Friday, 17 September 2010

When Pets Grieve

Bailey keeping Taffy warm last Christmas

It has been really hard to come into this blog and talk about Taffy. I can carry on as if nothing has happened and then burst into tears for my faithful friend. I tell myself off frequently and try to be stronger but Taffy was the most special dog anyone could ever wish to own. Bearded  Collies can easily live to a very old  age and still be very healthy so in his breed terms Taffy passed away far too soon.

The last six months have seen me on an emotional roller coaster as we dealt with one health issue after another. Just before last Christmas 2009 Taffy  was unwilling to go on walks and as he never complains it was difficult to work out what was wrong. I think that was one of our main communication problems. He desperately didn't want to be ill or cause a fuss so put on a brave face for me, often. But his reluctance to come on the morning walks and then even worse his refusal to go outside the front door  had us taking him to the vets.This was followed by a visit to a specialist when he then started going downhill. At this time he had his spleen removed and Bailey our younger Bearded Collie slept next to him whilst he recovered.

Bailey is an active,boisterous and very independant young dog prone to racing around on his own. Never leaning on any of us or Taffy for company.Or so I thought.

When Taffy fell ill a second time with a blood problem again Bailey helped him by barking for Taffy when he needed attention for going out or coming in,even when he needed a drink or food. Bailey became Taffys guardian and keeper. He had a very important role and he relished it.

Taffy recovered yet again and Bailey seemed to be his usual independant self but at night it was always Bailey who barked to go in the garden or come in fo rthe both of them and it was always Bailey who woke us at six or seven in the morning with even more really loud barking. But I have now learned this was Baileys way of letting me know Taffy was awake and needed me.

Taffy is now gone and I had another critical problem on my hands.

Bailey refused to eat after Taffy passed away.

Out of all the dogs we have ever owned Bailey is not the one I thought would pine but he did and it was pitiful to witness. Not only would he not eat but he became listless and looked really depressed. At this point  I was advised to get another puppy but I waited and patiently cooked meals to tempt Bailey around. My own heart was breaking and yet I had to try to convince this younger dog that life was worth living without his dearest friend.

Bailey has never been a single dog. He has slept with Taffy since he was a puppy and has also always eaten with Taffy.

Things got worse and a week went by where  I was running out of ideas on how to help  Bailey pull around.
I started a new routine of walking Bailey at different times on different routes. I allowed Biscuit our female cat to sleep with him. But he never barked at us in the mornings to come to him Instead I was woken each day by the saddest whining and howling I have ever heard in my life from an animal. It tore me apart and I would race downstairs to comfort him. But no cuddle helped. I was not who he wanted to see.

I felt helpless and even more miserable. But finally something changed. I bought toys for Bailey to play with. Ropes, bones that you find in pet shops, the safe variety and I threw sticks and raced for him to follow me in the garden. Slowly  and daily there were small improvements in his spirit and mine. He ate bits. Just tiny morsels  at first. He did  fetch the rope once or twice and he did come to me for cuddles. But he continued to cry in the mornings when he woke to find Taffy was still not there.

He did not understand.

This week we have both crossed a milestone.

Bailey is eating twice a day now and eagerly bringing his rope to me to play with.We are walking with friends and their dogs which helps a lot, especially a young Border Collie puppy who we have come to enjoy seeing.

Our new daily routine really is helping us both. I have to be here for Bailey and in turn he is  making me see my tomorrows are going to be full of joy owning a young dog who has stood in the shadow of an older hero for too long.

It's Baileys turn now to take centre stage and I need to let him.

Pets do grieve and we need to understand they need help too when they lose  a companion.



  1. Reading this made me cry. Poor Bailey and poor you. It is so very, very hard to lose such a large piece of one's heart, and Bailey clearly loved Taffy and relied on him.

    It sounds like you've done a great job of helping Bailey adjust, which doesn't surprise me-- you are so bonded to your dogs and have good instincts about what they need. I know that morning crying of his must have been heartbreaking for you. Taffy was a wonderful gentleman who helped raise Bailey to be a wonderful dog, too, with his own unique personality. It will be interesting to see how his personality further grows and develops now in this new stage of his life. I am thankful you have him there to keep you company and comfort you.

  2. Thank you so much Melissa, I know you understand having met both dogs. Bailey is really going through a new stage of his life where at times you see a well adapted young dog flying around happily and at others he will lay quietly and seem almost listless.That hurts still.

    Taffy was such a huge part of our lives that it is taking a long time to adjust to life without him. I never expected the pain to last so long from losing a pet and thought in a few weeks things would revert to normal with a way of looking back to see how great a dog our Taffs was and how lucky we were to have him at all yet alone for thirteen years.

    My focus is on Bailey hoping each day will see him bounce a little more. His latest daily routine is to fly to his toy rope every morning and want to bring that on his walk with him which looks very comical. I will update my blog to let you know how he gets on now.

    Hugs and many thanks


  3. Yes, I do understand and have been there myself more often than I like (as I know you have too). For me it always takes longer than a few weeks to move beyond the hardest of the grief. I find coming home from an outing the time I am most likely to break down, because I realize anew that my beloved dog won't be there to greet me. You were so bonded to Taffy, so please be gentle with yourself through this time. In time you will smile at the memories, but for now they are likely to bring tears to the surface and that is to be expected.

    I hope Bailey is doing better each week and that his romping makes you laugh and enjoy the moment often.

    Hugs, Melissa

  4. Hello Melissa, thank you for your reply. My family still say Taffys name when they call Bailey from the garden at times.It really is hard to fully understand he isn't here any more. His kind and loving personality has left a hole that cannot be replaced but his spirit and happy memories he has left here will remain always.

    Bailey is subdued at times still and has lost his confidence badly without his bigger brother around to look over him. In our garden he is fine but out or at friends like this weekend he stays quietly in the background which is so hard to witness.Even with a puppy yesterday he would not go near or get involved to play. He obviously just wants to stay here for now but I hope in time he will come around.

    Lots of new walks, meeting dogs in other environments that are happy may help him and he is thankfully eating .

    Thank you for caring,


  5. How's my friend Bailey doing now? I hope he's feeling more settled and is coming out of his sadness. It worried me a bit to read that he had lost his confidence, because of his history with separation anxiety, but it sounded like you were doing just what he needed to help him through it. I hope that has helped by now and that he is back to being your bouncy, happy boy.

    Hugs to you, too. I know from my own experience that it can be just as hard this far out from a loss. For me, my other dogs' love and losing myself in the beauty of nature and painting have been the best solace in the past, and I know they will give you grace and peace as well, since you love them so.


  6. Hi Jean! Sorry for my bad English, I’m from Argentina, and I have 2 Bearded collie, Nano & Angus.
    I understand your distress, and know the trauma of this, and so sorry.
    Time to the time…
    Hugs, to you and Bailey

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