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Saturday essay: Bailey (2001-2014)

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

She was “the crazy dog.”

As a puppy in her first winter 12 years ago, Bailey, a female American black Labrador retriever, tired of romping on top of the heavy snow, would tunnel through it.

And by her first summer, in 2002, she developed nothing short of a tennis ball psychosis, hatching scheme after scheme to break out of the house to roam the neighborhood in pursuit of Green Sphere Nirvana. She typically would wait on the living room couch until some unsuspecting schmuck approached the front door. Then the 75-pound Bailey would impeccably time her escape to the sound of the click of the storm door latch. Hours later, she'd be spotted in one of several backyard ponds, either cooling herself or looking every bit like a Kodiak bear in pursuit of spawning salmon.

And if cleaning out a garbage can or hogging the bed were Olympic sports, Bailey would have multiple gold medals.

But the “forever puppy” that Bailey was for a dozen years began to fade not long after she turned 12 in November. And two Fridays ago, her gait ever more unsteady and her mind increasingly foggy, she had to be put down. The strokes that first were suspected turned out to be, most likely, an inoperable spinal tumor.

Surrounded by family, Bailey found her final peace on a blanket on the floor of the office of Vet Sara, a neighbor and dear friend. And near her last breath, the dog with the sloppiest of kisses managed a final and weak but sweet and elegant hand lick of thanks.

— Colin McNickle

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