Remembering Bailey

I was cleaning out some files today and came across a few small pages from a notebook that I immediately recognized.  The pages were dated 3/27/20o9 the day after Bailey, our first Golden Retriever, was put down.   The notes were made after my morning run (wow – I was still running back in “those days”) and recorded my experience during that particular run.

I’m transcribing the notes verbatim here (with a few clarifications in brackets) not as a way to say, “oh poor me – I still miss him so much” (although I do!) but because I know many Golden Kali followers may have lost a beloved pet at some point and probably have their own stories and experiences to share.  In the end what I experienced during this particular run was incredibly cathartic and helped with my grieving process.

By the way the trail I was running on is the trail that would five years later become Kali’s “Creek Trail” that we shared so many great times walking along before moving out of the area.

So here it is….

Went for a run along the golf course – normal path. Went all the ay to the end.  Felt very strong not he way out and for most the the run.  The conditioning is evident.  Should try to expand the distance over time = much of the challenge is mental.

I thought about Bailey throughout much of the run. I sobbed from time to time as I kept “seeing” him on the table [at the vet] getting the injection.  His eyes – I hope he knew as he went down forever that what we did was out of love.

On the way back [way back home on my run] I was in a pretty good zone.  An upbeat song was on the iPod and I was gliding along at a good clip.   I pictured Bailey running freely at full stride like he did from time to time after a cat in the neighborhood.  I saw him in a field of green with blue skies – much like the weather today.  It was like a daytime dream almost – maybe the endorphins (?)  but I was watching, not controlling the vision as you would with a thought. It was more like a dream…

I saw Bailey running, running and then he jumped up into my dad’s arms [my dad had passed away about 15 years before].  Bailey was so happy!  My dad was happy. I said out loud, “you found him! Bailey you found Papa [Papa is what my kids called my dad].  

I started crying and I was so happy. I was so happy for Bailey.  the “dream” started to fade a little but I could still see him and replayed it in my head several times the rest of the way home.  It was a good release and I hope it last and helps how lonely the house felt this morning.

To this day I still miss Bailey.  He was a birthday present for my son when he turned 10 and as the years passed when my son went to College Bailey and I became very close.  He was a great friend and companion at a time that my kids were growing and moving on with their lives.  My kids always came home but Bailey never actually left – he was always with me and remains so to this day.

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Bailey in his senior years.  To this day this picture remains the desktop image on my computer.

 

Or So It Seems

Kali makes Don feel good.  And that makes me feel good.  Good for Don and good for Kali who is able to make a small difference for someone.  Or so it seems.

Over the years there have been times I’ve felt guilty for having a so much when so many have so little.  I feel as though I should be doing something grandiose to make a difference in the world or at least my community.    It’s been many years since we’ve attended church regularly and even longer since I “went to confession”.   But years ago, when the kids were young and we were quite involved in our Catholic church, I mentioned during a face to face confession with Father Steve that I struggled with the idea that my life was so good and so many people were suffering.  I told him that it pained me to know there were people suffering all around the world and I was doing nothing to help them.  On one had this “confession” was a little random but it represented both my guilt for doing so little and also my hope to be able to somehow do more. Steve was a great guy.  A regular guy and a guy I admired and trusted.  Priests are people and not all priests are great people.  But Steve was and to this day I miss his homilies, the prayerful feeling he could invoke in me, and his practicality.

Father Steve told me to relax.  He knew I was sincere and reminded me that I couldn’t fix the whole world in one fell swoop.  Take small bites he said…  He was right of course.  He made me fell better and more importantly he helped me to understand that it’s the small things that can make a big difference.

There is a “farm house” along the trail Kali and I walk.  It’s not really a farm house but it looks like one and when my kids were little they named it the farm house.  Don lives in the farm house.

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Don’s “Farmhouse” along our trail

Don is an older gentlemen who hangs out on the side of the house, sometimes smoking a cigarette but mostly just looking around and killing time.  Killing time that some older folks do when there is nothing much else going on for them.  Months ago on one of our walks Kali and I stopped to introduce ourselves and since then when we pass by, if Don is out, I say “hello” or “good morning Don” and he usually replies, “how ya’ doin’?”  To which I say, ‘Good Don.  How are you”.  “I’m ok” is his usual reply.  It’s become apparent over the months that Don lives in the farmhouse with one of his children and grand children.  It’s also become apparent that Don has early stages of alzheimer’s disease.  I recognize it because both my mom and my aunt are in the early stages as well.

On a recent walk as Kali and I passed by the farm house on our way home we saw Don and I called out hello.  He answered, “how ya’ doing?”   I said “good” and continued walking along.  As we passed by Don’s eyes followed us and I heard him say, “that’s it?”.  I realized that Don was looking for something more than a hello.  He was looking for a connection, a conversation.  Don wanted to make sure he wasn’t invisible; that he was alive.

Later when I reflected on that brief interaction – or lack of it – Don’s words stuck with me.  “That’s it?”

That’s it?  That’s all there is?  That’s all I get?

Since that day I’ve had several conversations with Don.   If he’s out Kali and I make a point to stop and chat.  I don’t know anything about Don’s life and I don’t ask him about it. Instead I make small talk about the weather or the trail and golf course he looks out on.  Don makes nonsensical talk about his house and who lives in it, about the planes that are flying overhead, and  asks where I live; how far down along the trail.  Kali sits patiently while we talk.  Don has always admired Kali. When Kali and I first started walking by Don would always comment about how pretty she was and what a good dog she was as we came to the street to cross as Kali sits and turns to me.  He’d say, “Now that’s a good dog.  That’s how a dog should behave”.

Today as we passed the Farmhouse Don was out doing his “thing”, which pretty much is doing nothing.  It strikes me now that Don is cognizant enough to feel as though he is a burden and he knows he is in the final stage of his life. I don’t know if this makes his sad or not.  He seems mostly content.  Content.  It’s a word my mom and aunt both use to describe how they feel.  Not happy, not excited or sad, just content.  I think Don goes outside to smell the fresh air and hope that someone on the trail will interact with him, say hello, and maybe – just maybe – stop for a minute to chat.

I was glad to see Don outside yesterday.  I haven’t seen him much lately and I was concerned about him.   It was about 7:30 am, a warm 70 degrees with clear skies and the smells of damp grass in the air from the creek and golf course. I love that smell.  Kali and I walked up to Don and he greeted us.  Don reached down to Kali and petted her, squeezed her neck with both arms while he put his face next to hers.  Kali greeted Don with a major lick all around his face.  Don, standing up and wiping his face says, “That’s ok, I’m ok with that”.  He was beaming.  Don felt alive.  So alive he bent down again and Kali repeated the process.

We chatted for a few minutes.  Don asked me where I lived.  I told him down the trail about a mile.  He looked surprised.  Then he looked over his shoulder towards the farm house and said, “I live there?”.  It was a question.  I said, “yep, that’s your house”.

As Kali and I turned to begin walking back home Don reached down one more time to give Kali a pat on the head.  He smiled broadly.

It’s great to know that on this beautiful morning in paradise that Kali made a difference in Don’s life.  Or so it seems.

Brandy

It all started with Brandy

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Panda

I think she can take them or leave them.  Mostly she leaves them but I wonder at times if Panda were still here would Kali warm up to him.  I think she would.

Panda was a cat who sometimes acted more like a dog than a cat which was fine with me because I’m not a cat person.  In his later years he would spend a lot of time in the backyard; usually late afternoon into the late evening. He’d emerge from under the bed where he spent most of the day sleeping and saunter downstairs and head outside.  He taught himself to open the screen door to the backyard (but never learned how to close it!).  With one or two exceptions he never seemed interested in leaving the yard and when Holly and I were ready to go to bed I would whistle and Panda would come running in.  I’m really  not a cat person but Panda turned out to be a great companion who I miss a lot.  Panda got very sick and we had to put him down about a year and half ago when he was twelve years old.

I miss Panda during the warm evenings outside when he would come and cozy up next to Holly or I as we sat and enjoyed the warm weather.  I especially miss him at night laying next to me on the bed when I can’t sleep.  I miss being able to put my hand on his chest and feel his breathing and the vibrations of his purring.  It would calm me and help to fall back to sleep.  Usually at some point in the early morning he would go downstairs to look out the window and make that crazy erie sound that cats make in their throat when they see something moving in the dark; usually another cat. I miss hearing that sound.  I miss him coming upstairs in the morning to greet me when I get up.  I would usually pick him up and roll him over in my arms and scratch his stomach and rub his nose.  He liked that a lot.

Panda and Bailey, who was a Golden mix, got along just fine and would regularly hang out together.  They both seemed to appreciate one another’s company even snuggling together from time to time.

Panda and Bailey checking out the action in the neighborhood

Panda and Bailey checking out the action in the neighborhood

Panda and Bailey snuggle time

Panda and Bailey snuggle time

Kali seems mostly indifferent to cats but I think she and Panda would have had a great relationship.  After all, like Kali, Panda was an awesome member of our Pack.

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Patrolling the perimeter of the yard

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One giant roar!

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Enjoying the warmth of the sun with Bailey

Alice Morales

The gift of making someone happy is a beautiful thing. The ability to make a sad person smile is an even greater gift. This is true especially if that person is reaching end of life and find themselves sad and tired of living. My Aunt Alice is 89 years old in a skilled nursing facility with a rapidly diminishing mental capacity. Her situation is not uncommon for someone her age. She’s not in any pain or discomfort but not too much makes her smile or laugh.

Except Kali.

Alice doesn’t remember too much about what happens during the day and she sometimes loses context of the world around her. But she always remembers Kali, who she calls Kelly, and refers to her as him. I’ve stopped correcting her on the name and sex because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Kali makes Alice smile. When Alice sees Kali or thinks about Kali she smiles and seems genuinely happy for those few minutes.

Alice never married but was surrounded with nieces, nephews, and other family members and had a very happy life. But now Alice is ready to die. She’s told me that she wants to go to sleep and not wake up. This makes me sad but I understand.

Until a couple of years ago Alice was very independent, even well into her eighties, using public transportation (she never learned to drive) to run errands and go about her daily life. She maintained her home of 40 years with little help and I always considered her a very strong and determined person – physically and emotionally – even though she is only four feet eight inches tall. It was always a milestone for my kids when as eight or nine year olds they passed Alice in height. She and I would laugh about that as each kid grew taller than her. A low ( so to speak) bar but none-the-less a milestone. At Christmas Alice would decorate her house with hundreds, if not thousands, of decorations. Her home looked like Macy’s department store during the holidays. She had talking decorations, decorations that lit up, four-foot tall animation carolers that sang, and so many glittery shiny objects my kids eyes would spin the first time of the season that we visited Alice’s “Winter Wonderland”.

A couple of years ago Alice became sick and went into the hospital. She recovered but she was unable to move back to her home because she required more personal care. I helped her to move into an assisted living center. As my family and I cleaned out her house and prepared it for sale I found many half finished projects, partially assembled furniture items and tools, gadgets, and appliances. Even at less than 5 feet tall, in her eighties, and using public transportation Alice was determined to not succumb to relying on others to take care of her, her house, or her affairs.

So I understand that now that Alice must rely on caretaker for every-day activities like getting out of bed and walking, she has lost the will to live.

When I visit Alice she smiles as I walk into the room. She loves me and I her. She’s my godmother and she’s been in my life my entire life. We know each other very well. But as I greet her, as much as she loves me, the smile quickly fades and she seems to retreat to the emptiness she feels. But it’s different with Kali. When Kali visits Alice smiles broadly and the smile remains as her eyes are fixed on Kali. “Hi Kelly”, she says as she extends her hand to Kali. Alice remains in the moment and, for these few moments in time of an 89 year life, Alice is happy.

Washing up to smell pretty for Aunt Alice

Washing up to smell pretty for Aunt Alice

Kali is not unique in this ability to deliver happiness but none the less it makes me happy during those moments, and thinking upon it now, that Kali can make someone I love so much who has lost the will to live want to live in those moments.