One year ago, we brought our dog home from a rescue shelter in New Hampshire. It was a long journey for her, from Arkansas to New Hampshire to here, and she had at least three different names along the way. It was a long journey for us as well. For many years, I was the lone holdout of the family on the dog front. Never having had a pet, I never missed having one, and I had no interest in cleaning up after any more creatures than those to which I was already accustomed. But something shifted in me about six weeks before she came to us…maybe I was ready to take care of someone again with my kids growing up. Whatever the reason, the search was on to find our pup.
Our dog’s full name is Mary Bailey Jeremiah Campbell, which I realize sounds kind of crazy. During the years they begged me for a dog, I always told my children that if we ever did take the leap, I would retain the naming rights, and my choice was non-negotiable. Our dog would be named after George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life”, my favorite movie. It wasn’t just a whim; I had a real reason behind this choice. In the movie, when Clarence is learning about George’s life through his angel superior, Joseph, the camera freezes on Jimmy Stewart’s face the first time we see George as an adult. Joseph tells Clarence to take a ‘good look at that face’ as we see it in the freeze frame, and Clarence responds fondly and enthusiastically, “I like that face. I like George Bailey.”
I wanted to like my Bailey, too. If I was going to have to do all the work a dog entailed, and God knows most of it was going to fall on me, I wanted to be able to look in her face and see a soul there, to make a connection somehow eye to eye. I had not had that experience with an animal before, but had heard it was possible. I wanted us to have a relationship, somehow, as though she was a person. As it turns out, she is a better person than many of the people I’ve met.
Because she’s a lady, we named her ‘Mary’ Bailey, after George’s wife. Her middle name, Jeremiah, comes from my favorite Bible verse, about how God knows His plans for us, and how they are good plans even though we might never imagine some of the paths we will walk. (Jeremiah 29:11) That’s how I felt then about having a dog, like it was this totally unexpected turn somehow happening to me, and I still shake my head in wonder at the surprising ways that Bailey has changed my life. She is a true, unexpected gift, and she’s taught me a lot.
Bailey teaches me how to be in the moment, how to enjoy something simple like sitting in a patch of sun, eating a piece of salmon or grilled chicken, or playing with bubbles in the yard. Her enthusiastic, tail-wagging greeting to any one of the four of us returning home teaches me to value my people…the ones I most often take for granted. Her love of a long walk, of discovering smells, animals, and people on what is a well known route to her makes me remember that you can find something new even on a very familiar path. Her love of a good nap reminds me that rest is something to be valued.
Bailey loves being my companion in the car or on the couch and every night I tuck her in, literally sometimes with a blanket, and whisper, ‘thank you for saving me’. And even though we technically were the ones who ‘rescued’ the dog that was Trudy and then Treasure, and is now Bailey, she did save me and she does every day, in countless ways. A year ago, I would never have thought any of that was possible.
Every single day of the last year, one or more members of our family has looked at our dog and exclaimed how lucky we are to have Bailey. I have no other experience, it’s true, but it certainly seems to me that we found the best dog in the world. Probably all dog owners feel the same. Bailey cuddles, smiles her doggy smile and we respond with true delight every time. She is featured on my kids’ social media, and their friends have their own sweet relationships with the dog they call ‘Doge’ or ‘Loaf’. Bailey slows us down and makes us run and chase. She brings out the most nurturing, best instincts of each member of our family. She stays alert to guard us against neighborhood sounds, people, and animals. Nothing makes her happier than a walk or a ride with a member of my family. She loves us. She loves me, and I love her, and the whole thing is such a revelation, I cannot even express it.
Happy birthday, Puppy-duppy-doo. You are such a good girl.