We lost our beautiful Airedale, Bailey, on April 10, 2016. I’ve had a lot of pets. A cat that lived to be 23 years old. Another dog that lived to be 14. I thought they had been the loves of my life, but it was Bailey.
It took me two years to find the gumption to write this the first time. Now it’s been almost 5 years that he has been gone. I miss him still, but now I can remember him with a smile most of the time.
Bailey was a big dog. He was an Oorang, the kind of Airedale that some breeders say are ruining the breed because of their size. Bailey weighed 100 pounds and was 26 inches at his shoulders. He had the aloofness, the independence, and the stubbornness that Airedales are known for. He also had the goofy, clownish personality that endears every Airedale to their humans.
Yet, there were many dark sides to living with Bailey.
He had to be walked twice a day because he wouldn’t poop in our yard, even though we cleaned up after him wherever he did his business.
We walked him through wind, snow, and rain, even when it was below zero or hot enough to make the pavement steam.
Many times, either Ed or I fell in the snow or on the ice during winter walks and had a heck-of-a time getting up while hanging on to him.
One time he pulled the leash out of my hand and ran after the UPS truck. I almost had a panic attack.
His baritone bark scared almost everybody until they got to know him. And because of his exuberance and size, I always kept him away from small children. I told him, “You can’t have kids, Bailey,” and he seemed to understand.
He did a fair amount of chewing. He tried to eat one of the burner knobs on our new cooktop. It still bears the scars.
He believed that every carpet hid a secret treasure and it was up to him to dig for it until he found it.
Epilepsy was an especially dark part of Bailey’s life. His seizures were terrifying. He would often rear up and fall over on his back at the onset of his convulsions.
But, for every dark side there were a thousand lights in loving Bailey.
The light in his eyes when he finally figured out what you were talking about and got it right.
How happy he was to see a friend. His special friend was Andy. Before I knew his name, I just called him neighbor and if I said, “There’s neighbor,” he was dead set on going over to say hi.
When he met a puppy, a small dog, or even a neighbor’s cat—he would push his big frame to the ground in a play bow and make himself as small as possible in order to make a new friend. Watching him make friends with a Bichon Friese or a Maltese brought smiles to everyone around.
He was never food or toy protective except for one time when I made the mistake of trying to take his new butcher bone. I know that some folks would say he was dangerous for snapping at me, but he could have done a lot more than snap and I always figured that he had lines I shouldn’t cross just like I had lines he shouldn’t cross.
And how he savored the occasional butcher bone we’d bring home for him. And I never crossed that line again! Bailey was a good teacher. I think I learned as much from him as he did from me.
He was always a good sport about teasing and learned quickly just how to tease us back.
As boisterous as he was, how gentle he could be when wanting attention and putting a big old paw on our knee, always impressed me.
How we loved watching him run with us. The Airedale has a comically sweet style of running, one I’ve never seen in any other breed. Picture a Yorkie twenty times normal size, running at full tilt.
How he loved puddling along the lake shallows of the Mississippi backwaters.
On April 10, 2016, Bailey had a stroke. He walked up to me, his jaw slack and drooling. I couldn’t help him. He walked to the door. He laid down and then he was gone. He was only eight years old. I wasn’t ready to say good bye. That was the darkest side of loving a dog.