed hearing about bailey having his way with your bed.
love you both, see you soon
A.A. Coutts