Hunting

And that’s why the birds fly.

“Girls, when you see birds flying in the sky, Bailey is chasing them because she can fly now.”

November. The month of thankfulness. The astrological signs of Scorpio and Sagittarius are in the spotlight. The air in November is chilly but it’s welcome by most. The crisp air feels good against the remnants of the summer heat. Ask any hunter what their favorite month is and November will be high on their list. The deer rut begins in the November. November also brings thousands of men and women to reach for that orange vest in their closet. It’s pheasant season. Ask any retrieving dog what their favorite month is and November will sparkle in their eyes.

November 10, 2014 – at 73 years old, it was Bailey’s last hunt.

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She passed away exactly two weeks later.

Bailey’s death shocked our family. Every time we opened the door to our house, we walked into an empty space. She was supposed to be there. We never got used to it. She was gone. Bailey, our labrador retriever, the happiest dog breed on earth, earned her wings during her happy month.

We cremated Bailey. We explained what would happen to Bailey’s body to the girls. With tenderness and thought-out words, we told the girls her body would be burned to ashes. We could spread her in her favorite spot, her hunting fields. Her body would go back to the earth but our Bailey would fly. Our 8-year-old and 5-year-old couldn’t grasp the concept of cremation. All they heard was the word, “burned.”

We decided the girls had been put through enough grief. We would keep Bailey’s ashes a secret. We told them the vet buried her.

We miss Bailey and talk about her often. I guess, as many parents do, we compare our newest family member, Stella, to the one up there chasing birds. Stella’s personality is different than Bailey’s. Stella likes to cuddle in bed. Bailey liked sleeping alone. Stella “talks” when she yawns. Bailey was the quiet type. Stella pulls pizza off the kitchen counters. Bailey pulled steak.

This weekend was Stella’s first pheasant hunt with the boys. She found Bailey’s happiness in western Kansas. She listened to Scott’s commands and ran each field. She returned to Scott with a colorful prize, just as Bailey used to. She even wore Bailey’s old orange collar. Stella fell in love with November.

Of course, in true Bailey fashion, Stella got a thorn stuck her in her paw during one of her runs.

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Stella’s ok. Her paw is a little sore.

And right here, in this exact spot, Stella posed for a few pictures.

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It’s the spot where her big sister’s ashes were set free. A place where all those birds fly high in the sky, field after field, because they’re chased by dogs with wings. There’s a flying dog named Bailey up there.

And Bailey is so happy it’s November.

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