Harry Willet once wrote, “I miss the wagging Lab tail; I miss the plaintive pleading wail; I miss the wistful loving (and smiling, my addiction) glance; I miss the circling welcome dance!!”
“Bailey’s Irish Creme of St. Patrick” was put to sleep on Friday, Feb. 8, at the Crosslake Veterinary Clinic, due to the complications of a fast-moving tumor on his spleen. Thanks to the attentive, loving care of Drs. Rachel and Kyle and their staff in so many ways then and over the years.
Bailey was the only dog I ever had or saw that had the biggest smile. Folks who would meet him for the first time would think he was “snarling,” but I would quickly say, “No, watch his tail and rear-end wagging away!” I never heard him growl or snarl at anyone in his almost 13 years. He was a gentle, loving, happy and a smiling dog. Because of that wonderful disposition, he was a great companion that gave me more happiness than I ever deserved.
Bailey never barked except when I showed him the bumpers or dummies for throwing off the dock. Then he would bark, whine and squeal wildly until I started throwing. He got so excited and was tireless in jumping off the dock and retrieving, along with Drake.
Bailey was “all business” when it came to duck and goose hunting. He was ever alert, watching and seeing birds long before the rest of us. Retrieving the ducks and geese was his passion that he reluctantly passed on to my younger dog, “Drake of Crosslake,” just this last fall. He would also give us that disdainful look when we would miss birds!
Do dogs go to Heaven? I don’t know, but I sure hope so! Helen Keller once wrote, “What we have enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” The theologian, Martin Marty, addressed this issue by writing, “No one knows what heaven is like, but you must believe what God has in store for you includes everything you love.” I’m counting on seeing my black lab, “Cinder of St. Peter,” my first yellow lab “Gabriel of Guardian Angels,” and now “Bailey’s Irish Creme of St. Patrick” (all named after my three pastorates). Included in this reflection (at the end) is one of my favorite reflections in regard to my/our hopes and beliefs for our pets, “The Rainbow Bridge.”
“Grief is the price we pay for having loved,” wrote a British psychologist. Thanks to all of you who loved, knew and cared for Bailey in any way for his almost 13 years.
Bailey was a unique companion (but aren’t they all to us?) who smiled and brought so many smiles to so many of us so often. For this I am most grateful to God and, like God (dog spelled backwards is God), Bailey was/is unconditional in his love and faithfulness to me/us all. Not accidental in that spelling, I believe.
Come spring, when the ground finally thaws out, I will bury his ashes next to my other two “boys,” Cinder and Gabe, by their big kennel in my back yard in Crosslake. Drake will watch them from the kennel, soon to be joined by another pup in the spring of 2014. Little does he know what awaits him and me once again, but I look forward to it.
As I walked away from the vet clinic on Friday morning, Feb. 8, and I anticipated calling folks about “Smiling Bailey,” In wondered as Sam Venable once wrote, “... if that baseball in my throat would ever go away,” yes, the price we pay for having loved!
The Rainbow Bridge
“There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.
“When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. The old and frail animals are young again. Those who are maimed are made whole again. They play all day with each other.
“There is only on thing missing. They are not with their special person who loved them on earth. So, each day they run and play until the day comes when one suddenly stops playing and looks up. The nose twitches. The ears are up. The eyes are staring. And this one suddenly runs from the group.
“You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet, you take him or her in your arms and embrace Your face is kissed again and again and again, and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet.
“Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.”
(Father Mike Arms is a retired priest from the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis living in Crosslake in his family’s original 1935 cabin. He helps at local parishes as needed from Christmas through Labor Day but not during the fall duck, goose and Vikings season.)