RIP, Bailey aka Little Tiger



RIP, Bailey aka Little Tiger

This quirky and endlessly eccentric critter didn't have much luck at the beginning of her life, and she caught a really bad break at its end.

In between we tried to give her as full and happy a life of ‘dog fun' as we could.

Bailey passed away peacefully last Wednesday, at the approximate age of 10.5 years, and fully 18 weeks after the canine oncologist estimated she had about a month to live.

We adopted Bailey from a rescue ranch in Arkansas, when she was a bit over a year old.

They told us she'd had one adoption that failed, and had been returned to them previously. They also noted that she was apparently mostly a Wirehaired, Pointing Gryphon Terrier, and they had at least one breeder of those dogs in their immediate area.

In retrospect it is possible she was purebred, and had perhaps been returned or given up by a dissatisfied buyer.

Bailey's major handicap was simply that she was painfully shy, timid and withdrawn. If you went to pat her she flinched, cowered, and hung her head, and showed signs that she'd been abused.

She also didn't want anything to do with other dogs, although she was totally non-aggressive.

Given all that, we'd always hoped she'd be one of those dogs that lived to fifteen or so, making up for that unfortunate start by having a long, enjoyable life.

The flat tumor that appeared last winter on top of her head ended that possibility, one final bad break.

I fully agree with my friend Jon Chesto, who lost his terrier last spring, that this one hurts more because this was my pandemic buddy.

Bailey salute by Jay Miller

Best friend stuff in this tribute by Jay Miller, Massachusetts-based arts/sports reporter

Lots of long nights with little to do and not much on tv, and those late night dogwalks were crucial entertainment.

We'd go up to ‘the big field'–a football field sized area behind the local strip mall, bordered by a thicket and deep woods, where she could track all manner of critters.

We'd see rabbits, wild turkeys, coyotes at a distance, and occasionally deer, and if Bailey was not eager to meet the actual animals, she was devoted to tracking their every step.

Once is a while she'd heard something in the brush, and go on point, one front paw raised and her back pointing into the thicket, while I reminded her neither one of us wanted to meet whatever creature was in there.

Back in those long pandemic nights, working on the computer, Bailey was a loyal workmate, my right-hand dog, who listened well and agreed with me most of the time.

Having Bailey forced us to make some changes in basic dog care.

More patience, primarily, and lots of support, so that I talked to her and praised her throughout every walk.

Despite providing a nice dog bed, her breed like to burrow, and she found her own little cave under Joe's bed, where she'd spend most of her day.

Since Joe was driving a truck all night, and sleeping all day, they became perfect roommates.

Initially we didn't even know if she could bark, but a few months after getting her, Bailey began a tradition of raising an unholy ruckus every morning when Joe got home, barking, snarling, growling, and so on–the wolverine under the bed.

Not sure what her watchdog ability would be if a stranger tried to break in, but pretty sure she'd stay under that bed anyway.

It soon became apparent Bailey's uproar wasn't as much alarm-and-attack, as it was simply a celebration Uncle Joe was home.

That became a funny detail, as I could ask her at any moment, “is that your uncle?” and she'd begin howling.

“Uncle” was the magic word.

Every morning Joe's return would be marked by that noisy celebration, and then he'd drop down on all fours to rub her chin, or, as she quickly flipped over, give her a belly-rub.

More than one morning, I'd wake up later, walk into their room and find them both sound asleep, side by side on the floor.

Bailey became the easiest dog to care for we ever had, and her long walks twice a day were a joy.

She had remarkable eyesight, and a tendency to keep looking over her shoulder to make sure nobody caught up to us from behind.

Many times she'd hesitate, and take a position like pointing, and after some confusion I'd spy a person walking on our sidewalk, 200 yards or more away.

She became pretty normal with us, and was increasingly confident with other people as she went on.

The same dog that would cower away from strangers on our walks at first, was reaching over to give them a sniff as they passed before long.

Bailey was also incredibly efficient on her walks, doing her business within five minutes of getting outside–a quick circle on our lawn, and then we could confidently traverse the whole neighborhood with no fear of leaving anything on anyone else's lawn.

As her confidence grew and she became more intent on tracking and patrolling her neighborhood, the nickname “Little Tiger” became her alternate monicker, an ironic commentary on her original timidity.

Last winter we had a gaggle of 11 wild turkeys cross the street right in front of us, and as we stopped, she looked up at me wide-eyed, and I had to agree, we wanted NO contact with them.

Bailey came to us after a serious grooming, her short wiry hair like a seal's pelt, but once the colder months hit, her hair grew at astounding rates.

We tried to keep her trimmed to some extent, but were engulfed in dog hair, and between serious trims every spring, she often looked like an exploding furball.

People would ask what kind of dog is that? And we'd tell them it wasn't a dog, but a wooly bear cub that had wandered in from the forest.

They'd usually take a second look before realizing we were joking.

So the late spring and summer were difficult, as we dealt with the expanding tumor. But she was brave and didn't ever seem to be in acute pain.

We were walking her up until the first of July. She stopped eating around that time, and we prepared for the end, and cut back the walks as she got weaker.

But then two weeks later, she began eating again, got stronger, and was polishing off full bowls right up until last week.

We theorize maybe the pain meds she'd been getting had upset her stomach.

But she kept getting thinner, and the tumor stretched her skin so that she lost first the sight in one eye, and then the other a month or so back.

The loss of eyesight and the general weakness made our front steps a chore, so we were carrying her in and out multiple times a day for the past six weeks or so–but once out she'd wobble around and do her thing.

The sad truth was that she was quite healthy and in good shape except for that damned tumor, and the fact it hadn't apparently spread to other organs just made that more poignant.

It's just a dog and there are bigger problems in the world.

But we offer this tale because if there's any lesson to it, it is that lots of dogs, and people deserve second chances.

In our experience, rescue dogs are not just good dogs, they TRY SO HARD to be good dogs, and adjust to you as much as you adjust to them.

And a little bit of tolerance goes a long way–the secret to our dealing with Bailey, was just ‘Let Bailey be Bailey,'

She never hurt anyone or anything, and I swear you couldn't have forced that dog to bite anyone.

If she left us confounded many times, most times it just became comic relief, and at lots of times when that was sorely needed.

We adopted the all-purpose explanation:

“It's just a dog thing,” and happily made it work. Before long she seemed to run the whole house, and I wasn't exaggerating when I told people “I'm just the dog's caddy,” but it was always fun to live with such a character.

Farewell Bailey, my “Little Tiger.”

We hope we gave you a good life, and we are so proud of the dog you became.

NOTE: The writer is an old friend of the EIC, Michael Woods.

Jay graciously agreed to allow NYF to post this Facebook tribute