Bailey (from Foster Mom, Lois Gard)

I fostered 7-year old Bailey in the fall of 2006. She had come to WIN from a backyard breeder who was going out of business. I was immediately struck by Bailey’s very “non-wheaten” personality….no curiosity, no eagerness to greet, no spirit or light in her eyes. It was like someone turned the switch off. After several weeks of fostering her, she slowly began to make eye contact, venture out of her crate without fear, and cautiously seek out companionship. She had a sweet disposition and deserved a forever home to live out her senior years making up for all she had missed in life, someone with patience, sensitivity, prior dog experience, and probably someone with a bit of an adventuresome spirit – someone willing to accept a dog who might never be a “typical” wheaten. A WIN applicant in Canada seemed to fit the bill….David was devastated with the recent loss of his elderly wheaten. He was an active, social person, and best of all he was completely willing to do whatever was necessary for the good of a dog.

Oh, and did I mention that David was in his 80’s?

Bailey and David have been together for nearly five years now. He’s in his 90’s –Bailey is 12.

And in that time, I have been gifted by what I have learned from the two of them:
1. Maturity only adds to the pleasure and wisdom that comes from sharing life with a dog that knows it’s getting a second chance; and
2. There’s hope for any dog, no matter how much it’s spirit has been crushed.

Bailey and David are a partnership of keeping each other healthy, happy and involved in life. What more could one ask for?

I recently asked David if I could share his e-mails about his sweet girl

Bailey to use as her “success story.” He agreed. I’ll let the e-mails tell the story:

February 2008:

I have fallen deeply in love with Bailey. I am not certain whether she reciprocates this passion but I think she quite likes me! She has learned a great deal since she came to live with me. But what she has learned from me is absolutely nothing compared to what I have learned from her. Among the things she has learned are how to walk happily beside me with her head held high and her little tail wagging cheerfully. How to go through doors without panicking. How to go up and down stairs – she had absolutely no knowledge of stairs when she came to me. How to get in and out of cars without hurting herself. How to look me in the eye with trust. How to kiss my hands as a gesture of love. The things I have learned from her are manifold. Among them are…patience, gentleness, respect, admiration, how to teach without dominating or frightening, how to reassure and reward by body language, but – above all, I think – she has taught me how to ‘take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree‘ as Yeats said in The Sally Gardens. Foe all these, I am immensely grateful to her.

I knew it would be a slow business. I also knew that there were things she probably would never learn. After all, she came to me after seven years of almost no sensory inflow at all – except, of course, the all-important one of caring for her puppies. Seven years old, for a dog, is very late to start learning. But she has learned a huge amount, starting from virtually zero base.

I have become increasingly expert at detecting minute increases in her understanding. The most recent of these – which I only recently discovered – is that she has learned how to play! A major achievement! But let me tell you about her game…her favorite haven is my bed, which is at the top of my three-level town-house. So, between the door to the outside and the aforementioned bed there are somewhere around thirty steps. When I go to the front door, rattle her leash and call her she bounces off the bed (I can hear the bounce two floors below!), trips down the stairs and stands almost, but NEVER quite, within reach. When I advance toward her she makes singing noises, wags her tail at great speed and dashes up round the first corner. So I head upstairs after her to find her standing, again, not quite within my reach. Lots of tail wagging and excited squeaking noises and another dash out of sight and reach. This is repeated several times until I finally catch up with her standing, quivering with anticipation, on the far side of the bed. Then she comes bounding downstairs on the leash, full of joy and anticipation. For a long time I thought all this was because she was frightened and that the sounds were those of terror. It was the tail-wagging that finally made me realize that the sounds were expressions of joy and the running away was a great game. How could I have been so stupid? I think this is a really joyous advance, don’t you?

Of course, she still has lots to learn – as do I. She still wont come to me, even for food. On the other hand, she never runs away from me now (except in play, as described above). She has barked once – well, eight times, actually, but only on one occasion – about nine months ago. She barks in her sleep occasionally but never when awake, except that once. I find this really odd, don’t you? Sometimes I wonder whether I imagined that she barked on that one occasion. But I don’t think I did. I was so delighted by it. And, of course, she still takes fright very easily. Noises, even very small ones; sudden delays in the opening of doors or the removal of her leash; loss of patience on my part with some inanimate object (another fault she has taught me to overcome to a large extent!); other dogs barking or being overly boisterous. All these and many other disturbances cause her to lose courage. But she has come an enormously long way. You are probably the only person I know who understands the effects produced by almost total lack of sensory inflow. I have to tell you that, if I have coped reasonably well with Bailey’s ‘coming alive’ – and my friends seem to think I have – I owe a very large part of my success to you. For which I offer you abundant thanks.

Oh dear! I seem to have rather gone on and on, don’t I? And there is so much more I could write about. There is just one thing I really must tell you before I shut up. The son of a close friend of mine, a very perceptive, intelligent young man in his late twenties met Bailey for the first time a few months ago. After being in her presence for about fifteen minutes he said “Your dog evokes gentleness” This is absolutely spot on correct. He is a very perceptive guy and he couldn’t have put it better. That is exactly what she does. Everyone who meets her falls instantly in love with her. Isn’t she a lucky dog?

And aren’t I lucky to have her?

If you have any advice to offer about helping Bailey to enjoy life, don’t hesitate to let me know. Most of what I have managed to do for her so far I have learned from you.


October 2010:

Dear Lois:

How absolutely wonderful to hear from you! But, needless to say, my pleasure was mingled with the guilt which hovers constantly around really appalling correspondents like me for having failed to write a single word to you for such an unforgivably long time. I could make long, boring excuses for my silence; but I won’t – I’ll just ask you, hopefully, to forgive me.

Guess who’s by my side at this very moment, politely anticipating walkies, food, an affectionate stroke or, at the very least, a few kind words? Right first time! My dear friend – and constant companion – The Bailey Dog. Now in her eleventh year, she seems to grow younger rather than older and never stops learning. Mind you, she had a heap of learning to do, didn’t she, having been more or less shut in a box, doing nothing but giving birth – and that which precedes it – for the first seven years of her life? She has learnt so much, and enjoys life such a lot, that you would be truly amazed by her. Of course, there are some things she will never learn because of her late start, such as playing games and coming when she is called. But she has become deeply affectionate, lies beside me a lot, bestows loving kisses, walks beside me with immense dignity and – yes, really – talks to me in affectionate grunts quite a lot. We have become very close indeed and – as I’m sure I have said to you before – she has done much more for me than I have done for her. She has taught me, for example, the qualities of patience and acceptance, which are of inestimable value if one wants to be happy as one toddles through one’s ninth decade. Also, of course, she ‘gets me out’ (as they say) which is as good for me as it is for her. People tell me often that I don’t look my age and, if this is true, Bailey is almost entirely responsible!

As far as I can see, Bailey has not a trace of aggression in her make-up. She will walk within a foot of a squirrel, for example, without showing any reaction except mild interest. I have never met a dog before who could do that! Furthermore, she appears to be in the very best of health. She eats absolutely anything offered to her with endearing relish. I make a point of not over-feeding her and she is still slim and youthful in appearance. Her only treat – and mine, of course – is a very small quantity, daily, of Smith’s Potato Chips. She absolutely adores them – I think it is probably the salt she likes – and takes them from my fingers with the gentleness of a turtle dove. I know you wouldn’t believe me if I said it – and of course it is not true – but I’ll say it anyway. Every evening, shortly before ‘Jeopardy’ (one of the very few TV programs I still watch) Bailey trots downstairs, comes close to me and says, in Wheatenese, “How about a few Smith’s chips?” They absolutely HAVE to be Smith’s – Bailey knows that as well as I do and her enthusiasm for any other brand is markedly lower!

Enough about Bailey and me. I could go on and on but I think you will have got the message that she is still very much around and kicking and that we are the very best of friends. She means the world to me and I am eternally grateful to you for the vitally important part you played in bringing us together.

How is life with you? From what I have gathered from your earlier Emails your life has undergone some dramatic and joyful changes since we met. I am most happy for you. Perhaps, if you have a moment, you could let me know all about it. I also understood that you had lost one of your beloved Wheaten friends. I was very sad indeed to hear that. I know the deep sadness that losing a dog brings. When I had to have the life of Zoe, my previous Wheaten friend, terminated, I was completely devastated. Indeed, as you may have gathered, the part you played in bringing Bailey and I together was of enormous importance in restoring my sense of well being, for which I am eternally grateful to both of you.

I hear noises from upstairs which suggest that Bailey, who is now up there, may be considering the beautiful fall weather outside far too good for staying indoors. So I will go downstairs and get her leash, then upstairs to get her (I am on the middle of the three floors in my house) – my life is a constant succession of going up and down thousands of stairs, which may be what keeps me fitter than I have any right to expect at my advanced age! Do let me know about what has been happening in your life since we last met. Come to think of it, we only met once – and that for only about thirty minutes! Difficult to believe – I feel I know you well and have known you for ages and met you often.

Bailey sends a loving, grateful low-pitched grunt and a look of deep contentment in two of the most beautiful eyes possessed by any mammal.


February 2011 (When I asked David recently if I could use his e-mails to tell Bailey’s story, this was his reply)

Hi, Lois:

My dear soul, it would be a true privilege to have you use anything about my dear Bailey and anything at all that I have ever written about her to you. If you want me to do anything to help do please let me know. As you know, she is now 12 years old and has adapted to a ‘retired’ life with a human who is now very slightly older than her but will shortly become quite a bit younger, if one works on the old formula which equates one dog year of age to seven human ones. She is the light of my life and is directly responsible for the fact that I neither act nor – if people are to be believed – look my age.

She now lies beside me all evening and gives me lots of kisses. The only thing she still doesn’t do is come to me when I ask her to. But she doesn’t walk away and she comes at great speed if she thinks food is involved. She has a magnificent appetite and will eat absolutely ANYTHING. I have never seen a dog eat tomatoes with such unbridled relish!

I have to tell you, again, how in awe I am of the way you care for, handle, and understand dogs. You can only be adequately described as a ‘natural’ where their welfare is concerned. You were certainly instrumental in rescuing my dear friend Bailey and bringing her and me together, for which I am eternally grateful. By the way, she has asked me to send you her love and a worshipful, and characteristically discrete, little wuff.

Actually, as you know, she NEVER barks. Well, to be entirely accurate, she barked seven times one morning about three years ago standing on my bed but obviously didn’t like it much because she has never barked again. She does, however, now talk to me quite a lot. Her language seems to consist of a lot of peculiar little sounds ranging from squeaks to whines and occasional strangled ‘wuffy’ noises. When this first started, I thought it was a sign of distress but I have now realized that all of these noises are signs of pleasure and anticipation. She has changed my life for the better in a host of ways.

Do please let me know if I can be of any help.


And the most recent, January 2014

Dear Lois:

I had two reactions on receiving your Email. The first was one of great pleasure on hearing from you; which led to my shouting with delight at Bailey, who was lying half-asleep beside me, thereby causing her to seek refuge behind the nearest piece of furniture. The second was one of geriatric guilt – a reaction which occurs with increasing frequency as I plough my bewildered way through my late eighties. I have started to write to you several times but something has happened to interrupt me on every one of them. I know that is a ludicrously pathetic excuse; but actually finishing doing anything, after having one’s attention distracted from it, is one of the many simple tasks which become inexplicably difficult as one ploughs deeper into the geriatric forest. End of embarrassed apologies.

Yes, Bailey is still very much alive. She has finally persuaded me that she really doesn’t either want or need to go for walks. The problem is that she absolutely hates having to go up or down stairs. Even a single little step – and my house is full of them – causes her to refuse to move an inch. So I have made it possible, by devising a lot of towel-washing etc., for her to become a completely one-level, indoor, ground-floor dog. As you know, she is now very elderly – just about 100 in human years, if one works on the 1 year dog=7 year human formula. But, as long as steps are totally avoided, she is amazingly active, happy, eats anything offered with speed and relish, has an absolutely beautiful coat (which makes her the pride and wonder of her Vet’s office!), sleeps blissfully a great deal, and leaves one in no doubt that she thinks her life is pretty terrific.

What I have done for Bailey is nothing compared with what Bailey has done for me. As you know, we took to each other instantly on our first meeting. I still have the wonderful photograph you took about three minutes after we first met. I have learned a vast amount from her and am still learning. For all this I have an immense gratitude to you, for your superb part in opening the door to our relationship, which is absolutely beyond thanks. All I can say is that you have imbued both our lives with a wonderful happiness which has allowed both of us to grow old joyfully. I realize that she cannot be expected to stay alive very much longer – neither can I, I suppose! – but I think the wonderful years we have had together will make it easier, rather than harder, for me – and, I hope, her if I should be the first to leave – to deal with that.

Thank you very much for writing to me. I hope you will forgive me for not having written to you earlier.