Spuds lobbied hard for this post by Joel Mundt on Friday’s Open Form to be a Comment of the Day, but I didn’t take much persuading. Joel began by wondering if it was sufficiently related to ethics to belong on Ethics Alarms at all, but he needn’t have worried. His story is reminiscent of the experience of a close family member of mine, who relatively late in life discovered the transformative power of unconditional love as only a dog can bestow. It changed her perspective profoundly, making her kinder, more patient, more optimistic and empathetic….and best of all, happier. The experience made ethics alarms surface that had been buried deeply for most of her life.
That’s Bailey, whom you will soon learn about, above. I hope Joel is all right with my publishing the photo, which he kindly sent along when I wondered what a Shar Pei/Whippet would look like. If you are a dog lover and have not already encountered it, I also recommend that you read The Oatmeal’s classic, “My Dog, the Paradox.” It is relevant, and you will see why.
Here is Joel Mundt’s Comment of the Day, his reflections on the passing of Bailey, his dog.
This afternoon, we said goodbye to Bailey, our fifteen-year-old Shar Pei/Whippet mix. She was happy, sociable, and a good eater up to the end, but her liver issues (either Cushing’s or cancer or a combination of both) could not be overcome. Her bad liver numbers went up 50% between March ’21 and March ’22, then went up another 50% (and into the red zone) in the ensuing five weeks. So as April ended, we made the difficult decision – if her health and demeanor held – to give her five more weeks.
Bailey was my first pet, and honesty compels me to admit that I did not initially want her. When our son called in April of 2019 and asked if we could take her, my first answer was absolutely not. But some contemplation and prayer changed my mind…well, really, my heart. Had we not taken her, our son would have been left in the untenable position of having to put her down, and we didn’t think it was time. So we drove to Phoenix three weeks later and brought her home. And to say that she has been a joy would be a gross understatement.
I can assure you I didn’t change Bailey in the three years she was with us. She transitioned from her life in Arizona to central Iowa with nary a whimper. She was always extremely friendly, quiet, well-mannered, and well-behaved. Everyone that met her had the same response…”what a wonderful dog”. Any person that gave her a pet was a friend for life. She always was friendly and oh-so-patient with children who, try as they might to be gentle, would accidentally pinch an ear or pull her fur or step on a paw. Bailey never got hostile or even aggressive, but just stood or sat with tail wagging, sometimes in a rapid circle when she was really happy, letting little hands pet and pat. I’ll never forget that.
Quite the contrary, Bailey changed me. I morphed from a middle-aged man with little time for – and pretty much no interest in – animals to someone that appreciates them deeply. I developed a love for Bailey (and for other animals) I never thought was possible. We play cards with some church friends on regular occasions and five years ago, I wouldn’t have given their dog a moment’s notice except to avoid her. Now Stella-pup gets as much affection as I can give her. Neighbor dogs receive the same from me, and will continue to do so.
We sold our home eighteen months ago, planning to build our “lake-adjacent” retirement home this year. Bailey changed that, too. We decided to build a year earlier, knowing that her health might not hold and desirous that she spend time with us there. Not only did we save about twenty percent in construction costs by building last year, Bailey was able to make five trips with us…five more than she would have made had we waited.
In late April, ethics entered the equation for us, when sobering blood test results brought us to a crossroads. Our vet told us few things frustrated him more than owners who brought their pets in too weak to walk or even stand. Owners, he said, simply won’t let go, and their selfishness (sometimes unintentional, but not always so) caused their pets needless suffering. Bailey, he said, was still in pretty good condition, but there was no way she was going to get better…she would only deteriorate. The temptation was there to just let things continue and not let her go. Instead, we set a date five weeks out…and stuck resolutely to it.
These last weeks have been bittersweet, relishing our time with Bailey, but facing the inevitability of the end. For us, every “last” was a cause for grief: Bailey’s last visit to our new home over Memorial Day, her final weekly bath last Friday, her last cookie-delivery ride with us (my wife makes cookies every week for some neighbor kids and Bailey goes every time), making plaster-of-paris footprints as keepsakes, my dad’s last visit with her this morning, her last walk in the park this afternoon. Every “last” also provided the temptation to waver in our decision.
Bailey was tired. She had some arthritis in her hips and forelegs and still loved walking, but the walks exhausted her and she started stumbling on occasion. She ate well, but one side-effect of her liver issues was that she was continually hungry, a sure sign of its progression. Some evenings, she would look at us as though she had no idea who we were. Confused at times?…maybe. Tired?…definitely. Happy and loving and desirous of pets?…always…I joked that her addiction necessitated a “12-Pets Program.”
I am so thankful the Lord brought Bailey to us. And today, after three years and with full hearts, we have given her back to Him. There are no better hands to care for, and love on, a tired pup than the ones that made her. Even though we know we made the right decision, it is very painful. But while the sorrow I feel now is sharp and the loss is just as sharp, that will diminish with time. In its place will be the happy memories of one of the most fulfilling periods of my life.