My dog's name was Bailey.
When I first started writing this blog, almost five years ago, I deliberately withheld her name. Of course, I used her name as my password, so I naively thought excluding it from the public domain was a good idea. I've long since changed my password, but I began to like the stylistic "Every Dog-ness" of "my dog" and "the dog." She was, in her anonymity, capable of much more than as a dog who existed simply as Bailey. My Dog talked, she climbed trees, she exhibited remarkable compassion for her fellow creatures. She even multiplied using the binary system. Bailey, on the other hand, was just a dog.
But what a dog she was.
Bailey was a beautiful girl. When we chose her from among her littermates, we chose the one with a pink ribbon after she climbed into my youngest daughter's lap and cuddled. On the way home, someone suggested we call her Bailey, since our previous pets all had B names. My husband remarked that she was the color of Bailey's Irish Cream. So Bailey Pink she became.
I'd never had a big dog before. Our previous dogs had been a toy poodle and a cocker spaniel, and I soon realized big dogs required more training, more exercise, but were also more fun. I loved walking her every day, knowing I wasn't tiring out her strong legs and big heart. When we moved here, our walks became even more vigorous. I joined a hiking group, and Bailey quickly learned to walk off-lead. She would run ahead, but then return to me, weaving back through the column of hikers until she touched me. Then off she'd go again, to roam through woods and down footpaths, looking for the odd squirrel or rabbit that needed chasing.
We were a great team. When I took over the hiking group, Bailey was my co-leader. I'd pretend to read the map, but I'd really be relying on her for cues. Whenever we came to a particularly pungent puddle, or an inviting stretch of the Thames, Bailey headed for water. The other hikers groaned when she emerged, shaking mud in every direction.
I didn't really mind. A muddy dog is a happy dog, and nothing made me happier than seeing my dog happy.
Bailey loved getting pets. She had an annoying habit of nudging, nosing the nearest hand into a position to stroke her. When I came home from even the shortest journey, she'd greet me joyously, then roll over to have her belly stroked.
She had a beautiful belly. Long, soft golden hair, tapering to warm pink skin. I loved to stroke my fingers through her silky hair, rhythmically, the movement pleasing us both. I'm a tactile person, and I was lucky to have a dog who craved tactile contact.
We played grooming games called "Pretty Teeth" and "Pretty Toes". She loved to be admired, so I used compliments to get her used to being handled. When she came in from a muddy romp, she'd stop and present first one, then the other foot for wiping, while I showered her with praise.
Because I was home with her all the time, we became closer than most humans are with their dogs. We knew each other's whereabouts, unconsciously aware of the other's position, their intentions. I talked to her often, acutely conscious of how my language must be perceived by her. Perhaps because of this she was more comfortable around people than dogs.
Bailey was definitely a people person, in the same way that I am a dog person. She adored her "friends", as we called them. Greeting friends filled her with utter joy, which she could only express by whining and wiggling and straining to be near the person in question. She had a special affinity for old people. When I took her to my mother's nursing home when she was barely out of puppyhood, she became calm and exceedingly well-mannered. No pushing or jumping. She'd sit, gazing at residents with her head tilted up, unconditional love pouring from her eyes.
My love for Bailey was a bit more selfish. I loved what she brought to my life, the joy we found together. My favorite things to do here were the things I did with my dog—the long walks, the trips we took with her, the dog-friendly outings. There are so many places to explore with your dog here—many of them archaeological sites, which has led directly to my newfound interest in archaeology. Our trips to Scotland, to Wales, and Normandy were special because we were there with Bailey.
Seeing this ancient land through a dog's eyes gives you a whole different perspective. A simple walk through our woods became an adventure with Bailey, who could always find the ripest blackberries, knew who needed a pet, and could unerringly locate fresh fox scat, to our dismay. If walking is beneficial, mentally, a walk with a dog is even more so.
When Bailey developed cancer, I finally accepted that our walks would be numbered, our explorations circumscribed by her illness. But I didn't expect to lose her so soon.
We took her in for surgery on Wednesday, thinking we'd see her again that evening, or possibly the next day. But while she made it through the surgery, she likely developed a blood clot that stopped her heart, once, twice, and finally forever.
Bailey had such a big heart, it must have taken a lot to stop it beating.
There is an empty spot under my desk where she stayed during the day, on her favorite chair, on the sofa next to our bed where she slept. Her pink bowl is forever empty now, her leash hanging uselessly in the closet. I can't look at any of it without feeling the gaping emptiness in my heart. She is no longer on this earth, but we are still plaited together, my awareness of her still acute.
My dog's name was Bailey, and she was just the finest dog ever.