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Bidding Adieu To A True Friend

The saying “life is short”comes from Mark Twain. This definitely holds true for most of our domesticated species. Although we may live to a ripe old age of 100 years, a cat may be considered long-lived at 20 and a mouse ancient at 3. The years truly fly by, and when the time comes, coping with the loss of a cherished pet can be very difficult.

It was for me.

I stopped by my parents’ house early one morning to pick up something before going to work. I was greeted ceremoniously by our faithful dog Bailey.

I remember the day I met him as a puppy. He was loving, smart and active – too active. Mr. Burns, his owner, mentioned that Bailey’s rambunctious nature was agitating his older dog. In hindsight, Mr. Burns should have found a dog training company who could have curtailed and controlled Bailey’s bouncy nature. But he never truly did enough to train him.

I immediately took a liking to the extra-large, cream-colored puppy licking my face and loved giving him treats like bully sticks and bits of leftover chicken. Mr. Burns must have noticed our mutual affection because one week later he offered to give Bailey to me. I refused at first, explaining to Mr. Burns that puppies settle down and eventually Bailey would be a great companion for his older dog.

“Doc, Bailey is just too much for Buddy. Our loyalty is with Buddy, and he is declining in his old age. I would feel satisfied knowing that Bailey went to a loving home.”

I eventually agreed, and the rest is history. The following years were spent spoiling him with all of the toys under the sun and frequent visits to companies like Fetching Ware to buy him new accessories.

Leaving my parents’ house that morning, I muttered, “Take it easy, Bailey Boy.” No bark or whimper meant something was not right. Bailey had a glassy stare and his unsteady legs buckled with each step.

“Bailey, are you all right?” was all I could say before he staggered and fell to the ground. For a moment I stood frozen in place, not believing what I saw.

Placing a hand on his chest, I felt for a heartbeat. There was none. Breathe, please breathe. His body lay motionless. Bailey was dying before my very eyes.

I contemplated letting him go peacefully since he was quite old for a large dog, but then I thought, “The family isn’t prepared for his passing.” I wasn’t prepared for his passing.

I started CPR, breathing into his nose and doing chest compressions at a frenzied pace. Through all the years, it was my first time “out in the field,” without the help of high-tech equipment and the expert assistance of a well-trained hospital staff.

A minute went by, then two – and then it happened. Bailey popped his head up and panted feverishly.

“Welcome back, puppy,” I whispered. “Now stop scaring me like that.”

Later that day I shared with the family what had happened. From that day on, Bailey got an extra pat on the head and more “Good boy, Bailey” comments from everyone. We all knew the end was near and wanted to express our heartfelt appreciation for the years of unconditional love.

Three weeks later, Bailey died in his sleep.

Mark Twain said it best: “Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile.”

Thanks for the smiles, Bailey. Rest in peace, my old friend.

Dr. John Kaya is director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.