Even though I haven't had school age children for many years I still tend to think of the day after Labour Day as the start of a new year. Far more than January 1st, September is the beginning for me.
And thank God for that because I'm so thankful that this summer is finally over and a new year is about to begin.
I started the new calendar year - December 31st actually - by getting a puppy. Bailey was a 3 month old Golden Retriever when I first met him and I fell in love the moment I first hugged him.
Bailey was my first puppy. Our previous dogs were adults we got from the pound. But awe thought that a puppy would be easier to assimilate him into a family of cats which is how Bailey came to join our family. So how'd that go??? Not so well, but it didn't really matter - Bailey ruled the roost - over the four cats and my son's Lab.
I learned a lot about bringing up a puppy. I learned that puppies pee an enormous amount! I learned that they have very sharp teeth and that they like to chew. I also learned that Golden Retrievers like to eat things and so "leave it" was a phrase I used a lot with Bailey. We got pretty good at putting things away and keeping them out of his reach.
Unfortunately, we didn't realize that he was tearing pieces off his blanket and eating them. Nor that he had gotten one of those rope toys totally unravelled and partially swallowed. One of those pieces - blanket or rope, the docs never figured it out - blocked his small intestine. After three unsuccessful surgeries we had to let him go.
We had taken him to the OVC in Guelph for the final two surgeries. They, everyone at OVC but particularly Dr. Michelle Oblak, were amazing. They tried their best to save Bailey, but when they couldn't they helped us to give him a good death. Dr. Oblak - Michelle as she came to be known to me - had settled Bailey on top of a large, white, lambswool blanket and then covered him with another blanket before we came into the exam room. He tried his best to stand up when we came into the room but it was beyond him. He lay back down on the mat and I sat beside him. After I said my goodbyes Michelle gave him the final injection; I held him in my arms - all 75 pounds of him - as his Bailey-ness left his body. My beautiful boy.
Bailey had his first surgery on August 3rd and we said goodbye on August 11th. During those 9 days I also found myself struggling with the realization that a friendship I had valued for about 15 years was over. Not only that, I felt that the entire 15 years had been based on deception and duplicity. That loss - both of the real friendship and what I had believed to be the friendship - felt like a death. And then to lose Bailey a few days later was almost too much. Two deaths - one literal, one figurative. I was desperately sad.
After Bailey's death at only 11 months old, I honestly didn't think that I would ever get another dog. I seemed to be facing too much loss and I simply didn't think that I could risk loving and possibly losing yet again. I was so, so sad.
I missed my beautiful boy so much and, although I didn't think of replacing him, I realized that I needed another dog.
So I got Dillon. A 7 week old Irishdoodle. I couldn't see myself getting another Golden Retriever - it would seem almost 'insulting' to Bailey. As if I was replacing him. I know he was "just a dog" but he was MY dog and I wanted to honour his memory. So another Golden Retriever wasn't an option. But I came across a litter of Irishdoodle's on kijiji and .... the rest is history.
Dillon means 'faithful companion' (Bailey got his name because he ran towards a Bailey's Irish Cream bottle instead of a bell - otherwise he would have been named Belvedere!!!). I still miss my beautiful boy but I do love Dillon.
So, a new year begins tomorrow and while Bailey's memory lives within me (and I still call Dillon 'Bailey' lots of times) I'm not quite so sad as I was a month ago.