Blog by Steve Laug
Today is the first anniversary of the death of our Cocker Spaniel Bailey. He was more than a family pet to me as he was my pipe smoking companion, friend and caregiver during my stroke and bout with cancer. He was with us for fourteen amazing years. He left this life one year ago on Sunday, July 27, 2014 and when he left there was and continues to be a huge empty spot in our lives and our home.
The photo to the left is one of my favourites. It shows Bailey occupying his second most frequently chosen place in our house – lying on my pillow, on my bed. The first place he always chose was on my daughter, Sarah’s bed. I think he thought it was his bed and he let her use it. He slept there with her every night since he joined our family as a puppy. He hopped on my bed while I was making coffee, every morning. When I brought a cup of coffee to my wife, Irene, he would look at me and then jump off the bed to follow me down the stairs to our chair. He waited there on the chair for me to bring my cup of coffee and sit with him.
Most mornings I am up early before the rest of the family. Often I walk to Bailey’s grave in back part of our yard and stand and reflect on my friend. I have had many dogs through the 60+ years of my life but never have I had one that made such a mark on my heart as him. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him. As I stand there I talk with him and vocalize the sense of loss I feel regarding him. His partner in crime, our Black and Tan Spaniel, Spencer wanders around the yard checking on things and then comes to stand with me at the grave side and I think he senses my sadness. Many an evening I sit in a chair at the graveside and enjoy a bowl of tobacco and quietly think about him. I was looking at my computer this morning and found this piece I wrote the evening he died.
It is a sad night at our house tonight as my 14 year old Cocker Spaniel Bailey died this evening. We have had him since he was a new pup so it leaves a big hole. He had been growing weaker over the month and my youngest daughter had been caring for him. She had carried him out to the yard to go to the bathroom and slept beside him on her bed. He was an amazing dog. When I had my stroke he checked on me several times a night to make sure I was breathing and when I came home from my cancer surgery and slept in my recliner he slept beside me and I could feel his wet nose as he checked on me through the night. He was a real friend and companion. We used to sit on the porch together while I had a pipe and lately we had a morning ritual – he would sit on my lap while I sipped my coffee each morning and when I went to take my shower he kept the chair warm. He will be truly missed. My girls and I dug a deep grave for him in our back lot and this evening we gathered round and laid his remains to rest. He went the way he lived – in the arms of his family – he loved us much and we gave it back to him as well. I sat by the grave as dusk came and fired up a pipe in his memory… I know the pain of loss will subside but he will forever be a part of our family’s life and memory… Bailey old friend rest well. I love you and miss you. You were the best… Farewell.
Someone sent me this beautiful article on one of the Forums I frequent. It really sums up what I am feeling as I write and read this piece about my old friend Bailey. There are still tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat even a year later. It is written by Ben Hur Lampman (August 12, 1886–March 2, 1954) who was a U.S. newspaper editor, essayist, short story writer, and poet. He was a long time editor at The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon, and he served as Poet Laureate of Oregon from 1951 until his death.
Where To Bury A Dog – by Ben Hur Lampman
There are various places within which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else.
For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost — if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.
If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call — come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they should not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there.
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.
The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.
The photo below pictures well our relationship with each other. He had an uncanny ability to make me laugh and to make me cry. I remember the night of this photo. We had company visiting from Budapest and had just come home from dinner at the Thai Restaurant across the street from our house. I came into the house and was met as usual by Bailey. He always sat at the door waiting. He had an uncanny ability of knowing when we would come home and be there when we opened the door. He begged to be picked up and then gave me a big kiss on the lips. He caught me off guard and I just laughed out loud. He kept kissing me and finally I let him down to go and hang up my coat. When I came back he was busy visiting our guests and welcoming them to our home. He loved people and always wanted to be the centre of their attention when they came. He would sit next to them or climb on their lap and make them pay attention to him. He was a one dog welcome committee to all who came through our door. When I sat down in my chair he jumped down and came over to my lap and snuggled in close for the rest of the evening. He always hated missing anything so he would only go to bed once everyone had left. I still find myself coming home from work or a trip and expecting him to be waiting at the door for me. I expect him to give me his “Bailey greeting” – a vociferous mixture of grumbling and whining that sounded like talking. His mouth would move like he was telling me what had happened throughout his day. Then he would move around my legs and wiggle allover waiting to be picked up. If I walked by he would follow me complaining with his back end walking almost sideways and his tail wagging non-stop.
Bailey loved riding in the car. I only needed to ask if he want to go bye-bye and he was at the door waiting, grumbling that I was not moving fast enough to his liking. When I opened the door he would race down the steps and out the gate to the car and sit by the passenger’s door until I could open it so he could get in. Then when I went around the car to my side he would race across the car to welcome me when I got in. He would climb on my lap and sit while I started the car. When I took Sarah to work Bailey would ride along and sit on her lap. He enjoyed looking out the window and when people caught his eye in a car next to us he would wiggle with pride. He was great to ride with. When we dropped Sarah at work he would sit in the seat and watch as she unlocked the door to her store and when she went inside he would cry because he missed her. I miss those morning rides together.
Bailey was the ultimate showoff. He loved to go for walks in the neighbourhood and nearby park. He was in his element when others would comment on how beautiful he was with his red flowing hair and green eyes. He would stand up taller and puff out his chest and swell with pride. He loved to look at his reflection in the mirror of the wardrobe by my bed and tilt his head from side to side and move around to get a perfect look at himself in the mirror. When we would come in and see him strutting for the mirror he would make noises and wiggle until we sat with him and told him how handsome he was. The next photo shows him in all of his showoff glory. He loved sweaters, bandanas and even sunglasses. He loved jingling his jewelry (his name tags, rabies tag and license) when he walked. He was a total drama queen. This morning as I write this blog my mind is filled with memories and my eyes are wet with tears. The things I have written and many other moments that are fresh in mind fill me with a sense of thankfulness that you lived with us and shared our lives Bailey. I have one lingering regret – that when I come home today you will not be at the door waiting and give me a report of your day and a huge kiss. I miss you as much today as I did the evening you died. The sadness is manageable and the grief has moved deeper though it does not take much to bring the tears to my eyes and remind me of the hole that you left in my heart. Thank you my friend you will live on in my heart for as long as I live.