Bailey: Smooth and shiny, kissable and typical English Lab “blockhead”…velvety-soft black ears on my lips and cheek. Bottomless, chocolaty soft brown eyes peering meaningfully, deep down into my soul. These will be my most precious memories of Bailey who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on the morning of September 12, 2020.
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Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
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We adopted Bailey from the local shelter in December of 2012. Our veterinarian estimated him to be about three years old. He had been abandoned in a nearby town, nearly hairless from flea bites/allergies and both ears infected. Despite this, he was cooperative, good-natured and easy-going. How could anyone let this perfect soul go? I know why! He was predestined to be with us the rest of his beautiful life. A lovely, laid-back Black Lab, I could immediately envision him leaning back in a La-Z-Boy, feet up, a cigar resting lightly in his paw, eyeing us curiously: “Why are my humans always so busy?”
Yes, it was meant to be; fate brought us together that long-ago December day. I thank the Universe for the incredible gift of his presence. A wise and easy-going teacher (well, perhaps more accurately, a professor, with those big beautiful penetrating eyes), Bailey guided, loved and was so very patient with all creatures he encountered, animal and human alike.
Bailey had been ill for at least a month and in retrospect (and hearing Ken’s reflections) I recognize that it really had been much longer than that. He had finally stopped eating on his own: Clue Number 1. I hand-fed him for a couple weeks until he no longer accepted that. He was visibly losing weight and I began to worry I was doing a poor job getting nutrition into him. I began giving him soft food and ground meat by lifting his cheek and inserting it between his teeth: Clue Number 2. He once accepted a few bites of one of his favorite fruits, a banana, but soon turned away from me: Clue Number 3. (“Hello! Mom…it’s time!”). I feel he was trying to communicate his status to me then, but I just couldn’t accept it. I knew he would get better and once again thrive if only I did a good enough job. I now acknowledge that he was [just barely] tolerating my attempts to keep him alive and return him to good health.
I am having a difficult time accepting how wrong I was. I had decided to take him to Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center on 9-11-2020 on the suggestion of a dear friend and Bailey’s second mama, Monica. I called and was able to get him in the same day. It was a two-hour drive, but I knew it was worth it and they could fix whatever it was that was temporarily bothering Bailey. We arrived at 12:30 p.m. for our appointment. What I hadn’t expected was that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I would not be permitted to accompany him into the hospital. He obediently went with the two nice young ladies who had come out to have me complete a questionnaire and then take him inside. I was left to sit alone, nauseated and terrified for him; I remained in the car in my designated “spot”.
Bailey was examined and at about 1:30, the vet called me. They noted that he was suffering from Masticatory Muscle Myositis. The muscles on the side of the head, used for chewing were atrophied. I Googled this and learned that this mainly affects large breed dogs and is an inflammatory process. She recommended blood work to give her a better view of what was going on with him. I enthusiastically gave permission, praying to all who would listen to send down a sparkly white healing light/vortex to surround and miraculously heal him. I was confident that God , the Archangels, Angels and Spirit Guides would all hear me and my prayer, and it would “work”.
At 2:30 p.m. the vet called me back and said all the lab work looked good except for protein in the urine. She felt this could be due to his already diagnosed Lyme Disease. A regular abdominal x-ray would not really show what was needed to diagnose anything going on in the specific organs. Rather, she preferred an Abdominal Ultrasound, but stated that they already had patients prescheduled for their US exams. I replied that, taking into consideration that we had driven two hours to get there, could they please try to fit him in? She would certainly make that request of the Ultrasound Department and try to have them work him into the schedule.
At 4:00 p.m. she finally called me back to say they would be able to fit Bailey in for an ultrasound. I was at that point thanking God for that gift. Note: There were multiple trips into the hospital restroom for a colon that would not stop dancing from the high stress and worry about Bailey facing all this alone and not knowing how this would all unfold.
At 5:15 p.m… THE CALL. The vet said Bailey had been sedated for the ultrasound exam. They wanted to allow him to recover a bit before returning home, but he would still be very sleepy. A cavitary vascular mass had been visualized in his spleen. She was leaning toward a chest x-ray to confirm or rule out metastatic disease in the lungs. I suddenly recalled resting my hand on his chest the day before and feeling rales (an abnormal rattling sound in the lungs). Also found on the US exam was glomerulonephritis, but my scribbled notes gave me no clue about this nor did my scrambled memory. I know Lyme Disease affects the kidneys, so perhaps this was the culprit.
So, bottom line, these were our options:
• He could be given an appetite enhancer
• The mass could be biopsied, but that may well result in a rupture and cause him to bleed to death
• The mass could spontaneously rupture resulting in bleeding into the abdomen, an emergent situation
• He could have surgery followed by chemo
• No surgery: Hospice Care
My heart was crushed. Coupled with his weight loss, complete lack of appetite, near refusal to eat and now, to drink, the outlook in my mind, was grim. Any one of these options did not ensure quality of life. So, this was it. I would not, could not, allow him to be cut open and continue his suffering. The tears came. The tears continued. I sat in the car so very alone, absolutely desolate. I called to confer with Ken and we were in agreement. We knew what we had to do; we had done all we could for Bailey; we saw no other alternative. From Buffalo, I made a call to our local vet and made an appointment for the next day to be there to comfort him on his way to his final destination. This had been his journey. He had worked hard at it, but he had accomplished his mission. For our loving and loyal companion, Ken and I were proud to be there with him to ease his journey into the next realm. It could have been no other way.
I have been contemplating the love we humans have for our animals, and theirs for us. I believe that it is the purity of the animal’s essence, the trust, devotion and unquestioning adoration the animal has for his human. There is a special light in their eyes, their bright spirit shining out, the piercing, keen “seeing” into the very depths of our very soul that draws us inextricably to each other.
Sweet Bailey and I having our last conversation on September 12, 2020. Dakota is behind me, being completely supportive of me and his brother. In two hours, Bailey would finally be safe, secure, warm, healthy and happy. God Bless this beautiful, gentle soul.