From the yellow brick road to the Jaws of Life

I wrote this post last week, and I almost didn’t publish it today because there’s another canine friend , who is very much alive, fighting for her health across the country right now. But I wanted to share this story with you of the littlest family member with a big heart. And Daisy, I’m thinking about you today, too – pull through, girl.

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Bailey, the WestHighland Terrior, saved my mother-in-law’s life once.

Well, maybe not her life, but he saved her from lying in the yard in pain alone for an untold number of hours.

Caroline was walking to the mailbox and she fell, breaking her ankle. She was home alone, and the neighbors were too far away to hear her calling for help. Bailey ran down the street until he found a neighbor who was outside. The neighbor wanted to know why Bailey was wandering around alone, so he went to investigate and thus was able to help my mother-in-law get medical attention.

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He even played Toto in a school production of the “Wizard of Oz” once, despite the fact that he was the wrong color. I guess the director didn’t want to discriminate … and from what I hear, he was the star of the show …

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Bailey also was the only passenger in Caroline’s 1994 Jeep Cherokee when she lost control and went careening off the on ramp onto the highway shoulder, flipping the vehicle and giving us all quite a scare. Bailey was not buckled in and I can only imagine he either thought he was in for a fun roller coaster ride or perhaps he thought he was in that twister that took away himself and Dorothy when his little body got rattled around in that airborne Jeep. But he escaped without a scratch, and kept Caroline company while the medics arrived to use the Jaws of Life to get her out and to the hospital, where she would need lots of time to recouperate.

After that he was terrified to ride in a car, particularly with Caroline behind the wheel. We’d sometimes have to give him a sedative just to keep him from shaking half to death. He sat in my lap the entire drive from Kansas City to Greenville once (twice actually), and I didn’t mind a bit.

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He was a little dog –  I much prefer big dogs – I’m not much of a yappy dog person. But for some reason Bailey never acted like a little dog to me. If he knew how to yap, he never showed did it in front of me. Little dog or not, he sure found a way into our hearts in a big way. He was one of the first family members I met – I met him long before I met Jeff, even.

And wow, did he love Caroline. He was at her feet with every step she would take. He saw her through brain tumors and strokes and cancer. By her side the whole time. Through the illnesses, he patiently waited his turn for a walk or a feeding, knowing she came first and that her care was more necessary than his.

The years went by and Bailey got older, but he always seemed so young. We knew the inevitable would come but the fact that he would still get up to greet me when I came to visit in those later years, even when we’d arrive at 3 in the morning, told me he was still himself, albeit an older version.

So when Jeff told me the bad news, that Bailey had passed away, I was both expecting it and not expecting it at the same time.

Time to follow that yellow brick road, my big-dog friend in a little body. You lived an important life.