Coming full circle at Christmas

We had come full circle in the space of two years.

There we were, on the couch. I was giving a hug filled with love. It was gratefully accepted.

And before you get too excited, my dog was the grateful recipient.

Bailey1Bailey. My faithful companion. My shadow. The one who has perfected the art of throaty dog sounds to the point where it sometimes sounds like she is actually saying “Mom.”

I don’t know how I feel about that latter part.

I surprised my boys with Bailey on December 23, 2012.

Of course, this had nothing to do with the fact that my divorce was finalized just days before.

I’m faaaaaar too emotionally healthy to get a dog to fill an emotional void I would rather not fill with guilt.

She says, winking.

Seriously, though, I love dogs. And Bailey was meant to come to us.

Her journey is a bit of a miracle, in my mind.

She started life in Tennessee, a small pup left in a box at a kids’ camp.

She was brought home, hopefully, by a girl attending the camp. Her parents acquiesced, but I’m not sure how willingly, to the dog.

Bailey then lived in a high-rise apartment, alone for most of the day—you know the drill. Not enough exercise, not enough socialization, etc.

And somewhere along the way, somebody or a few somebodies did a number on her. Somebodies I still, many days, wish I could do a number on because it takes a special kind of cowardice to mistreat a dog.

By the time she got to us at eight months old, courtesy of a friend who tipped us off to a family trying to get rid of  a black Lab mix, she was one big furry ball of anxiety.

Bailey was staying with a friend of the family who was trying to give her away. This family was going to give her to a shelter and the friend stepped in to save her.

When she was dropped off that first night, she was a wreck. She’d been left again. Yet again.

She ran from window to window, jumped at the door, whining and crying. From the front of the house to the back, on the couch and back down. She literally could not stay still. She was terrified, to say the least.

After about 15 minutes of this, when I realized she couldn’t calm herself and was not a dog that easily exhausted, I took matters into my own hands. I sat next to her on the couch and hugged her.

She was flabbergasted. I’m sure that’s what she would have said if she could talk, being a dog of high vocabulary.

She was not sure if she liked this hugging thing, but I gently, firmly held her there. And spoke soothingly.

After a few minutes, she started to calm down. As I hugged her, I thought about what I’d done. Here I was, trying to sort out a financial and emotional mess, with two boys depending on me—and I had just taken on a furry girl who now also would depend on me.

I was scared at what might lie ahead, relieved at what was behind us and praying like my hair was on fire that I could be enough for all of us to lean on in the days to come.

It was a rough first night and we had quite a few after that.

Her mistreatment and general lack of socialization meant she never slept soundly. She had nightmares. One tiny sound from two rooms away and her half-closed eyes popped open. She was always on high alert. She never licked us, asked for anything, cowered if I yelled upstairs for the kids to come down. Everything from a waving flag to a puff of air could set her off.

Did I mention I was a bit of an anxious kid?

I got it. I knew what she was feeling. It’s a horrible feeling when it becomes chronic.

I continued to let her know who was in charge. We continued to pour on the love. She got a dog bed, which stymied her. Canned salmon. Treats. Baths.

A home that did not go away. People who did the same.

Last night, I sat watching TV on the couch. And she sat next to me. Moved by love, I gave her a hug. All of a sudden, I realized  that she was perfectly still. That she had put her paw on my arm as if trying to hug me back. She sniffed my face, gave me a lick and settled down for a nap with a contented sigh.

We were, almost to the day, two years into our relationship.

The similarity to our first-night scene was uncanny. Christmas tree up, TV on, alone in the house waiting for kids to return. But the difference in her was nothing short of amazing.

My friends sometimes tease me at my indulgence when it comes to Bailey.

Let ‘em.

It turns out that I continue to be leaned upon. And I’ve been up to the pressure, the weight. I still get terrified in moments or days. Other times, I feel I have it. I still pray like my hair is on fire.IMG_0697

But Ms. Bailey? She is a blessing. The joy when I come home, the full body wag, is amazing. The snores while she naps, trusting completely that I’ve got her back, well those make me smile. The nightmares are so rare now. She “runs” in her dreams (I know because her paws move in that motion) but it’s not as if she is scared. She is excited. I like to think she is dreaming of running with my boys.

She doesn’t care when I look tired or wear my jogging pants far too often. She just loves me. Us. Enough to carry my boys’ smelly socks in her mouth after they leave for school, just so she can have their scent near her.

She continues to show me what love can do. Even when you are a ball of anxiety.

We’ve come full circle but we are changed, she and I.

How could we not be with all that love and fiery prayer?

I thought she needed to learn the lesson. Turns out I needed to learn it too.

Love changes things.

And if someone you trusted is fool enough to let you go or mistreat you, life may just lead you to a happiness you didn’t even know existed.

And a love beyond your wildest dreams.

Now that’s a Christmas present worth keeping.





32 Comments Add yours

  1. Bailey is one lucky dog!

  2. Chris Edgar says:

    Your story about the dog’s early upbringing reminds me of how it’s sad for me to see a dog’s natural enthusiasm being stifled — almost everybody on the street where I live, for instance, seems to have a dog, and usually when someone is walking their dog and it starts jumping on me or rubbing up against me, they yank on the leash or scold the dog. But I have no problem with a dog wanting to play with me, and in fact I love the excitement they display at meeting a new playmate (which is how they seem to see every passerby until proven otherwise).

  3. As the ‘mom’ of a spoiled pup myself, I can relate. Merry Christmas!

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    Well Kay I’m no dog lover but that is heart-warming. Lovely post.

    On a lighter (?) note I still recount with a smile to the sad time I separated from my ex. Virtually before I had turned the corner she and the kids had adopted a dog from the Animal Shelter to take my place 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Roy! I am laughing. I hope he was cute, at least:)

  5. markbialczak says:

    Bailey and you will continue to be a Christmas present to each other for a good while, Kay. Well done. Love comes through in a big way, both sides. Merry Christmas to you, the boys, and beautiful Bailey, my friend.

    1. candidkay says:

      Merry Christmas to you and yours also, Mark!

  6. Bailey is one lucky girl to have found you.

    1. candidkay says:

      And we are lucky to have her. I think we all saved each other . . .

  7. Ninasusan says:

    Sweet, sweet, sweet

  8. Beautifully written Kay. And you are so right, love does do amazing things. Merry Christmas to all your family, Bailey included 🙂 Namaste

  9. Beautiful. That is all. 🙂

  10. Marie says:

    It is a funny thing how love changes fear into trust and limitations into opportunities. I believe some things are meant to be, choices placed in our path for a very intentional purpose. Happy anniversary!

  11. Amy says:

    “Love changes things.” Yes, yes it does. What a wonderful story. Thank you for telling it! ❤ xo

  12. Thank you for sharing this holiday gift with us. I believe that it is a mutual saving, when our animals choose us and we choose them. We heal one another. I’m thankful that you found Bailey, and that she found you. Now I must go wipe the tears from my cheeks…

    1. candidkay says:

      One of the nicest things you can say to a writer is that she made you laugh and/or cry, right? Thank you for the compliment. And I hope you have a furry somebody at home to hug also:). It sounds like it.

  13. suemclaren24 says:

    You have touched the heart of another pet lover, to tears. In a household where seven out of eight are rescues, I know this story so well. You have put words to a beautiful story. Thank you.

  14. This is so heart warming! We’ve rescued two dogs in the last year and a half. A vet told me that it takes at least 6 months for a dog that’s gone from home to home to feel safe. I remember when our dog, Rocky, finally relaxed into our family. It was over a year after we got him. He has taught me the art of not holding grudges and of living in the moment. 🙂

  15. Lovely writing, and a relationship that breathes its beauty right across the space between us. Carrying the weight of a family can sometimes feel overwhelming, I know because I didn’t always know whether I had the strength to do it the way I wanted to do it. My boys and I also had a Bailey in our life, but he was a mongrel and loved by everyone. Still miss him everyday. Boys are grown enough to start their own lives- and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Have a great time of festivities together – I can tell you will! Anne

    1. candidkay says:

      I love hearing from those who have crossed the chasm, so to speak, already. You did it:). And I’m doing it, even when not sure how not to fall asleep on my feet. I hope your boys get their own mongrels now that they’re grown . . .

  16. cindy says:

    Awe – I read this one to Taylor and she just loved it!! She wants to meet Bailey! SO glad that you have each other. Dogs are the best, aren’t they?! Now you know why we use to dress Quincy up all the time and make him one of the family. Lol!! So wonderful that you were a patient, gentle, & kind to Bailey. She will always be there for you- that’s for sure!! Thank you for the post!!

  17. Whenever we talk of relationships i usually say that she is lucky to have you or vice versa. But when i talk about dogs and humans here the relationship is beautiful. Both benefit both learn and both become better than before. So as a dog lover myself, i thank you for adopting a dog, especially a dog in need.
    Loved this!

  18. Great post, Kay. And Ms. Bailey is a beauty.

  19. Lovely post. There is currently a dog-shaped void in my soul (pet-friendly apartments are hard to come by in this city) and every story like this helps make the void feel just that little bit smaller. I’ve never understood how anyone can look into the sweet, loving face of a dog and show it anything but kindness. I’m so glad Bailey has you, and that you have her.

    1. candidkay says:

      I hope that dog-shaped void is filled at some point. I’m sure there’s a furry ball of love waiting for you to rescue it:).

  20. Dog rescue stories always make me cry. So glad you have each other.

  21. Dogs really do make the world a better place. Having a good warm snuggle with a wet nose always makes my day.

  22. Erica says:

    Aawww, that’s my bestie:)! This put a smile on my face!!

  23. Reading a happy puppy story is a sure way to put a smile on my face. They sure are amazing creatures, and they sure help bring out the best in us. Thank you.

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