by Sandy Earnshaw, Proud mom of Bailey
Before Bailey reached her second birthday, she had already been passed from one irresponsible owner to another. Living outside with little human contact, her last owners simply packed up and moved out of the state of Virginia, leaving her and another dog penned up with winter rapidly approaching. After several weeks of cold temperatures and no food or water, existing on nothing but rainwater, the two severely emaciated dogs somehow managed to escape their prison.
Literally one step from death, they brought down a goat in order to survive and were captured by Animal Control Officers. Unfortunately in this part of the country, the ultimate canine crime is killing livestock and although the courts were sympathetic, Bailey was sentenced to death for her part in this crime.
Literally a walking skeleton, Bailey won the hearts of everyone at the local shelter with her gentle nature and loving eyes. A heart of gold shone through all the neglect, mistreatment and filth. Her rescuers not only bought extra canned food out of their own pockets to help fatten her up, they literally pleaded for her life in the court system. Documentation was provided explaining her hideous condition and horrendous circumstances. Local Veterinarian, Kathy Davieds provided evidence that the dog was tested and results indicted she had a fully stable temperament. The judge finally ruled that the dog could be spared provided she was removed from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
After several failed attempts to place Bailey with rescue organizations, Kathy contacted Doberman Pinscher Rescue of PA, Inc. Although they were already fostering many in-state Dobermans, after hearing her tragic story, Bailey was accepted into their care in November 2002.
In December 2002, I had to say good bye to my female Doberman, Dutchess after she was diagnosed with bladder cancer in late September. I still had one of her offspring, a large male, named Yeager and together we grieved for our sweet Dutchess. I missed her so much and worried that Yeager, who didn’t know life without his mom, would suffer alone while I went off to work each day. I have been a member of the DPR of PA since 1993 and decided to apply for a female Doberman to keep Yeager company.
After completing the application process, Tanya Martin called me about a Doberman in her care from Virginia who met all the criteria I was looking for – gets along with other dogs and likes children. Tanya told me about the dog’s unfortunate past and about the goat. I admit I wasn’t so sure this was the dog I was looking for, as I had a two-year-old granddaughter and bringing an animal into my home that had attacked a goat – for survival or not - made me nervous. I was not taking any chances with my granddaughter. Tanya continued to call and convinced me to come and meet this female then named Baby by her rescuers. So on March 8, 2003, Yeager and I made the 40+ mile trip to Lancaster with my best friend, Joanne, not quite sure how the meeting would turn out.
Tanya introduced me to this shy but curious little girl with her natural ears and a tail. She was gentle and behaved properly despite her lack of training. Next came the test with Yeager, as I led him to the back yard where Tanya was waiting with Baby, I could only hope that he would
be as impressed with her as I was. After the usual sniffing and once over, Yeager and Baby began playing and chasing each other as if they were old friends. It was love at first sight and Baby, who I later named Bailey, came home with us that very day.
After a few weeks of getting acquainted and settling in her new home, I signed us up for a basic obedience course which we completed in June of 2003. I realized very early that Bailey had no concept of “play” and stuffed toys, balls and bones were all very foreign to her. Later that year, Bailey successfully passed the Canine Good Citizen test.
Although Bailey loved to run and chase Yeager, she would stay contently by my side while Yeager & I played ball, never sure what she was to do or where she was to go but always happy to be a part of whatever it was we were doing. The three of us spent the next two years living happily together.
In June 2005, I took Yeager to the vet for a routine dental cleaning and he suddenly died during the procedure. I was devastated!! Yeager had been with me from the moment he was born. My baby boy had died without any warning; my heart was broken. I sat most nights, holding his favorite red ball or his collar that I hung on my bedpost - on the same side of the bed where he laid next to me every night for the past ten years. I was so overwhelmed with grief that I hardly realized that Bailey was still always by my side, ever so content to be near me. Never demanding attention, she just waited patiently for the occasional pat on the head. I fed her and took her for walks always missing and remembering how Yeager loved sniffing the grass and attempted to scare off any “wild” bird or bunny we would happen upon.
Several weeks passed and I soon realized that every time I looked into Bailey’s big brown eyes, I saw unconditional love and a gentleness that touch my very soul. What I thought I was missing when Yeager died, was right here with me all along. It was then I knew I wanted to share the love and joy this beautiful animal brought to me with others.
I went to a dog show in Allentown where I met and talked with one of the vendors, Laura Crossland, president of Pleasure of Your Company Therapy Dogs, Inc. (POYC). After talking at length, I was convinced Bailey would make a great therapy dog. I filled out the form and arranged to have her tested. Bailey passed the therapy dog test with POYC, based on the Therapy Dog International (TDI) test on the first try AND took the test again with my best friend, Joanne Schmidt and passed. Bailey started her career uplifting spirits and bringing love and lots of smiles to people in the fall of 2005.
Since adopting Bailey in 2003, I’ve communicated her progress with notes and pictures to DPR of PA and to Kathy Davieds, the vet who was very instrumental in saving her life in VA and to whom I will forever be grateful.
Kathy would e-mail how happy and proud she was of Bailey. In one of her e-mails, she asked my permission to nominate Bailey for an award because of her accomplishments, never dreaming I would receive a phone call one Sat. morning in November 2005 telling me that Bailey had won the “Companion Animal of the Year” award presented by the Virginia Academy of Small Animal Medicine.
Every year at their annual banquet, the Academy honors one animal who has provided a benefit to their human companions or their community. I was somewhat embarrassed but very humbled and proud. I didn’t get involved with therapy visits so Bailey would win awards; if anything I wanted to prove to those who wanted to destroy her what a terrible mistake they almost made and let those who fought to save her know their efforts were not in vain. Little did I know this award was the first of many honors for Bailey.
On Christmas Day 2003 while delivering Meals on Wheels, Joanne, Norm and I met a special lady named Annie and she told us it was also her birthday. She was 110 years, confirming what the coordinator at Meals on Wheels had already told us. To our surprise, this lady was alert and as coherent as we were. We enjoyed our visit so much we asked her if we could return when we had more time to spend with her. That was the start of a beautiful friendship with Annie.
Soon after Bailey became certified, we asked her if she liked dogs, and she informed us that as a child one of her favorite pastimes was playing with the puppies on the plantation in Darlington, SC where her family had worked as slaves.
Since then, we have visited Annie regularly and on holidays where Bailey has a place on Annie’s sofa that is reserved just for her. If anyone tries to sit there, Annie will speak up and let you know that’s Bailey’s spot. Confined to her wheelchair in a small apartment, Annie was getting lonely as the years passed. She recently shared with us that Bailey saved her life. Bailey’s visits have given Annie something to look forward to and she now is considering moving to assisted living in order to have more opportunities to enjoy life.
In January 2006, Joanne set up a therapy dog reading program at the Reading Public Library to encourage children to read in a non-threatening, non-judgmental environment. Bailey currently visits four branches of the library monthly and has gained such a following that the children take numbers and wait in line to read a favorite book to her. The same year, The Berks County Public Libraries presented us with the “Outstanding Program Award” in recognition of the reading program.
Then Kathy nominated Bailey for another award with the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. Kathy called me at work so excited I could hardly
understand what she was saying; Bailey had won the Judith Fellton Memorial Award. Honestly I never heard or knew what this award was but from the way Kathy sounded I knew it must be pretty special. The award was to be presented at the annual banquet in of all places – Denver, Colorado in September.
I soon found out this award is presented to a rescue Doberman who stands out as a great ambassador for the Doberman breed.
We decided to make the trip to Colorado to accept the award. Joanne and her husband, Norm drove Bailey to Denver (because I wouldn’t put her through the stress of flying) and I flew out the day before the banquet because of my work schedule. What made the trip even more special was that Kathy, despite her busy schedule, was able to join us. Once we arrived, we saw Dobermans everywhere – hundreds of them, and it was then I realized what an honor it was to win this award. Bailey was recognized along with Dobermans who won Best in Show at major dog shows throughout the country and beyond, including Mexico and Canada.
After reading an article on the Best Friends website (a no kill animal sanctuary in Utah) about breed bans, I was inspired to write to them about my Doberman, also considered by some as a dangerous breed. Within days they contacted me about doing a story on Bailey and on January 26, 2007, Bailey was the featured story at www.bestfriends.org, where her story still appears at http://network.bestfriends.org/pennsylvania/news/11702.html.
Bailey has a full schedule of day-time visits every month with Joanne (who is retired), and evening and Saturday visits with me. We visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities and have recently become involved with Compassionate Care Hospice from Middletown, PA, spending time with patients who request pet therapy visits. Bailey loves going on these visits but her interaction with children seems to be her favorite.
Once a month, Bailey and one of her furry friends, therapy dog Jasmine, (a Shih-Tzu) visit the Children’s Home of Reading where troubled youths earn the privilege of spending time petting and brushing the dogs.
In May of this year, Joanne and I organized a program for the entire kindergarten class where my granddaughter, Gabrielle attended, 200 kids in all. We called it “Dogs with Jobs.” Bailey and her friend Jasmine represented therapy dogs and we spoke about what they do to make our world a little nicer. We also had dogs and handlers from search & rescue, service and guide dogs and a police dog. I feel if we can show the children how important dogs can be in our lives, maybe they will grow up with more respect and kindness towards all animals and people as well.
Bailey will continue to bring joy to others as long as she enjoys it. Sharing her lesson on forgiveness and love, once a neglected, throw-away Doberman rescued from death’s door, never knowing decent care or human kindness, she now devotes her life to sharing her own special brand of “healing magic” with all mankind.