When we lose the most important person in our lives, we as humans all grieve differently and need time to heal. So do our animals, this is the story of how our puppy dealt with the loss of his favorite human, Keith!
Our daughter, Kellie, had been sending Keith and I pictures of this dog, a small black Labrador-Beagle mix. She was telling us how adorable he was, but he was living in a terrible situation. “He needs a home, our home, we have to rescue him!!!” Keith and I owned a business. We were so busy, that the thought of having to care and be responsible for a dog was just too daunting, even though, mind you, we love animals, and have had both, dogs and cats in our lives. We told Kellie that it was just impossible, a puppy is so much work. As much as we were saddened for his situation, bringing him into a home where he would be alone all day, just didn’t seem any better!
Kellie had a different idea, however. She decided to let us see for ourselves. One evening, she brought him to our home. I’m sure you know where this is going!!! After about 30 seconds, Keith was on the floor playing with this adorable 4-month-old puppy and fell in love. It took a little more convincing on my part “How are we going to manage this?” Keith replied, “As we do with everything else, we will figure it out!!”
On that day, December 14, 2016, George “Bailey” came into our lives. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of our family’s favorite movies, and we knew it was right. Bailey did too!
Bailey and Keith became instant best buds. Wherever Keith went, Bailey had to be there, too! Since Keith was a chef, you could always find the two of them in the kitchen. Bailey was happily awaiting anything that might happen to fall off the cutting board.
The two of them loved taking long walks together, and with Keith being 6’4″ and having very long strides, Bailey, only four months, happily kept up the pace. When I would come home the three of us would take long strolls during the evenings, it was one of our favorite things to do. Bailey loved the pack walks; as long as his favorite human came along. At the end of the night, Bailey always jumped into our bed; snuggling between us.
One year later, Christmas 2017, Keith was not feeling well. So much so that we took him to the hospital the next day, where we received devastating news. Keith had a tumor on his liver and needed a liver transplant.
Bailey saw me leave with Keith that morning and when I didn’t come back home with him, he was confused and miserable! That night, I could not find him, he was hiding from me under Kellie’s bed, and he ended up sleeping in her room all night long!
Keith came home about ten days later, but he was frail. We did not want Bailey jumping on him and overwhelming either of them. So while I was bringing Keith into the house, Kellie brought Bailey out through the back door. Once I got Keith settled, I texted Kellie to bring him in. It was like something out of the videos you see on YouTube. Before Bailey saw him, he knew Keith was home and practically torn Kellie’s arm off, as he tried to run to him. The reunion was beautiful, Keith stretched out his arms and Bailey flew into them. All was right with the world. That night Bailey slept in our bed, snuggling next to his favorite human.
About a week later, I had to bring Keith back to the hospital. Not only was this devastating to our family, but to Bailey as well. When I did not bring Keith home that night, Bailey was very very angry, thinking I had something to do with it. If I walked into the room he was in, he walked out! Of course, he did not sleep with me that night, he slept with Kellie!!
Bailey was missing his daily long walks with his favorite human. He got the essential exercise, but it just wasn’t the same for him. When Kellie and I were not at the hospital or running the business, Bailey got our attention!! However, as the days became nights, and we spent most of our time at the hospital, he became very destructive. Kellie would go back and forth to take care of him and give him hugs, but he bore holes in the walls and ripped up the carpet. We knew that he was so upset, so we found it difficult to be angry with him.
Keith spent another 12 days in the hospital only to have them tell us that there was nothing more anyone could do for him. When he came home for the final time, we had to have Hospice set up in our living room so we could make him as comfortable as possible!
Over the next nine days, I slept in the living room with Keith, because I was afraid I would not hear him when he needed me. Bailey spent every night in our bed, but during the day, he would nervously go between the couch, to the chair, to the floor, or lay under Keith’s bed as if he was protecting him!
On February 8th, just six weeks and two days, after the initial visit to the hospital, Keith was in and out of consciousness. At one point, Bailey jumped up on the bed and landed on Keith’s stomach. Bailey was only 18 months old, and of course, he didn’t realize that he was causing some pain. He didn’t understand why we quickly shooed him away, and he was so upset that he hid under our bed. Kellie and I spent the whole day just being by Keith side. We were playing his favorite music and telling him how much we loved him.
Very late in the afternoon, Bailey came to Keith one more time. He gently got on the bed, kissed Keith on the face and then he left his bedside. That night, just before midnight, Keith had passed away. We had to call the nurse from hospice to come and officially pronounce him. While we were waiting, Bailey laid under the hospital bed, and the three of us sat there in silence. He never came from under the bed until the nurse arrived.
The nurse was a kind, 6’6″ gentleman from Jamaica named Godfrey, with a baritone voice, and fedora. Bailey would typically greet him with his tail wagging, and try giving kisses. Usually, he would jump up because he was so happy to see him. Not this time!! Bailey proceeded to sit in front of Keith at his bed as if guarding him. As Godfrey gently took care of Keith, Bailey did not move. Bailey watched intently. I believe that if Godfrey moved a hair wrong out of Keith’s head, he might have lost a leg.
Once Godfrey left, we then had to wait for the funeral home attendants. It was so heartbreaking for Kellie and I, but it became so profound as we watched Bailey sit next to Keith when the two gentlemen, dressed in suits, arrived at two in the morning. As the gentlemen worked, Bailey followed them intently. He was visibly upset as these guys placed Keith on a gurney. Bailey was running back and forth; from both sides of the bed to the couch to the chair. He was whining, crying and trying to catch his breath as they were making there way to the front door! What were they doing to his favorite human? Where were they taking him?
As the funeral attendants took Keith away, Bailey followed us down the stairs and watched as the gentlemen placed Keith in the back of the hearse. Kellie, Bailey and I watched as the vehicle drove away, and then we went upstairs. Kellie and I went to our bedrooms, Bailey slept in the living room under Keith’s hospital bed, and he did not leave it all night long.
The next morning I had to go to NYC, and Kellie stayed home. Hospice needed to pick up all of their equipment. What neither Kellie nor I realized was how devastating this would be for Bailey. For over ten days, the hospital bed and oxygen machine were part of our lives and an extension of Keith. When Hospice came, Bailey went crazy and started jumping up at the gentleman taking the equipment. He was crying and whining as each piece was taken outside to the truck. Kellie called me to tell me that he was crying so hard that she thought he was choking. She was so upset as he would run to the window, watching them load the truck, crying. After they left, Bailey did not know what to do with himself. He ran from room to room whimpering; he was devastated!!
Over the last few months, it was a real struggle not only for Kellie and me but also for Bailey. In the beginning, he was so stressed out and super hyper. Going for a simple walk was agony. We were so frustrated that we could not control him. It was beginning to look impossible for us to keep him.
While dealing with our own grief, and because we loved Keith so much, we had to realize how important it was to remember our little non-human. Bailey is grieving with us. Each day, we all get up and put one foot or paw, in front of the other, and try to adjust to our new norm.
The three of us are slowly navigating our way out of this deep dark cloud together! Bailey goes back and forth to Kellie’s room and mine to sleep every night! We may not be his favorite humans, yet, but as we all get out of bed every day, we are all learning to live life without our favorite human, Keith!