My baby Bailey is turning 7 years old today! For those of you that don't already know, I get overly excited about my dog's birthday. I find it more exciting than my own birthday. I really like to celebrate her birthday, and despite what everyone says, I am convinced that she knows it's her birthday. On her first birthday, I remember we went to the Lower Woodland dog park and it was a miserable December day - freezing rain, windy, just horrible. I forced myself to spend at least two hours there, throwing the ball up and down that hill, so that Bailey could have a great first birthday. It wasn't until after that day did I learn that dog's don't have a concept of time like we do, and she didn't understand that I suffered through two hours of cold her for birthday celebration. Although I now know better, it hasn't changed how we celebrate.
When she turned 6 last year, someone mentioned that she was reaching her senior years. You would have thought someone just called her an old hag the way I reacted. I tried to defend her and say how active and energetic she is and how she could not possibly be considered a senior. Maybe if she was a Great Dane, but no way my little girl. Well, now that we have reached 7 years old, and her white mask is more noticeable, and her naps are more frequent, I am starting to accept the reality. My little girl is growing up.
This has been a pretty great year for Bailey and I. We did a lot of growing together, and even after all these years, I feel like I have come to understand her so much better.
First of all, age isn't going to calm this dog down. She is insane, intense, neurotic and 100% retriever. While at a neighborhood park, she was off leash and a couple of our dog friends were chasing her around to play - she took off on the other side of the fence, went into the 6' tall shrubs and started frantically jumping up and down. I knew she had some sort of a plan, and seconds later, she popped a soccer ball off the top of the hedge that she must have smelled from 30 yards away. Honestly, I am totally amused when she does these things, but when we are at someone's cabin and trying to relax and she is scaling a tree to find the ball someone hid from her, I just really wish there was an "off" button. I'm afraid those instincts are with us for the long haul.
Second of all, we have learned how precious our time together is. The moment I decided to start ballwalkpark, it was after a long horrible day at the office and I came home to go on an "adventure" (think 2-3 hours trying to get lost on Queen Anne) with Bailey. I realized that walking with her and my iPod was the most therapeutic wonderful thing in the world and the one thing that could never fail to change my mood around. People ask me why I don't bring Bailey to the park with me every day, and while she definitely hates me walking out the door without her, we both enjoy our walks together much more than with the pack at the park. I've never seen a happier dog than when we are out walking, just the two of us. People stop me all the time and say "your dog is smiling!". She can go to the park every single day, but she is never more sweet, relaxed and just generally happy than when we have a lot of time together to go on walks and adventures. With that being said, you can probably imagine how she feels about "The Boot".
Third of all, she has learned to cuddle. After we brought little Bam home and everyone wanted to hold her and cuddle with her, Bailey finally caught on and realized why I was always trying to grab her and lay with her. When she was a little puppy I remember I asked the breeder why she didn't want to cuddle with me - she said some dogs just aren't cuddly dogs. I have to admit I was disappointed. I grew up laying by the fire with our labs and thought that was kind of a part of the deal. These days, she has no sense of personal space. I think she learned a little something from her little sis. When I wake up, she always comes to greet me, and in the past year she has decided that the best way to wake me up is to lay on top of my head and borderline suffocate me/not let me get up. I love it.
Lastly, Bailey has learned that I am not going to leave her. This may be our biggest development in the past year, and possibly in her life! I have always wanted the kind of dog that I could take everywhere, and could sit outside the coffee shop while I run in, or that could sit outside the grocery store while I go and grab dinner. I have never given up on this mission, but for the past 6.5 years she has sat outside and anxiously panted and barked at the top of her lungs - I swear it is the loudest bark I've ever heard. It has been described by many as "intense" - such as, "oh that's your dog outside? Wow... she's really.... intense." Needless to say, it was humiliating and made it hard to take her places. Especially when I tell people I work with dogs for a living, but yes, that is my beast outside. Well, all of a sudden, a few months ago, she realized she could just relax and I would come back. I kept looking at the window expecting her to have escaped or something horrible, but she was just laying there watching people go by.... My heart melted. For whatever reason, that was a turning point for her, and now we can go everywhere together. She loves going to the grocery store and seeing the rest of the Queen Anne dogs tied up at various locations along the ave. This simple little thing makes both of us so happy and able to spend even more time together.
Bailey may drive some people crazy, but I am pretty damn proud of this dog I have raised. For 7 years I have paid more attention to her health issues than my own, bought her new toys when I couldn't justify buying myself anything, decided to use my college degree to give her the best doggie life possible, and nearly seriously put my relationship with my fiance on the line when bringing her on long car rides.... I never knew it was possible to love anything as much as I love my little girl.
In case you haven't heard enough about my obsession with my dog, here is her birthday blog last year :)