Surviving Baily

I was at my wits end. Our adorable black lab Baily, who weighed eleven pounds when we first brought him home, had quickly become a rambunctious, sixty-pound dog with a knack for trouble and a constant craving for food. My husband and I had never owned dogs, but our daughter Elida had been asking for one since she was eleven years old. Apparently, the budgies, cats, fish, and tree frogs we’d bought for our kids hadn’t offered the companionship she’d hoped for. The problem was we simply had no room for a dog in our chaotic lives.

As the years passed, Elida stopped asking for a dog, until she turned nineteen. By then she had a part-time job and was willing to pay for a new pet. She also promised to be the dog’s primary caregiver, provided we would help out while she was at work and school. Since I was between jobs and we only had one pet left—our cat Mimo—my husband and I agreed, though with some trepidation. Elida’s life was busy and we weren’t sure how much help we’d have to give.

After hours of research, Elida chose a labrador retriever because they were friendly, smart, and trainable. And so we found a silky, pudgy ball of fun and energy. We soon learned, though, that puppy ownership wasn’t all fun. Our gold shag carpet was frequently mistaken for grass. Baily ate Mimo’s food at every opportunity and couldn’t keep his nose out of the refrigerator the second we opened it. He jumped on us and guests. He pulled on his leash and only listened to commands he liked. Despite having more than his share of toys, Baily chewed on everything: wooden table legs, slippers, newspapers, Mimo’s scratching post (he tore two apart), and our back steps. He dug holes in the yard and pulled up some of the linoleum floor in our sun room. He even started chewing on the walls, stripping the paint completely. Elida tried to find an obedience school, but class schedules conflicted with her busy life. So we waited and hoped Baily would quickly outgrow his destructive phase.

The larger he grew, however, the more trouble he caused. One day, I left a cold stick of wrapped butter on the kitchen counter. I’d intended to put the butter in the covered dish but forgot about it and popped out to run an errand. When I came home I found a large, lumpy yellowish puddle on the shag carpet in front of our bathroom. Baily was the only family member who threw up on the carpet with any regularity. When I detected the smell of butter, I hurried to the counter and, sure enough, found the stick missing. I’m not overly fond of our old, gold shag. In fact, we plan to replace it, but I was still mad. Baily had plenty of food and attention, so why was he so destructive? Why weren’t our disciplinary tactics working?

Baily wanted to lick the mess, so I shoved him outside while I figured out how to remove regurgitated butter from one-inch shag. In the end, paper towels, rags, Pine Sol and a scrub brush did the job. When I was finished, I let Baily back inside and went onto other tasks.

Forty-five minutes later, I found a large hole in the carpet. It seemed I hadn’t removed every last buttery remnant, so Baily chewed right through the underlay to the wooden floor. I was furious. The hole wasn’t only ugly, but a safety hazard. That day I went out and purchased a mat to prevent people from tripping over the damaged carpet.

We told Elida that Baily had to be trained or he had to leave. Since she’d already been talking about moving out for several months, she accepted an invitation to share a house with friends who loved Baily and had experience with lab puppies. My husband, son, and I envisioned peaceful quiet nights, a tidy house, and not struggling to walk an uncontrollable dog.

Funny thing, though. The day Elida and Baily moved out, I started to miss them. While the house was certainly less chaotic and messy, there was also less energy and fun. You know what they say: you never really appreciate something until it’s gone. This was far truer than I’d imagined. I began to reflect on everything I’d liked about Baily. His playfulness, those gorgeous brown eyes, the way he tilted his head when I spoke to him and how he was always delighted to see me, no matter what my mood. I missed the happy-go-lucky dog that ran around with toys in his mouth, loved playing tug-of-war, and scooped up every last bit of dropped food on my kitchen floor.

Two months after she and Baily had moved out, Elida’s car broke down and she needed a ride to Baily’s new obedience class. I volunteered to drive and wondered if Baily would remember me. The moment he clambered into the car he licked my face, then settled into the back seat. I couldn’t have asked for a better greeting.

Now that Baily’s had several classes and has received a lot of training from Elida and her housemates, she often brings him over for a visit. He’s still rambunctious. He still wants to gobble up Mimo’s food and requires disciplining, but he listens better now and he’s stopped jumping on us. Together, he and Elida are maturing, learning new rules and responsibilities. Yet in many ways they’re still so young.

But as we all know, time won’t stop. They’ll grow older and move on, one way or another, which is why I’ve come to appreciate the way they are right now. Baily recently had his first birthday, and as I reflect back on the year I realize there are plenty of good memories. Our family has learned a lot about puppies and tolerance, discipline, and acceptance. Baily’s turning into a fine dog and if Elida ever decides she wants to move back home, I’ll welcome them both with open arms.


Debra Purdy Kong
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