It had been raining steadily all week in my Houston, Texas neighborhood. The dirty, soaked-to-the-skin, brown dog took shelter beneath the motorhome parked along the curb at the end of the street. Seemingly frightened of its own shadow, it returned to the bit of dry comfort provided under the motorhome after running in sheer terror from monsters such as the city garbage truck. Each day my heart broke just a bit more with the pitiful scene unfolding.
Living with someone who had never had a dog (we were a cat household) and who expressed disinterest in ever coexisting with a canine, the decision I made was to hopefully gain enough of the dog's trust to get it to the shelter. If I was successful, at least this pup would have a chance at a loving home.
Approaching the motorhome slowly with food, I kept my voice soft with, “It's okay, baby, it's all right. Don't be afraid, baby, sweetie.” After leaving food within her reach, she would eat only after I backed away and came no closer. A few days of this routine and . . . she followed me hesitantly down the street back to my house. Once there, I sat on the street curb, constantly talking softly to her . . . “Hi, baby, it's okay. Hey, sweetie, aren't you a sweet baby.” Before long, she was in my lap, in my heart and in my home.
She was young, perhaps six months old when she entered my life during that rainy week in October 1997. Baby was essentially healthy with the exception of a blown left pupil from blunt head trauma; she bore a slight scar above her eye all her years. With me until February 2010, her health was excellent. The only vet visits were routine check-ups.
Snapshots from Our Life Together
Baby never tore up anything excepting the box of Junior Mints she procured from my home-office desk during those early days. “Oh no! The dog ate a box of chocolate! Chocolate can kill a dog!” The only aftereffect was her having minty-fresh breath for days! A few years later, she also cleaned a plate of banana bread when silly me went to the kitchen for a few minutes and left the plate on a coffee table.
Countless tears fell to her fur during my cancer experience and the dark times following the dissolution of my previous marriage.
Ours was a cat-and-dog household; however, the cats were there first. I wondered what Baby’s reaction would be when I introduced two young kitty brothers to the mix. Her reaction? “Mom!! You brought me kitties!” Gentle and tolerant as always, she allowed them to play with her, perform “sneak attacks” on her and welcomed them as her little brothers.
Baby was always my protector and guardian. During my move from Texas to Minnesota, there was one hotel she apparently did not like. She slept across the hotel room door threshold, refusing to hop into bed with me or budge from her spot at all until the next morning.
In all the Reiki classes I taught, Baby was right there with me greeting students, sitting in the circles with us and allowing students to practice their Reiki techniques on her. During one class, as I came to the end of the row of students receiving their attunements, there sat Baby! She was telling me she was ready. She received her Reiki II Practitioner attunements that weekend.
The Thanksgiving Baby and I went camping, my first solo outing with a new tent, my first solo camping experience period, she did not laugh as I erected that big tent but only politely grinned, although I don’t know that I can say the same for campers at neighboring sites. Sitting together by the campfire at night, she quietly said “Boof” as folks strolled by on the road, alerting them to her presence and me to theirs while not making a disturbing “Yap yap yap” like other dogs in the campground.
When I spent three months in Scotland with Dave prior to our marriage, Baby boarded at a sled dog facility in Minnesota. Upon returning to pick her up, I wondered about my reception after leaving her that long (she had been boarded for a night or two on various occasions during previous years). When she recognized my whistle, her handler released her lead and she bounded through the snow, knocking me down with her hugs and kisses. I will never forget that joyous homecoming!
Dave and Baby in Minnesota – She loved snow
Our wedding in our Minnesota home would not have been complete without Baby’s attendance.
Helping me on wedding day
Dave had never lived with a dog. He knew right from the get it was “Love me; Love my dog.” Baby adored him from the first meeting; all girls love a Scottish brogue, eh? It seemed through the years that Dave “tolerated” her for my sake. After all, she was “my” dog; we had the history together.
Baby had aged quite a bit in the last couple of years. The sight in her good eye was shadows only and her hearing was virtually gone; she could “lose” me in the same room. She was not in pain, but she was not enjoying life as before. She was having trouble getting around, her hips and legs giving out now and then.
For weeks I struggled with the decision. Was it time? There is no turning back once it is done. What should I do? Was she ready to go? Was I ready to give her up?
Having had to make similar decisions throughout my life, I told myself, yes, it was time. She had given me so much – all of her love, compassion, joy and protection – I owed her more than the indignity of a slow death by infirmity.
I made the phone call to our vet and arranged to be there the next day following work. When I told Dave, the tears came for him. For the next 24 hours, I believe he “saw” Baby for the first time, realizing the love he had for her and acknowledging her adoration of him. Staying strong for her, I encouraged him to do the same in her presence so she would not be upset.
Dave had never been with any living creature at its passing from this world. In the exam room at the vet the next afternoon, we had Baby’s cushy bed, her blankie, her favorite “fluffy,” a candle burning with the lights turned down and a Reiki music CD playing. Dave, the vet and I quietly talked to Baby and loved on her. The drug coursing through her veins to stop her tired, devoted and courageous heart reached its goal and, as throughout her life when relaxed and drifting into The Dreamtime, her last breath was a simple, contented sigh.
At that last breath, I lost it. No longer putting up the strong “front” for my Baby-Dog, the tears showered her Shepherd-like coat and I cried out her name. At these words even today, I am misty-eyed.
I hear you saying, “Okay, what was Baby’s Gift, already?”
Her gift was her love, not just for me, for I have known before the unconditional and devoted love of a Dog.
No, Baby’s Gift was to Dave, for he had never known what it is to be loved by a Dog and had never loved a Dog.
As we left the vet clinic, Dave remarked that Baby’s passing was “beautiful,” and indeed it was. He also said, “We could get another dog sometime . . .”
Baby was cremated and some of her ashes spread on the property of friends near Brenham, Texas, where I lived for many years and which I still consider “home.” We had a wee life celebration for her . . .
Dave, me and Maggie at Baby’s Life Celebration – April 2010
That summer, friend Sue told me “Baby’s Spot” was a beautiful carpet of Texas Bluebonnets with all the recent rain.
Baby loved to travel and camp, so the rest of her is with us as we travel and work as full-time RVers. Dave has said he would like to sprinkle some of her ashes in The Highlands of Scotland on our next visit.
Curious about Maggie shown in the above photo? Our Marvelous Maggie joined the Barnes clan about a month or two following Baby’s passing. Dave and I truly believe she was guided to us by Baby, as our Maggs is a total joy and blessing. Friends at Baby’s life celebration remarked it seemed as if Maggie knew what we were doing; she was quiet, respectful and loving of everyone there.
I know these blog entries should be short; however, this one is what it is, and I thank you for staying with me all the way through. I’ll try to behave from now on . . .
Thanks for stopping by! Now go write!