Nearly seven years ago I had just moved away from home for the first time. My then-boyfriend was working a lot, and I decided I wanted a dog to keep me company since I was in a new city and didn't really know anyone. So I went online to Petfinder and found this smoosh-faced little dog named Zima, a 30-ish pound Boston terrier who had been picked up as a stray in Oklahoma City.
The rescue had a transport up through the east coast so they told me the exits they'd stop at and asked where I'd be so they could load her in the truck in the right order. Katrina and I showed up to a super sketch furniture store parking lot, and waited. And waited. And just when it seemed like we were being Punk'd, this giant truck with a giant trailer, driven by a giant man in camo pants in combat boots showed up. This man traded you your assigned dog for money, gave you your paperwork, and that was it. Kind of like a doggie drug deal. I never once heard from the rescue again to check in on her - nothing.
We'd decided to name her Bailey, after Ace Bailey (we were hockey fans, after all), and this little dog quickly became my best friend. Once she started eating regularly, it turned out she was a 40lb bulldog mix. She was pretty beat up - her fur felt like a Brillo pad, she had a bad case of kennel cough, worms - but a regular diet and a lot of love is just what this girl needed. She must have been a family dog before, because she came to us knowing a bunch of tricks already.
We walked Forest Park in Springfield every day - she'd take a dip in the creeks if it was hot, and sniff around the outside of all the cages at the zoo. After two hockey seasons in MA, we'd moved back to my parent's house and my boyfriend and I broke up. So that fall, Bailey and I (and MamaFab) hit the road to Charlotte NC.
Bailey was always pretty selective about the dogs that she liked, and was really pleased about life when she had a little bit of attention and a lot of food and snacks - a bit like her mom, the boys would say. We've spent every day together these last 7 years, outside of some brief travel for me, and she was there for me through every huge event in my life - the breakups, the moves, me growing into my own person and figuring out who I was. She was, in every sense of the term, my best friend.
Last week her health started to deteriorate - more than just old age, I suspected, so I took her in to the vet. They took an X-ray and found a mass near her heart, and it seemed to be affecting her spinal column and her diaphragm. She couldn't really see at this point, she was always panting, and now she was having a lot of trouble walking - to the point where I couldn't leave her by herself without fear she'd get hurt. Our options were try medication, or take her to a specialist, get a CT, try to get the mass tested; the second option was just going to be too much stress for her, too much being lifted and moved in the car. So we opted for meds, and went through two rounds of different things - nothing helped. She was extremely comfortable this last week and in no pain, so I take a lot of comfort in that.
Yesterday morning I took her in to get checked out, and the vet let me know that we were sadly out of options. Other than keeping her medicated 24/7, which is not a good quality of life for a dog. We had a Bailey party last night, and a bunch of people came over to feed her food that she loved and give her belly rubs - one last hurrah for her. After she had a doggie cannoli for breakfast, Chase and I took her in this morning.
She went very peacefully, with the tip of her little tongue poking out and her head on my lap, so she wasn't scared. I brought cookies in with us so she was spoiled right up until the very end. My heart is absolutely broken, and I miss my best friend with every bit of my being. She was the best dog I could've asked for.
I have a bunch of leftover medication, and the vet will take them and donate them to families who can't afford their pets meds. I'm taking all her food and bedding over to the humane society so another doggie can benefit and be comfortable. I find solace in the fact that she's able to help other dogs even if she isn't here with me anymore. I also had the vet get a paw print for me, so I can get a little Bailey memorial tattoo.
When I decided those years ago that I wanted a dog, I never thought one would have this much of an effect on me. I'm so thankful that I was able to give her a second chance at life, and she lived those years to the fullest - in her own Bailey way, living the life of luxury. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to check on us or stopped by. Hug your pups a little tighter for me and Bailey tonight.
This weekend I got out of Charlotte and went up to Boston to celebrate the wedding of one of my very very best friends in the world. It was easily one of the best weddings I've ever been to. Day of, we did backyard yoga with Katrina's friends (who shall be known from here on out as the Squawk Squad) and in general had quite a relaxing day leading up to the ceremony. The location was perfect, the weather was perfect. We ate, we drank, we laughed until we cried and spent hours on the dance floor singing every song that came on - I think I avoided a hangover the next day because all the alcohol I drank was immediately sweat out!
Look at these beauts!
Leading up to this wedding - so like, since January - I've been telling myself "I'm going to get back in shape. I'm going to go to the gym 6 days a week like I used to, and I'm going to like it, like I used to." And then it was June and I thought "oh fuck, better start Whole30 because Katrina's wedding is next month!" And I still didn't go to the gym, even when my bridesmaid dress couldn't zip and I had to pull it over my head to get it on. I just didn't want to. I count every minute until I can leave the gym, and that's if I get there in the first place!
But I've realized that other than me, no one cares whether I work out. No one else is beating me up saying "I can't believe you didn't go AGAIN" and "The more times you miss, the longer you'll only feel comfort in leggings" - I was so concerned about not looking great in my dress this weekend, but once I got on the dance floor and just let go of all I was worried about? I had a fantastic time! (And wouldn't you know, I DID look great in my dress!)
There are a handful of people who will tell you that I set the example for them - I led them into lifting; they saw I could do it, so they decided they could do it. And some days I think I must be such a disappointment to people who look to me for inspiration - I've let myself lapse back to where I was before. But then I remember the people I've met over the last few years - completely badass women who absolutely own exactly who they are and don't make excuses for it. And I still do that. I don't hold back, I don't sugarcoat what I'm going through or the challenges I face, and I realize that while I'm sharing that piece, the not so sunshine-y parts, I'm telling women it's okay. It's okay to be exactly where you are in life.
So I'm going to start working harder on being kinder to myself. How you love yourself sets the example for how other people should love you, and I haven't been that kind to myself lately. Even if it's just internal thoughts, those thoughts eat away at you. They don't do anything except become this bully on your shoulder, constantly guilting you for not doing this or that. I would NEVER allow someone to say those things to me, so why do I think it's okay for ME to say those things to me?
I will give myself grace, and I will treat myself with respect. That internal bully stops today.
Helen Foster aka HeleFab comin' atcha!