Bailey was a Bernese Mountain Dog. Born in September 2007, he came from a pure pedigree line of show-winners. We’d met his dad a year before, when we first started investigating Bernese dogs. He was a handsome, imposing character.
As was his son.
I remember very clearly the five-hour drive to bring Bailey home. We’d borrowed a cage – the largest we could find – to make sure he would make it home safely. He fully filled it at 7 weeks old.
As a pup, he was the size of a fully-grown collie, had the build of a boxer and the fur of a bear. Not to mention the hunger of a starving hyena and the grace of a hippo on stilts.
He was a baby – literally behaved like one – his entire life, and we loved him even more for it. He never once bit anyone, never once did more than shove us out of his way, and that was mostly because he never did manage to work out exactly how wide a gap he needed to get through. Ever.
I remember Bailey learning how to get up the steps into the garden. Only he didn’t like the steps and used to try to climb over terraces straight-up. His method consisted from throwing his belly and front paws over the edge of the terrace above and wiggle the back legs vigorously until most of his body made it, too.
I remember when a hailstorm caught us out on the open moors whilst on a walk one day. There were very few trees, and we all aimed for one, to shelter from the bouncing pieces of ice. Bailey stuffed his head in a gorse bush – just his head, the rest of him didn’t fit – and whimpered until the cloud passed over.
I remember Bailey’s first encounter with the sea. He was happily padding along seaweed-covered rocks, fingers of which reached into the sea, when he got to the end of one. He stalked closer and closer to the water until, flop, the seaweed under his paws gave way and he landed right in. The surprised look on his face was priceless. He shot out like he’d been burned, though the water only reached up to his knees (one advantage of being huge).
I remember Bailey having fun on top of the hill, in the heather. He never did master running like a dog. He looked more like a large, hairy, uncoordinated horse. And he travelled in straight lines. When he came to a bush, he hopped over it. When he came towards you, you got out of the way if you wanted to remain standing. From a distance, Bailey looked like a bunny rabbit on steroids.
I remember him on the beach, rolling around until all that wet sand stuck deep into his second coat and made him look like the monster creature from hell (here’s a little adventure I wrote about earlier in the year https://ellamedler.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/how-to-walk-your-dog/ ). But no matter how he looked or what he did, we loved him.
We loved his keen nose (much better at tracking than the collie), his clumsiness (he often sat down on the collie and only noticed when his ‘cushion’ bit back), his spirit of adventure (on holiday in Scotland he disappeared into the forest and came back carrying a whole deer carcass in his teeth) and his complete devotion to his mate and partner in crime – Leo, the collie. We had a lot of fun spying them at work through the window. Leo would ‘case’ the joint, and then he would return with Bailey and watch over him whilst Bailey enlarged a hole, moved boulders or pushed hedges and fences over. Quite the team, they were.
But what Bailey loved the most – even more than food, and that is saying something for a Bernese – was cuddles. He would watch over the kitchen door and wait for someone to come out. It you took food to the chest freezer, his nose would be no more than an inch away from your package. If you rummaged for tools, he would assist by frowning at you until you found what you wanted. If you sat down with a cup of coffee, he would flop down next to you and shove his head onto your lap, jerking your arm enough to spill some coffee (which he would lick delightedly) and he would keep pestering for strokes and cuddles until he finally fell asleep on your foot.
Bailey started feeling not so well two weeks ago. His back legs kept folding underneath him. We called a vet over on a home visit and she diagnosed arthritis. We gave him some medicine. The medicine didn’t agree with him. He was itchy and kept rubbing his face on anything he could find – trees, the side of the house, the driveway. Within a few days we noticed an infection developing on his nose. We called the vet again. Two of them came this time. They cleaned him and dosed him up with antibiotics, steroid and God-knows what. They said we should see an improvement within about five days.
That was Monday afternoon. Yesterday morning he appeared perkier. He wouldn’t eat, but he drank water and toured the garden, as per usual. Five days. We almost celebrated. Last night he was by the kitchen door and he looked sleepy. This morning, he was gone.
He looks peaceful; he probably died in his sleep. It hurt to say goodbye, but at least I know he isn’t suffering anymore.
Farewell, my friend. I’ll always miss you, Bailey, my baby, my fluffy, dopey dog.