A few weeks ago, one of my close friends asked me to babysit someone very special when she went away for a yoga retreat in Mexico. This special someone is fourteen years old, weighs a little over two pounds, and is balding, almost toothless, and wears very cunning little winter sweaters, and tiny fleece hoodies. I immediately answered in the affirmative to my friend's question, because I happen to love this little heartbreaker as well. This is how Bailey, the most fabulous Yorkie who ever lived, came to hijack my life, my heart and my home for a week.
When my friend Christine dropped Bailey off, I marveled. This little dog came to party -- he arrived with much varied and discriminating accoutrement that any self-respecting baby would be proud of. In came his set of stairs (carpeted), to enable him to jump on my bed, a duffel bag full of sweaters, diapers, creams, ointments, medicines, and packages and packages of Pupperoni, and Himself, entering our house with a dismissive sneeze and a warning bark, aimed at my three dogs. This bark said, I am here, and woe unto you should you cross me. I am old, and I have earned your respect.
Bailey had a few issues. Firstly, he needs to be coaxed to eat. Bailey is in kidney failure, and is not very hungry anymore. So, he must be enticed, which includes placing tiny morsels of food in a row on your bed, or lining them up on your rug, or pretending to eat them youself, saying "yum-yum-yummy!" and then offering the delicacy to Bailey. If the mood strikes, he will eat it. If not, he will look the other way, as if your insult is too great to bear. He also needs to wear diapers occaisionally, which attach to his hind end with velcro. His velcro frequently gets caught on various and sundry things; many times during the week he was velcro-ed to me, I would find. Had I dropped my hands he would just hang from my sweater like a pom-pom.
Bailey also got IV fluids every other day during his stay, which were administered by the vet. I would bring him in wrapped in a soft baby blanket, and he would be coo-ed over by the technician as they disappeared together behind the big medical door. Bailey would come back to the waiting room all wrapped up again, looking for me with his sparkling, still-clear eyes. Well, I like to think that, but Bailey is always looking for Christine, his real mommy.
Bailey has to sleep with people -- this is non-negotiable. It would be easier for Obama to wrangle out of his interest in health care. So, Bailey would snuggle between my husband's head and mine, on yet another blanket. Then, we would gently cover him, and then proceed to worry and fuss over him all night. "Is he breathing?" I mumbled at 2 a.m. one morning, to which my husband shot up in bed, blearily saying, "Oh, no, did I crush him?" I would wait to feel Bailey stir beside me, and then cover his tiny old legs with my hand, and try to sleep again. It reminded me of when the kids were young. ("Only, babies can't jump out of bed and run away!" my mother pointed out one morning on the phone. Good point. Bailey can.)
So, what are the pay-offs to watching Bailey? Well, he loves to snuggle, and will follow you anywhere on stiff little legs that seem permanently straightened. He loves to give kisses - his tongue hangs out of is mouth due to tooth loss, I think, so even when he's not giving a kiss, sometimes he is. And to see that little face when you walk through the door is to feel a ray of sunshine shining just for you.
Bailey won't be here much longer; his time here is almost over. He has been loved and treasured by my friend, so I am comforted to know he lived his days well. It was an honor to take care of him for a week, and I will mourn when he passes. My husband found a tiny, faded hoodie with the words "Rock Star" emblazoned on it in our laundry basket, and I got choked up. I will remember the special trip back to caring for dependent, defenseless little lives in the middle of the night - my own babies, long ago. I enjoyed Bailey's puffs of breath in my ear in the dark of night that said, again and again, in steady rhythm, I'm still here.