Bailey came into my life in 2005. She was a West Highland White Terrier and the love of my life. I called her my four-legged soul mate. She taught me so much and was there with me for so many major events in my life. She saw me through my single years, was with me when I met and married my husband, she was around through my daughter’s first year and a half of life. She was my constant.
A big reason I became a dog trainer was because of Bailey. I was working full time in media sales in Chicago when one day I realized I wasn’t happy in my career. I felt like something was lacking: passion, love, enjoyment. I always had a love for dogs and having been through some training classes with Bailey, I decided I wanted to work with dogs. I started my career as a dog trainer and haven’t looked back.
On January 28th, 2015, my family and I said goodbye to Bailey. She had been diagnosed with bladder cancer three years prior and finally lost her fight. To say I was devastated is an understatement. It has been over a year and I am still grieving.
Grief is hard.
We knew our time with Bailey was short, but even though I was mentally prepared for her death, it hit me hard. For three years we didn’t know when her time would come. When she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, we were told she would be lucky to survive 6 months. The dog we knew as Bailey the Wonder Westie fought hard and we weren’t surprised that she far surpassed expectations. Still, there was always that nagging feeling that it could be any day. We worked hard to make sure she lived well and was never in pain, but there was always the question when the quality of life was starting to suffer. It was a weight that laid heavily on my husband and I. It was weight that finally went away when we got the news that her cancer had progressed and it was time to let her rest.
Guilt was something I wasn’t prepared for. For those 3 years, my husband and I drove Bailey to almost weekly vet appointments and almost monthly chemo treatments. We spent hours and hours stuck in traffic driving her across town to her fabulous vet. Daily we gave her medicine to help support her immune system that the chemo attacked. We racked up thousands of dollars of credit card debt that some people might find ridiculous to spend on a “pet”, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
After the grief, I felt a sense of ease.
We spent three years in a storm called cancer. Her death brought a sense of calm that we hadn’t felt in a long time. That led to the guilt for feeling a sense of relief. Don’t get me wrong – I would take it all back to have Bailey for one more minute, but I have come to the realization that I don’t have to miss all the chaos in order to miss my dog. They can be separate. Life is easier without all the daily worry and stress. But I still miss Bailey.
A lot has happened since Bailey’s death. We moved to Colorado, bought a house, I started my own business, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Life has moved on. But the grief still hits me when I least expect it. Just the other day I was hanging a gallery wall in our hallway. I took out Bailey’s paw print that the crematory gave us when we had Bailey cremated to hang on the wall next to a few photos of her. The tears came rolling. That’s the thing about grief – it gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily go away.
Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.