Excerpt from Mystic Seafarer's Trail: Secrets behind the 7 Wonders, Titanic's Shoes, Captain Sisson's Gold, and Amelia Earhart's Wedding:
After the kerfuffle over the wonders finally died down, there was another controversy in Mystic that just wouldn’t go away—what kind of dog was Bailey—really? People often stopped us along our daily walk to ask, “What is he, a basset hound and …”; or “A beagle and…”
While I am his third owner and can’t know for sure, his papers from an animal shelter state he is a beagle/basset hound mix. Most are satisfied with that answer, but others aren’t so sure. “His head looks like a lab’s” or “His ears look too small.” Others simply say, “He’s funny looking.”
His “funny” look is what endeared him to Jim and me—convincing us that we needed him. Some would say we “rescued” him, but that’s not how I see it.
Within hours of having our previous dog, Riley, put to sleep because he was terminally ill and suffering, our daughter Jackie went online from her college dorm room to find us a new pet. Riley had been our younger daughter Elizabeth’s faithful couch companion for the last five years of her life. (Riley was an older dog who came to our family under very unusual circumstances. His and Elizabeth’s story is told in my memoir, Anything But a Dog! The perfect pet for a girl with congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus).
When Riley died, it felt like Elizabeth died all over again. He was our daily connection to her and now that was gone. Riley’s collar had barely cooled when Jackie called. “Mom, it’s not that I don’t miss Riley, but I just found a dog on Craigslist that needs a home.”
Two days later, Jim and I drove to upstate New York to meet Bailey. When his mistress, a single mother with four cats, opened the door of his large crate kept on the kitchen floor, he exploded out, jumping and scratching us all over with his long basset nails. The moment he caught sight of a cat, he was off—his short basset hound legs, perhaps made a little taller because of his beagle heritage, were no obstacle. In one giant, graceful leap he was over the sofa and on the trail of the poor, harried feline.
His mistress said, “I feel so bad trying to find another home for him, but I just can’t control him around my cats—they are my true babies. I got him at the pound when he was about a year old. I had gone in for another cat, but I just couldn’t resist that face.”
So, this was a dog that was too much for his owners—twice. Jim and I looked at each other grimly, imagining the disruption this hound would be to our quiet home. “But,” I whispered to Jim, “he does make me laugh—we could use some of that.”
When the owner timidly asked, “Well, what do you want to do about my dog?”
I said, “We’ll take him.”
Although Bailey was every bit as pesky in our home as we feared, unlike our over-protective Riley, we did not need to muzzle him in public, which vastly improved my social life. Instead of a muzzle, I dressed Bailey in all sorts of friendly bandanas, which became his trademark.
When Bailey and I strolled through Mystic, tourists frequently asked if they could photograph their children beside Bailey (they never wanted me in the shot). A photographer shooting a wedding party on the Mystic River drawbridge even asked if he could use Bailey as a prop. His face also attracted a filmmaker who used him in a commercial shot in Mystic River Park. [ii]
Although some called Bailey a “rescue” because we took in an unwanted dog, in truth, Bailey is a “rescue dog” because he rescued me from the overwhelming sadness of losing our daughter and her dog Riley.
The above was an excerpt from my travel memoir, Mystic Seafarer's Trail: Secrets behind the 7 Wonders, Titanic's Shoes, Captain Sisson's Gold, and Amelia Earhart's Wedding
End Note: In failing health and suffering, we sent Bailey to that "distant shore" on June 30, 2014.
[ii] (Mercer, 2011)