Sometimes God needs to smack me with a 2 by 4… Usually, He does it in relation to my responses (or lack thereof) to a particularly challenging family member. I am to the point where I believe that reaching out to her is an exercise in futility. However, occasionally I will get a “message” that I should do so. I find it impossible to ignore this compelling prompt. So I comply, although sometimes begrudgingly! My faith has long been a part of who I am, and I try and live the Christian life as best I can.
This is the story of the totally unexpected Bailey 2 by 4. Bailey is a 7-year-old female Border collie. Bailey was just a pup when my daughter Laura and her husband adopted her from the humane society. Fast forward 5 years, and Laura is on her third pregnancy. Laura’s pregnancies are absolutely horrendous. She suffers from hyperemesis graviderum. This means she is incredibly sick the entire pregnancy. She loses 20 pounds (which she doesn’t have to lose!) before she reverses that trend. She becomes so anemic she requires infusions of iron. Of course, with each successive pregnancy, she had a baby or toddler to care for in addition to growing a sibling!
Furthermore, Laura is allergic to dogs, cats, and horses. She loves animals, and with constant exposure to Bailey, she became somewhat hypersensitized to the dander. Nevertheless, pregnancy aggravated that condition as well.
And then there is Bailey… Bailey, I want you to know, barely survives through the night due to her lack of nutrition. She is literally on death’s doorstep every morning until she gets fed. She’s underfoot, complaining, and the Webster’s definition of obnoxious until her meal is served. Additionally, she is the world’s best doorbell, alerting to every sound, whether critical or not. Not only does she alert you, but she thinks you need to hear about this potential intruder for at least 10 minutes…
Bailey is an awesome dog. She’s incredibly intelligent and the prototypical Border collie. She wants nothing more than to interact with her family. She’d chase a ball until she dropped. She loves the water.
But here’s the rub… poor Laura could barely get her kids fed each morning, after struggling throughout the night with awful nausea and no sleep. Bailey’s need to be fed first was a challenge. Understandably, Laura ordered as many household goods online as she possibly could, as leaving home was a huge ordeal. Every time the doorbell rang for a delivery, Bailey would bark incessantly, and any sleeping child (or nauseous mom) would be instantly aroused. Although the family loves Bailey very much, Laura was barely making it through each day.
Towards the end of Laura’s last pregnancy, Bailey came home to live with me. She stayed… As she joined the rest of the pack on our daily walk, I noticed she had an intermittent and fairly severe limp. There was a stem cell study going on locally. I was able to get her enrolled. Radiographs taken of her front legs showed bilateral elbow degeneration. Happily, the stem cell treatment was successful and she no longer limps!
But from the beginning, there was a new problem. Bailey was used to being an only dog, and she joined 4 other dogs in my household. My oldest pup, Leah, is what I call a “closet alpha female”. Bailey aspired to that position from the very beginning. She would hover over Leah multiple times throughout the day. Leah ignored her, but the tension was palpable.
I was able to modify some of Bailey’s other more challenging behaviors. She’s a counter surfer, and that got better, although she still pilfered food intermittently. Using a squirt bottle of water, I convinced her (mostly) that she could bark to alert me (like the other dogs) but then should cease and desist when told to do so. She would literally have water dripping from her face while still emitting muffled “woofs” from her closed mouth.
Sadly, I couldn’t resolve the hierarchy issue. I took photos of her that first Fall with the intention of finding an alternative home. But I couldn’t do it. Instead, I turned to “better living through chemistry.” I put her on Prozac. Using “chemical restraint” was a double-edged sword for me, as I had a very bad experience with that approach in the past.
Check in next week for my horror story about chemical restraint and how God provided an answer to my dilemma…