• Toni O'Connor

Adventures with Bailey

First published in The Winchester Star on August 30, 2016.

Bailey, our delightful yellow lab/shepherd/heaven-knows-what-else mixed pup, is in hog heaven. She loves having both of us at home. There’s always someone here to protect her while she naps.

You’d think she’d want someone to play with. If you throw a ball for that dog, she looks at you as if you are an alien from outer space and then she lies down. The same goes for Frisbees, tug-of-war ropes, or other supposed dog toys.

Bailey’s idea of fun is rolling up the rug in the sunroom and trying to chew on it. Another favorite pastime is snatching place mats from the kitchen table or paper towels from anywhere she can spot them. Socks and shoes cannot be removed in her presence, or they wind up being munched on.

Like most dogs she does like stuffed toys with squeakers. In about 20 minutes she can flatten out a stuffed toy, remove the squeaker, and make the sun room look like a snowstorm in February. We don’t purchase too many of those stuffed toys.

Many nights around 8 p.m., Bailey sees imaginary things outside and begins to bark. We seldom see evidence of anything to bark at, but somewhere out there is something that disturbs her. Earlier in the summer I hung a solar light by the pool fence. When it came on at dusk she stood and barked at it for 45 minutes. I had to move it to the back steps. For some reason in her pea brain, that location was OK.

Sometimes to stop the barking, we give her a frozen cow bone from the grocery store. There are enough frozen bones in our house to build our own cow. (Or maybe two -- she has had some rambunctious nights!)

Bones do keep her busy. When she goes to “camp” -- Just Like Home Kennels in Strasburg, VA -- we have to send a bone for every day. Otherwise, as a pup, she was known to chew on the shoe molding.

I always told my students (and anyone else in earshot) that I am “The Queen.” If anyone here needs to wear a crown, it’s Bailey.

Get that dog some training, you may say. Been there, done that. Twice. The second trainer was one who came to the house. After three sessions when Bailey spotted her at the door she immediately sat down. For the next hour, she performed like a trained seal. As soon as the trainer was gone and we tried to put her through her training paces, she looked on us with disdain and went to take a nap. I think we are the ones who aren’t trainable.

The Princess (I intend to retain my “Queen” title for now) is only allowed on one piece of furniture. That’s the loveseat in the sunroom. She only likes the left side of it. If anyone sits in her “spot,” she will stand in front of them and stare until they move. Think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Eventually, she will give up with a sigh if she has to.

She is a very food-oriented animal. Not that her behavior is always better with treats, but it does help somewhat. Though she does want anything that anyone eats, She doesn’t -- (sorry. Interrupted by an episode of random barking)

-- always get it.

Bailey can be asleep on the back porch and hear the refrigerator door open in the kitchen. I think she hears the refrigerator door open in the neighbors’ houses. And though she has never been fed canned food, she comes sprinting when she hears the can opener running.

Beyond those daily rushes to the kitchen, she is, as Adrian says, “bone idle.” She isn’t fond of physical activity. He has been walking laps in the yard, as directed by his doctors, to build up his strength. His trusty companion is always invited to accompany him. She dutifully walks two laps, if that, and then promptly goes up on the back porch to catch up on her much-needed nap.

She has to keep up her strength. There’s barking to do later!

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