“I’m with the band”

When walking in my neighborhood, a friendly one I’ve written about before, I used to be the headliner. Whether trotting with baby in stroller or chasing my speed demon son on his tiny trike, neighbors would call out, “Hello, Kristine!” I’d wave back and smile.

It seems I’ve been relegated to mere groupie on my tree-lined block, in the span of a few short years. All it took was Bailey.

For the uninitiated, Bailey is my rescue dog. Meaning she saved me after my divorce, roughly five years ago. An unlikely savior, she was neurotic to the nth degree, coming with huge abandonment and trust issues. But, from the moment I met her—I knew this dog and I were meant to make each other whole.

I won’t go into that story, as you can read it here, but suffice to say Bailey has come a long way. Amazing what love can do. So much so that I am now nearly the invisible person at the other end of the leash.

Bailey, you see, has become quite social in her young adulthood. And has decided to extend her protection—pack rights, really—to her friends in the neighborhood. These friends tend to be at the very young and very old end of the spectrum—and I don’t think this is a coincidence. Bailey tends to befriend and protect the disenfranchised and most vulnerable. I have to wonder if this is because she knew at one time how it felt to be both.

As I walk down the street, cries of “BAIWEEEEEE” ring out. A pack of four little adorable rugrats come flying at her from all directions, racing to see who can greet her first. As her tail wags furiously and she sniffs faces, searching for some small trace of ice cream or peanut butter, she herds these little ones into a circle she can contain. Bailey is a herding dog of high standards—she wants no small charge of hers too close to the street or any unknown adult who might be walking past. These kiddos are held to her high standards—if they come running across our yard without calling out to her and stopping for a quick pet or ball throw, she barks ferociously. They are meant to respect her territory, asking permission to cross it.

Any time of day, during this delicious summer season, my doorbell will ring. I don’t even bother thinking it is for me. As I open it, one little voice says, “Miss Kristine, can Bailey come out and play?” I harness my furry girl up and send her outside with her favorite yellow tennis ball. As she jumps and chases it down, I hear the squeals of delight from her most loyal fan. This particular groupie seems to love Bailey more than all the others do, as attested to by the love note magnetized to my kitchen board: “To Bailey: I love you Bailey. And I know you love me. You’re the best dog in the world. Love, Clare.” The other tiny groupies join in the play eventually, as Bailey decides she has had enough. Queenlike, she lays on the grass, allowing her loyal subjects to pet her and discuss why she is “better than any other girl dog.”

And when the little ones are out of sight, Bailey searches for her other friends around the block. Grandma Moore, who is still sharp well into her 90s, is a favorite. After several hip surgeries and a heart valve replacement, Grandma can still be found with her walker, making her daily trek as far as she feels able to go. Sometimes, it’s just down the driveway—other times, down the block. Either way, Bailey is extremely gentle, careful not to knock her off balance. She licks her wrinkled hand and lays at her feet while we chat. She also lets no one within 50 feet of Grandma Moore, almost causing the gardener a heart attack because of it. But I don’t think Grandma Moore minds being coveted. She usually smiles indulgently at the ruckus.

There are others, of course. Don, who seems to have perfected the art of the behind-the-ear rub. Ms. Cindy, who slips her bones when I am not paying attention. Wayne, who I am sure is behind Bailey’s five-pound weight gain. As I watch from the family room window, I see him give her at least five Milk-Bones before he mows his lawn.

Bailey, the somewhat scary, neurotic, defensive dog I began with five years ago, has become the rock star. The headliner. The still fierce, but exceedingly gentle with the right people, dog beloved around the block. She has found her pack, finally.

I, for one, don’t mind being part of her entourage. I may not write her love letters, but as she snuggles next to me in bed and sighs contentedly, I smile. We are both exactly where we belong. And love truly does amazing things.

I’m all in.

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37 Comments Add yours

  1. r.Douglas says:

    Great Post. And fortunate you are in having a backstage pass to superstar Bailey’s K-9 showtime. And I can appreciate your feelings as being but a part of his roadshow posse, as we’re often referred to , in our Chicago hood, as merely Coda’s peeps. Coda being our 110 pound mash-up of soft spoken lab and full throated malamute.

    Regards,
    r.douglas

    1. candidkay says:

      Coda sounds beautiful! Not a bad posse to be in:). Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Brought tears to my eyes. A beautiful testimony on the transformative power of love.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! She brings tears to my eyes on a regular basis :-). And they are usually tears of joy.

  3. Wonderful post! Yes, love can do amazing things. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Nothing short of transformational:).

  4. What a delightful ecosystem you’ve described (and helped create?) Kristine. I’ll admit I’m overly partial to the influence of dogs, but I felt completely immersed in your cozy, protected neighborhood. You’ve raised and unleashed (figuratively) a beloved magnet that seems to draw near-strangers together. (Bailey, I’m sneaking you virtual treats!)

    As always, your prose rocks. Thanks so much for taking us for a walk thourgh your neighborhood

    1. candidkay says:

      And thank you for your kind comments, as always. I have been very lucky to be in this neighborhood–in a place where neighborly care and concern still exist. I must admit, I worry about what will happen when the older crowd goes–they are the ones who really get this right!

  5. RuthsArc says:

    So true. It’s amazing how many people you chat to, when walking with a cute dog 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s true! I laugh because my male friends used to borrow dogs to walk in the park when we were single–they were a “chick magnet.”

      1. candidkay says:

        It’s good to be queen, right?:)

  6. Barbara says:

    Just beautiful, how lucky you both are to have saved each other. This made my cry happy tears for the love this dog shares. Animals are definitely on earth for their own reasons, angels on earth, I wish they all could be rescued like Bailey.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, me too! If only we could rescue them all:).

  7. The power of just ‘being’, as any dog lover will attest. Never a word spoken, but love by the bucketfuls 😀
    Beautifully written Kristine, from the love at the other end of that ‘leash’ 😀 ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      By the bucketfuls is oh so right:).

  8. Sometimes those we rescue often end up rescuing us! Bailey sounds very special 👏

    1. candidkay says:

      Yep. She is amazing:). Totally unbiased opinion, of course.

  9. Sooty was abandoned in Arcos de la Frontera nearly two years ago when he was only three months old.
    When I saw him on the vets scales and he nestled his head in my offered hand I knew something special was up.
    He’s the most loving little thing you can imagine.
    His trust issues lessen by the day, but his need for strokes and caresses seem to increase.
    There’s an uncomplicated trust, love, and connection between us that is very refreshing and moves me like nothing else.

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that you found each other. And you’re right–the trust issues take time, but it’s so gratifying to see them disappear. I’m guessing there’s something behind the name Sooty? 🙂

      1. Hahaha!… yes, well he’s a black dog and when I saw him for the first time I thought of Harry Corbett’s Sooty and Sweep. It’s like he’s just crawled out of a sooty chimney! I have to explain sooty to my Spanish friends… in Spanish he’s called Tiznado (Sooty).

  10. George says:

    There is nothing like unconditional love, especially from a dog😊

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s true! Dare I say I’ve mourned a dog or two more than some humans?

  11. Beautiful post Kristine. I’m used to being invisible at the end of a lead but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. candidkay says:

      Just feels right, doesn’t it? I get what you mean:).

  12. What can I say? This is just what I believe about Bailey and all of the Rescue Dogs that find forever homes where they can truly “rescue” the occupants. Good for you – good for Bailey.
    I totally get it. Love always wins.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes! My issue is that I wish I could revue them all:).

  13. Aunt Beulah says:

    I have long believed in the healing nature of animals. i once taught a young lad who was the one teachers hoped not to have in their class. He was a handful. At the first parent conference, I asked his parents for suggestions on how i could better reach him, make him happy in my class. His mother told me how caring for and holding his hamster seemed to calm him. Next thing you know, my class had a hamster and the troubled child was appointed keeper, because he was a hamster expert. He also sat next to the cage and was allowed to hold Harry the Hamster as needed. Gradually his behavior moderated; by the end of the year he was happily sharing Harry duties and affection with others. It was miraculous.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love the story :-). The power of animals to heal us is simply amazing. I always wonder why they don’t match up rescue dogs with senior centers.

  14. I would have loved to see Bailey’s image here, grinning sheepishly

    Amazing post Kay!!

    1. candidkay says:

      I thought about it but our rock star is not fond of the paparazzi:))👓👓📸📸

  15. Oh, I so loved this! What a beautiful soul, as you are for taking him in and loving him back to happy. I just lost my guy month ago…still makes me sick to my stomach everytime he pops in my head. They are truly angels on earth. Thanks for sharing this…beautifully written!

    1. candidkay says:

      I am so sorry to hear you lost your dog. I am a wreck when that happens. Will keep you in my good thoughts. Despite the pain when they go, they’re worth every second, right? And I truly believe they’re sent here to watch over us . . .

      1. 100%. My guy was my child (I don’t have any ‘real ones’.) I left him to follow the ‘love of my life’ who left me a week after I got there. I came back to be with my boy who was living happily with my former husband. I knew he wasn’t doing well, but Ithought we had months. He perked up when I got back and seemed to be bouncing back. He gave me 2 beautiful days and then let go. I have no doubt in my mind that he waited for me and brought me back here to lead me where I needed to go next. I wrote a blog about him, although it might be hard for you to read. All this to say, your blog touched my heart…I’m so glad you found your ‘person’.
        https://wordpress.com/post/nataliebreazeale.wordpress.com/1672

      2. candidkay says:

        I will absolutely check out your post–when I have tissues at the ready and do not have to be productive. I have a feeling it will touch me . . . and yes, I agree. Your dog got you back where you belonged–and pointed in a direction. Last selfless act.

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