A herd is born

We talk about love as if it can’t be seen. As if it’s some ethereal bit that vibrates between us and does not show itself.

We make it too complicated.

I prefer to keep things simple.

As I sit and write this blog, a furry 80-lb. bundle of joy sleeps at my feet. Not quite two years old and still growing. And I don’t just mean larger.023

She came to us a little over a year ago, 10 pounds lighter and a bundle of nerves. I wondered if we could ever love her enough to make a difference.

Turns out we could.

My boys and I, going through a rough time of our own, took her into our herd, so to speak. We did not know we were a herd until this lab/Australian cattle dog/border collie mix started shepherding us around the house. She had found her peeps and she’d be damned if she wasn’t going to keep them safe and in one place so she could keep an eye on all at once.

Voila. A herd was born.

I’ll never forget her first night here. The couple who brought the dog to us left and she was a wreck. They were the third family to have had her in her brief eight-month life. And she was being left again.

She scratched at the door, barked at the window, whined at my feet. She would not stop running—in no particular direction—as she frantically tried to hold onto the last familiar bits. She did not realize we would now be home—forever.

I ended up just hugging her so she had to sit still. I talked to her in a calm voice and just held her. And, amazingly, she let me.

The first few weeks and months were tough. She had been mistreated somewhere along the line and it showed. Distrustful, cautious, “sleeping” with one eye open at all times, curled up into a ball so she could pounce if she had to. She was not a licker. Not one to sit or lie near you. Easily startled. Growled and barked at everything from waving flags to my next door neighbor.

Every time we left the house, she was frantic. When we came home, she was in joyous disbelief. To this day, a year later, when she jumps on my bed to wake me up in the morning, it is with such elation. As if to say, “You’re still here! And so am I. Amazing!”

Love is hard to pin down sometimes. Is love a rose? A look on a face? A kind gesture? A kiss?

With Bailey, it’s easy to see love.

Love is sleeping with both eyes firmly closed, on your back with belly and paws in the air. Because you can. And you’re safe.

Love is lying next to your peeps on the couch, head in their laps, taking in their sweet scent (yes, to her, even stinky boys are a sweet scent) while they pet you as if you’ve always belonged there.

Love is sitting halfway up the stairs, so you can watch who goes down and guard against unwanted visitors going up.

Love is catching the snowballs your boys throw for you, tackling those same boys and licking their faces until they erupt in giggles.

Love is letting those same boys fall asleep hugging you tightly around your neck, heads buried in your fur—even though you’re not quite sure this is a sleep-inducing arrangement for you.

Love is knowing that no matter how many times you wrap your lead around the tree, the play set and/or the patio furniture, your peeps will come get you unwrapped and bring you indoors when you’re ready. Yes, even in those 20-degree temps you seem to love so well. So you wrap yourself around them, running in circles, gleefully and with abandon.

Love is jumping overenthusiastically on every neighbor friend you’ve made, to the dismay of some, because you’re just so damn happy the world is turning out to be a friendlier place than you thought it was.

Here’s what my boys have learned about love—a love you can see.

Nothing beats being part of a herd. Nothing beats a dog who loves you whether you got the A or the F.

As for me?

Nothing beats watching your kids learn that perfect houses aren’t as important as messy ones filled with love. Oh, and I guess I don’t mind that someone is deliriously happy to see me each morning.

You love one of us, you’re going to have to love all of us. Just ask Bailey. We stick together.

Now that’s a love you can see.

What did I tell you? It’s simple.



18 Comments Add yours

  1. A really lovely story, Kay. Thank you!
    And a belated happy Valentine’s to you and your herd.
    The lines you wrote about Bailey learning to trust, knowing she was safe and at home forever reminded me of the little dog my daughter rescued. It really is a joy seeing a dog who’s been mistreated now learning that they are really at home at last, and safe.

  2. cindy says:

    Awe – such a cutie and such a sweet dog….Reminds me of Quincy! It’s amazing how much joy and love animals can bring to our life. And you definitely can tell the dog lovers from the non dog lovers.

  3. alyatse says:

    Very touching! Sometimes you just are plain lucky to get a wonderful dog even if it doesn’t feel this way at the beginning. Kil’ka is our first dog ever, we were not sure how she’d blend with us and a bossy cat being a Jack Russell, but we stroke gold with her:)) Obviously the same happened to your family and Bailey!

    1. candidkay says:

      I love hearing these stories. Something so healing about a pet . . .

  4. Oh Kay, you made me cry. What a lovely post and I’m so glad Bailey found you. We got our first dog last year – he’s 18 months old and has changed our life so much for the better.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so glad Bailey found us also:) I’m glad you got a dog! It’s hard to imagine life without them once you have them.

  5. Ellen says:

    We had a very similar story with our Trudy the pug. We got her when she was 2. We were the 4th home for her, the first being a puppy mill. She had a lot of “issues”, but we hung in there with her, and in return she gave us 15 wonderful years of unconditional love. We had to say goodbye to her this past year.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so sorry. Losing a dog is just devastating. I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to our Bailey. But the love remains, right?

  6. So stinking beautiful! I have wanted a dog for a while, and my husband mentions from time to time that our son needs a dog. But, I also am a realist, and know that when (not if, but when) we get one, 98% of the work will fall on my shoulders. And I am physically not in a position to care for a dog right now. As we’re moving more and more out of the phase of our living room being toy central, the main part of our house is becoming more safe for a dog. For now we have a very loved upon guinea pig.

    1. candidkay says:

      Love it! A “loved upon” guinea pig. Great way to put it:). And you’re right, the dog is YOUR dog, no matter who says they’ll take care of it . . .

  7. Erin says:

    I think you sent out for some feedback before getting a dog and replies were mixed. But, some did say…you will never regret getting a dog. You instead will find it hard to remember what life was like before getting a dog and why you waited so long to get a dog. Makes me want to go snuggle my dog again, for the 10th time today!

    1. candidkay says:

      I did, Erin! And while I love all of my friends, you do see the ones who aren’t animal lovers a bit differently when you are one. And I remember–you are one:).

  8. What a beautiful ode to your dog and tothe love your family shares.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for reading, Christy. We are a lucky herd:).

  9. andmorefood says:

    this is really beautiful, kay you truly have a way with words – and that’s one beautiful dog you’ve got there.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I can’t believe I ever debated on getting her:).

  10. markbialczak says:

    Wonderful ode to Bailey the love-herder, Kay.

    Our rescue mutt Ellie B was a tough one to calm, too, but once she realized we were there, she was all in, too.

    Fantastic, how dogs can recover and share the unconditional love.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Mark. We got her to heal her and in the process, she healed us. Beautiful symmetry in that.

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