Sunday, June 19, 2011


Four of our six grandkids lined up next to the fence. Bailey was saddled and ready to go, especially since each of the kids had a treat extended to him on small hands flattened so he could slurp the treats into his mouth. Avery was first, the 5 yr old girl twin is the most interested in horses, and animals of all sorts. Her feet actually extended to the stirrups of the small children’s western saddle cinched around the old white horse’s belly. The last time she rode the horse had been a while ago and she had not quite reached the stirrups. She held on to the halter rope that was tied onto the halter like reins and off she went, being led by my daughter, Jennifer. Once around the huge arena, then it was Ambers turn.

Amber was the youngest at weeks before her fourth birthday and the one who had to tangle with two, 5 yr old twin brothers. Since Jennifer was her mom and she had access to Bailey and had been on him a little more, she was more comfortable and able to turn and stop him by herself. Tyler, Jennifer’s boy twin was next and then came Kyran, the oldest of my son’s 3. They both took a turn turning and stopping Bailey too. By the time the horse finished with giving them all rides he was limping on his arthritic front legs. He was in pain even with the ‘bute’ (like aspirin) he had been given and the featherweight riders. But he was willing and seemed to enjoy the attention and the treats.

Bailey was a gift. But then all horses are gifts. Even the ones you want to tear your hair out about, like Sassy, the Arabian mare I adopted from the Colorado Horse Rescue a few years ago. But that is another story. When he first arrived at Fossil Ridge Farm it was confusing for a while because we had another Bailey. The other Bailey was a dog. So we referred to him as Bailey the Horse which sounded kind of like a football player.

In his prime Bailey was not a football player, but he was an athlete. He is an AQHA registered Quarter Horse and a big gangly guy. He performed rodeo duties for ten years in team roping competition. But he is retired now, doesn’t do that anymore. He is occasionally a pleasure riding horse (when he feels like it) and what is called ‘bombproof,’ a horse for the kids. He is steady and slow and doesn’t go any faster than he has to. He is perfect for my grandkids which consist of: two sets of twins, all 5 years old, a 3 yr old and a 7 year old.

Bailey showed up in 2009 and now he is 21 years old. He was born in Iowa and his birth name is Sonoitabee, which sounds like a native American name. He is still a ladies man and when there are mares around he won’t stop flirting with them. But, Oh well. It keeps him young. He has it good around here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Of all the dogs we ‘fostered over the years, Bailey was my favorite. He wore gangly long legs that he seemed to take forever to grow into but when he did, what a beauty. He was a Hungarian Pointer with a taffy colored coat, a short tail (clipped) and the most expressive golden eyes you have ever seen. Bailey lived with us while his mom (our daughter) lived with us for a while and off and on when she was off seeking her fortune.

Soon enough though, he was by her side every minute he could. Hiking, biking, running with her, chasing frisbees or just stretched out in a sun spot on the rug, he embodied high energy but at the same time a sweetness that could take your breath away. Even though he failed his hunting test, he was a hunting dog through and through.

He was very smart and even when he had cats and other dogs to contend with he was the top dog. Having had multiple dogs, cats and horses by the time Bailey grew into his elderly years it was a major sadness when we knew his time was short, it didn’t make it easier. When he finally did come in from chasing rabbits and following every enticing scent he could, to lie down his last time we stayed with him...

After 14 years of high energy, this Frisbee loving Vizsla went over the rainbow bridge. Up until even a week earlier he was pushing his stiff old muscles to a-r-r-r-r and to jump in a raggedy kind of way. But two or three days ago there was a sudden drop in energy level, he couldn’t make it to the yard when he needed to.

Then yesterday he came by our house. We had the back door open and he just wandered in and laid down on the carpet to rest. We didn’t even know he was there until we almost stumbled over him. He looked up at me and then stood up unsteadily and headed for the door to go back home. I took him home. I walked with him the few hundred yards to his house. He moved very slowly, at a bit of an angle, lifted a leg off the ground and peed, kind of sideways. I told him it was OK. He didn’t need to be embarrassed. When we got to his house he took the easier steps up to the porch then found his way to his bed.

Some stories are sad stories. There is just no way to get around it. I was so sad to see him uncomfortable and in pain. He finally shifted his weight and was able to lie down. Later that night I got a call from my daughter. “Bailey’s not doing very well”, she said. I asked her what she was going to do and she said she guessed she would be calling her vet to come out. She had made arrangements a year ago to have the vet make a house call if and when it was necessary.

Bailey had suffered through several cancer operations and bravely lived with an angiosarcoma condition for a year, bleeding from skin lesions fairly often even while he chased rabbits and played. He hadn’t been quite as much of a bully with his younger sister Vizsla, Annie over the last few years. Annie is now ten, so is showing some age herself, along with the same cancer condition that Bailey has had. Only, being younger, she has stayed energetic. I feel sorry for her. She will miss him greatly.

So today, I spent the morning sitting with Bailey and his ‘people’. Jennifer and Miles both were home. T,he vet made arrangements to come out to the house, after changing her schedule at her office. I had planned to stay to be there but the vet ended up being late and I had to leave to go to a writing retreat.

While I was there we all told stories about our favorite memories of Bailey and his 14 wonderful years. It didn’t matter how much he grew or how long his legs were he would always climb into our laps. He was the best Frisbee catcher in the family, he even taught our dog Magic (Cocker Spaniel/Lab) how to play catch, he became a babysitter to my young niece’s daughter when they visited one Christmas, crawling on his belly and pushing his nose up to the edge of the baby blanket while she laid on the floor.

Bailey, I didn’t get to say this for you before I left but these are the words I give to you now.

In Memoriam:

…I shall see beauty

But none to match your living grace.

I shall hear music

But none as sweet as your doggie sounds

Tail wags and soft eyes

With which you loved me.

I shall fill my days,

But I shall not, cannot forget,

Sleep soft, dear friend…