Everybody who knows me knows that I am an inveterate and unabashed dog lover and especially a lover of golden retrievers and most especially of one named Bailey. Sometimes, we who have pets find a pet who brings a special kind of joy into our lives. Bailey was such a dog for me. He had to be put to sleep January 20 after enriching our family’s lives for more than 13 years. The sadness and pure grief I feel is hard to explain, but many will, no doubt, understand.
Bailey asked for nothing but affection. Pet him, touch him, sit next to him, and he was happy. Look at him and merely say his name, and he thumped his tail, pleased to be acknowledged, and, if you forgot to pet him when he was nearby, he would employ his nose as a sort of half-nudge, half-ram under your elbow or arm to remind you of his presence and his right to be fondled. My daughter once lovingly referred to him as an “affection slut,” while a friend called him an “affection sponge.” Be that as it may, giving and receiving affection aren’t such bad things.
But, actually, that isn’t quite all there was to Bailey. He was a great retriever and an avid swimmer. Some days, when I couldn’t find a stick on the beach to throw, he would just jump in the ocean and swim parallel to my wife and me as we walked along the sand. Usually, however, I would find a stick or bring along a tennis ball, and, no matter how rough the sea or how big the waves, he would charge, sometimes disappearing under a wave, returning shortly with the stick or ball in his mouth that he would drop at your feet, looking up as if to say, “Okay, let’s do it again.” He would continue as long as you would throw them. Also, it should be mentioned, he had an unusually goofy look about him with his sagging jowls and wrinkled brows, a throwback to the bloodhound lineage of goldens.
One time, my wife was walking him on the boardwalk, and he suddenly pulled away, ran about 20 feet to the side, began digging in the sand, and to her amazement, came trotting back with a tennis ball in his mouth. Retrieving was certainly in his DNA, and he loved the process, endlessly. In fact, on the day he died, I did not know he had begun to bleed internally, and I took him out in the driveway to throw a tennis ball for him. He ambled after it and brought it back for the last time. I could see he was having difficulty as I took him back in the house. He died a few hours later.
Bailey and all our loving and beloved pets remind us, I believe, of the simple joys of caring, of giving affection, of simplicity, of play. To paraphrase Robert Frost, “One could do worse than be a retriever of balls.”
Bailey was the sweetest, most affectionate creature I have ever known. My wife and I agree that he was a model we all could well emulate. Would that the peoples of the world had more of the qualities of golden retrievers, of Bailey.