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For Bailey

The painting below (the artistry of Michelle Snell) is a gift I received from my wife on my recent Birthday. It depicts our dog, Bailey, ready and eager to begin our cross-country drive, California to North Carolina, four years ago. Three months after settling into our new home in North Carolina, I posted the following:

We are designed with a foundational need for relationship with other creatures. Our experience with our fellow humans, i.e., family, friends and acquaintances, is a fluid experiment. Many times, we fall short of knowing the ideal enjoyment of healthy, mutually satisfying interpersonal relationships with other people. Therefore, God gave us the gift of dogs. I am not ashamed to say there is little that rivals the joy I have known since a little “rescue” passed through our front door with fear and trembling ten years ago.

Bailey, my and Elizabeth’s tenacious and faithful friend, took several days to find his feet in our family, and then he kind of took over. Bailey was our guard, our wake-up call, a spunky little guy who would look you in the eye or place a paw on your arm or leg, to let you know he was there, consistent, faithful, and true. He loved “bye-bye”, long walks, and like clockwork kept you accountable when he was due his breakfast and his dinner. He also had a great snore.

We would have Bailey perform for in-between meal treats. However, Bailey quickly learned every trick, after which he would just sit and stare as if to say, “alright, your turn." When Dexter, our little white-haired, long-tailed Schnauzer, another rescue, graced our lives, Bailey took him under his wing and committed himself to quell Dexter’s trepidation of bonding with these big, human strangers.

I loved coming home. Before I could press my lips to Elizabeth’s, Bailey was there. Jumping, spinning, wiggling. Total delight in seeing me. Me! When and where do we mere humans have that ongoing, consistent affirmation? Bailey made me feel good about myself. No judgments, just acceptance, always without exception.

Yesterday, we concluded a heart-wrenching process of closely weighing his quality of life. It is the most difficult obligation that we intelligent creatures must fulfill. We were made to assist our Creator as His sons and daughters, and we leaned into God as we walked Bailey through this terrible time. But, as Elizabeth said, it wasn’t a burden. As though bargaining for his life, she also said she would gladly give our new house, the only one we’ve owned as husband and wife, if Bailey could stay with us. Gladly.

But it wasn’t to be. Yesterday, we carried Bailey into the vet, neither of us verbalizing what we already knew. This was the day. Within a blink of an hour, we held Bailey close, looked him straight in the eyes, whispered words he loved to hear, and watched his little shell breath its last and his spirit pass on.

Bailey was a “rescue” when he came to us. Definitely sent to us by a merciful God. We were in need at the time more than Bailey. Isn’t it true that these little ones play a greater part in the process of rescuing?

Elizabeth and I are the richer, the better for having known and loved Bailey. Thank you, little guy. We will be together again.

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