THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER PART IV: VACATION
“How about remembering your divinity?
How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out?
How about not equating death with stopping?”
(Alanis Morissette - THANK YOU)
10 August 2001
Baker Shift (8X4)
Approximately 0900 Hours
Things have been going great with Bailey. She is getting stronger every day and the indoor messes are decreasing in their regularity. She is getting used to the idea of going outside to relieve herself and she has even begun telling us when she need to go out. The week that I brought Bailey home, my wife and I had planned to travel to Ocean City for our annual August vacation. My wife’s parents own a condo on fifty-sixth street in the Tiffanie By The Sea condo building, and we go there for a week every year. We also stay there on occasional weekends just to get away. It’s fully furnished condo consisting of two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a kitchen with a counter and stools to eat on, a living room with a pull out couch, and a dining area. There are three TVs, a VCR and a pool outside. My wife’s grandfather had purchased the place in the early 1990s and my wife’s mom and aunt took over the payments sometime after that. They rent the condo to family and friends all summer long, but my wife and I always stay free. The privileges of marriage.
So, now it’s nearing the time when we will leave and we have Bailey and we don’t know if we should bring her with us to the beach. We always take Guinness along because she loves the condo. There is a window where she sits and watches people in the pool all day, plus we like having her with us and we don’t have to hire someone to feed her while we are away.
My wife and I spend the entire week trying to find a kennel to house Bailey while we are gone. (Looking back on it now, I can’t understand why I didn’t see this coming, or why I would even consider putting her back into such an environment after struggling so hard to get her out of one…but I didn’t think about it until I found one.) I locate a kennel near Towson that can take Bailey for the week. Most of the other places cannot fit her in on such short notice because I am calling just days before we are scheduled to leave. But this one will not only take her, but they don’t even want very much money. They promise open air areas that she can run in. They promise daily walks. They promise the best care from the most caring people. So I say yes. The day comes and my wife and I load up the car and head north to the kennel. It is located deep off Route 83, in an area known as Hereford off of Mt. Carmel Road. The driveway leads us deep into the woods very near an area where my wife and I frequently do a lot of hiking. Neither of us ever had any idea it is back there.
We step out of the car and my wife walks inside while I walk Bailey around the yard outside. As we walk, I began to hear the yelps and cries of hundreds of dogs…the sound is saddening. It reminds me of the Animal Control lobby. Their cries are everywhere. They float up on the breeze and Bailey lifts her ears at the sound of them. I begin to become very uncomfortable with the idea of leaving her here for a week.
“Maybe it’ll be better once we’re inside,” I lie to her…and to myself.
My wife comes out and tells me they are ready for her. I lead Bailey inside and back into the kennel area. As the door opens, I am astounded. There are rows of tiny cages lined against each other, on both sides of the room. The concrete floors are wet from having been hosed down recently, and the smell is sickening. Thick and humid air hangs all around us. Hundreds of dogs lay or sit in these tiny cages that have small openings at the back that allow the dog to get outside into the open air, or so I think. On the other side of the opening is another tiny cage that is in fact outside, but not at all open for the dogs to run free. A young teenager grabs Bailey’s leash and leads her into one of the small indoor cages located near the back and slams the gate shut. As I walk away, I start to cry…and Bailey starts to bark.
My wife and I sit I the car for a while as I began to sob harder.
“I can’t do this,” I cry. “I can’t leave her here. I just got her out of a place like that. It hasn’t even been a week yet.”
“Let’s go get her then. We’ll take her with us.”
My wife is being very understanding, and I would later learn that she felt as badly about this place as I do. It makes me love her even more.
“We can’t. Your mom doesn’t want her to crap all over the condo.”
This is true. Ever since we mentioned bringing Bailey home, my mother-in-law had expressed reservations about Bailey’s house training and didn’t want her to ruin the nice carpet in the condo. Neither did we.
“Who cares? If she makes a mess, we’ll clean it up. Let’s go get her.”
“We can’t. We’ve talked about this all week and that’s why I spent all this time finding a kennel.”
I start to pull away. I figure if I start to drive, there will be no turning back. The further away we can get the better it will be. Besides, I can still hear her barking from deep inside. I start to think about my mom and how she heard Nicholas over the din of all the other noises the day she found him.
I make it as far as the end of the driveway.
I am sobbing as hard now as I had been when I called my wife at work and begged her not to let the dog die. My wife has tears in her eyes as well.
“Turn around and let’s go get her. I don’t want to leave her here either.”
I turn back. my wife runs inside and tries to explain while I try to control myself. Finally, I cannot take hearing her barking anymore. I get out and walk quickly inside. I am red-eyed and still sniffing and the woman behind the counter looks up at me with a curious smile. My wife grabs my hand in support.
“I’m sorry…it’s not you or this facility…” I lie.
“That’s OK.” She says as she smiles. “It’s usually the mommies that do the crying and can’t leave.”
The same teenager leads Bailey back to me. She smiles and wags her tail like she did that first day at the Animal Control Facility. That does it. I decide right then and there that from here on, Bailey will come with us on every trip we take.
She sleeps the entire three hour trip to the beach.
We stay a week. She runs on the beach. She plays in the sand. She looks shocked and amazed and enthralled with the sea, the sand and the seagulls.
And she never once craps on the condo carpet.
This was the first of many vacations that Bailey took with us in the time that she blessed our lives. We did many things with her in that time. We took her hiking in the woods in and around Patapsco State Park. We took her to New Jersey when we visited relatives. We took her for walks around the neighborhood…and she never needed a leash. She stayed glued to my side and always listened when I called to her. She jumped in rain puddles and tried to catch raindrops on her tongue. She played in the snow and ran in the sun and napped in the shade of the trees. She slept on her bed on the floor by my side and never wavered. When our first child was born in February of 2004, Bailey guarded her like one of her own litter. She never barked at us or bit anyone. Especially not our newborn daughter. And for the entire time that Bailey was a member of our family, she was happy. You could see it in her eyes every single day. She knew that we had saved her, and she was grateful.
Bailey died in August of 2005.
She developed severe seizures and hip dysplasia. She became incontinent. She lost most of her vision due to cataracts. She suffered. By that time, my wife and I were parents and were planning to move north to Pennsylvania. A new home would have killed Bailey. There was no way we could take her with us. The hardest thing I have ever done was to march Bailey back into Dunloggin Veterinary Hospital four years to the month after I rescued her in order to have her put down. My wife and our daughter came inside but did not stay. My wife hugged Bailey and cried. And Bailey did the most beautiful thing: she licked my wife’s face. And mine. It was as if she was saying thank you one last time. That, and “I’ll be okay. You have done enough.” Bailey died in my arms, whimpering and shaking terrified beyond belief. I told my wife afterwards that she did not suffer. I lied.
I live with the knowledge that we gave Bailey a wonderful four years that she might never have had if I had not received that call for service in July 2001. I often remind myself that if I never do one more noble thing in my career in law enforcement, I at least saved one life. What more is there?
Bailey’s loss was a hard one for me to deal with. But by no means was it the first, nor the hardest. That loss was one I endured many years prior. It would affect me for the rest of my life.