The plaque fell off the door.
In the midst of crisis, sometimes the most insignificant occurrence will jump to your consciousness and flash the words, "Warning, warning." The day I came home and found the plaque on the ground was one of those times. My heart froze and a tiny voice in the back of my head said, "Maybe it's a sign." Then my practical self said, "Don't be ridiculous." I opened the door and put the plaque back on it's hook.
The plaque read, "Warning: Overly Affectionate Beagle on Duty."
Ours is a "late in life" marriage, and Bailey was the first big purchase we made together. My husband had lost another beagle through difficult circumstances, and I thought perhaps having Bailey would heal that wound. I had exciting news when we went out for dinner on our six-month anniversary. I told my husband, "I know what I want to get you for your birthday, but I need to tell you about it." I was in touch with a breeder, and a litter had been born that day. There was a male, and we could have it if we phoned before 8:00 that night. Before our main course arrived, we made the call. One snowy December day we drove three hours into the county to pick up our wiggly tri-coloured puppy. We lost our hearts.
Over the next three years, we lost a few other things. Our sanity sometimes, definitely our patience and many hours of sleep for quite a while. At both his first and second birthdays, we said, "Now, he's no longer a puppy." It wasn't until his third year that he started to exhibit signs of adulthood. Even then, he had a garbage fetish that we never broke.
He was no respecter of persons. When my nephew and his wife came to visit, he ate the dental floss. When my son came over, he lost the insoles from his shoes. The day he got out of his cage and destroyed a whole bookcase full of books was classic. He took the crotch out of my sister's pyjamas and many, many pairs of my underwear. Bailey did love a good crotch.
This was balanced, however, by the most loving personality imaginable. Beagles aren't necessarily cuddly, but he thrived on affection. He would crawl into our laps, put his chest across ours and his head over our mouths. We called these "Bailey hugs." I always said he could survive longer without food and water than he could survive without cuddles.
Two weeks ago, my husband left for Argentina on business, and just a few days later, I noticed Bailey having trouble peeing. I took him to the vet, and we came home with antibiotics for a raging bladder infection. Over the week, he improved, until Sunday, when he started to drip blood from his penis. We went back to the vet, and an x-ray showed bladder stones. Three times, they tried to push the stones back in the bladder so they could be removed surgically, but one was embedded in the urethra and wouldn't move. Hunter returned from his trip and we went to the vet to pick him up and take him to a specialist. When Bailey saw Hunter, he barked and jumped, thrilled that his daddy was home. I cuddled him all through the drive. We left him there for surgery the next day.
Around noon, I received a disturbing call. My healthy, bouncing puppy had gone septic overnight, and the chances of his surviving the surgery, or beyond a few days, were slim. Stunned, I talked to my husband and together we made the wrenching decision to end his pain.
The food and water dishes are packed away. The bed is in the garage, and I cleaned the paw and nose prints of the back door. His well-chewed toys and blankets are thrown out.
The plaque is put away.
We will get another dog. We are dog people, and can't imagine life without one. But a corner of our hearts will always be reserved for a naughty, lovable, sweet puppy named Bailey.