Goodbye Bailey you were the perfect dog
It is with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart I have to tell you that our adorable dog Bailey died on Sunday. Over the decade I've been writing these columns, he has featured in so many of my shaggy dog stories; from the magical moment we first clapped eyes on him to his devastating diagnosis at the vets and all our many adventures in between.
But let's start at the very beginning.
Thirteen years ago, when my two boys Luke and Finn were still at primary school, our family went through a crisis. Their dad and I split up, and for the weeks immediately afterwards all three of us were struggling to cope in this strange, fragmented state which our family unit had now become.
Just one thing was clear; there was a void in their lives that had to be filled but I hadn't a clue how to do it or where to even begin.
So I sought advice from a friend, who had tragically lost a parent when she was a child. She told me how a relative had bought her a dog to help comfort her and what a wonderful difference that had made.
Eureka! That was it. I'd never owned a dog before, in fact I was badly allergic to certain types and so I'd always been a bit nervous around them, but to be honest I was so desperate for a solution I would have tried anything.
So along came Bailey, a fluffy white bichon frisee, chosen quite at random through the Belfast Telegraph Classifieds, mainly because I'd been told that this particular breed had hypo-allergenic fur. I didn't even wait to see him, before I agreed over the phone to the sale. In fact my part of the conversation went something like this:
"Can I get him today? Great, what's your address..?"
Bailey was a year old at that stage and had been living with a family in Glengormley since he was a tiny pup.
They had just brought home a new baby and whenever it cried the dog barked frantically. After a while it all became too much for them but their misfortune instantly became our salvation.
As we drove home through Belfast, both boys in the back of the car and Bailey in his crate sandwiched between them with his wet nose poking out through the grill and his tongue excitedly licking their little fingers as they whooped with glee, I knew straight away I had made the right decision.
And from the moment we carried him in through the door, then watched him frolic around and explore his new space, rolling on the carpet, sniffing every nook and cranny and meticulously marking his territory, a new dimension of fun and mischief was instantly added to our temporarily sad home.
From that day on, instead of waking up missing daddy, my boys were woken up each morning by a wee bundle of joy, scampering up on to their beds, affectionately licking their faces and coaxing their eyes open with tiny furry paws.
Beautiful, funny, comical Bailey. What a difference he had made to our lives. Without a doubt, the most wise, prized and precious purchase I have ever made.
I don't have enough words to adequately describe how much we loved our beautiful Bailey. There was a wisdom in that dogs eyes that convinced me he somehow knew about his special mission - to restore happiness and hope into the lives of a fractured family and to guide my boys through all their difficult years safely and happily into adulthood. And through the years as he gradually lost his sight and struggled with ageing bones, fatigue and asthma, my two sons grew up to be strong, fit, healthy and happy young men, ready to face the world and all its challenges assisted every step of the way by their unbreakable bond with this small white fluffy dog.
Bailey fell ill on the very same day that Finn left home to go to university and died on Sunday, just 24 hours before the start of his first term.
Rest in Peace now Bailey, there's a good boy.