They Say That I Saved my Dog’s Life

She simply looked out the window all the way back home. Bailey, our youngest and newest member of the family, a beautiful 7 month old Golden Retriever, jumped in the rear of our Jeep – in her normal seat – and looked out the window all the way back home from the emergency veterinarian hospital. Katelyn, sitting in the front seat with me, almost without thinking commented, “It’s like she doesn’t even know what happened.”  It was exactly  that way.

It all began Monday evening. We, as a family, wet for a walk at Ft Washington State Park. Jameson was in his stroller and Bailey and Rory went along on their leashes. All seemed normal until we were about 2 miles into our walk when Bailey suddenly slowed down. Way down. We wrote it off in our minds to a busy day, but deep down, it was concerning. She walked slowly alongside me. Something was off. Later that evening, after dinner, Bailey threw up on the carpet near her pet bed. It had a lot of debris from the tree mulch and sticks she likes to eat. Again, we wrote it off to that, nothing more.

The next day, I went to the office and did some construction meetings with the crew renovating our Sanctuary. I came home and decided to wash the Jeep myself to get some exercise and down time. The dogs played in the yard and I washed and waxed the Jeep. All was well. As I finished up, Bailey came scampering up to me. She had emerged from the woods, like normal, but this time had a lot more weeds and vines around her neck. I pulled them off and asked her where she had been now and what did she get into?! We all came into the house and Katelyn made us a sandwich. As we sat to eat together, I noted that unusually Bailey was absent from her normal begging at table side. I found her on her bed, near the door the porch. I laid down on the floor next to her and she began to whimper and cry. I touched her neck and she let out a squeal and I knew in an instant something was drastically wrong. I yelled to Katelyn, “Honey, something is really wrong; call the Vet; we are on our way.”

As I picked Bailey up in my arms, she looked at my eyes and began to cry harder. I began to weep, too. I was fearful that I was losing her. I got in the car and held her close, as I pulled onto the roadway heading toward our Veterinarian in Philadelphia at Wissahickon Creek Veterinarian Hospital.

Bailey was declining quickly; her breathing was labored and her face swelling up. I knew she was having some form of anaphylaxis. She was in extreme crisis. I don’t know exactly how I got there in under 7 minutes, but I do know it involved great speeds and me often on the wrong side of the road. My horn never stopped blaring and my lights never stopped flashing. My four-way emergency flashers were on and I was praying for her and that a cop would see me driving this way and help so we could get there even faster. No such luck. But God was definitely with us because people were pulling over and arms waving out their windows and traffic stopping. Once I hit Ridge Avenue, I blew through every light and every stop sign and not one time did anyone object. It was if instinctively knew something was dreadfully wrong.

By the time I pulled into the vet’s parking lot, a team was waiting outside. They grabbed Bailey from my arms and rushed her inside. With COVID there is no entry, I knew that from our last routine visit. That is why I had Katelyn call ahead. A nurse, veterinarian and a  vet tech all stood waiting to help. Within a few minutes the nurse emerged and told me Bailey was ok! She responded well to the Epi Pen and her breathing was better! They would keep her for an hour or two and then I could come back to take her home. I called Katelyn, told her what I knew and made my way home. We were so grateful and relieved.

Two hours. No call. Three and a sudden call. “Bailey is failing. We need to transfer her to Metropolitan Hospital ASAP!” I was in the car in seconds. I called Sean and he met me in the parking lot of the church and we were on our way when they called back to inform us she was failing so quickly they were transporting her themselves with a veterinarian and nurse on board. We knew it was bad. We made it to Metropolitan and they were close behind.

Bailey didn’t even look like Bailey. She could no longer walk, her breathing labored had she had blood all over her once beautiful coat from the IV port that she managed to pull out. She was anxious, and the transporting team said she was ‘biting and aggressive’. I knew that wasn’t her. I made my way to her and she began to cry and lick me over and over. I kissed her, held her close, and I told her she was a good girl and we were taking care of her. They took her inside. Bailey was dying.

Within an hour they called us as we waited in the parking lot. Helpless. Alone. Afraid. We prepared for the worse. Katelyn with the baby at home did, too. They managed to stabilize her, but it didn’t look good. They asked if we wanted to be ‘aggressive.’ That is code-speak for ‘this will cost literally thousands of dollars.’  The credit card came out, she was being treated. We prayed and went home.

We never stopped praying. I called on every saint I could remember from Francis, and Mary, to my dad, and even asked Tucker who we lost last year to help. We didn’t sleep and the updates came, and the decisions were made, and the costs mounted up and finally, at 3am yesterday the call came, Bailey turned the corner toward healing. She was mending.

We picked her up today. She was back home within 30 minutes. Sleeping. A life saved. The vet told us she hit the ‘perfect storm’ of mushroom poisoning and a snake or bee swarm toxin. My mom said we should change her name to ‘Lucky’. It was worth it. Every hour. Every cent. Every worry. Every prayer. Bailey is home.

Katelyn, sitting in the front seat with me, almost without thinking commented, “It’s like she doesn’t even know what happened.”  That is my life as a pastor lived in faith. I make countless decisions, cry, pray, weep, curse, and worry. I make choices that cost money, unbalance budgets, direct funds and needs to those most vulnerable, or rely on the goodness and actions of others. I pray I am right, as I make decisions to help our lives together as faith community and to bring hope to those lost and a home to those homeless. I am not always right, but more often than not, I am. Most have no idea how hard, how scared, or how terrified I am so often. Some even ridicule or leave me alone in their own hatred, greed, skepticism, or  simply because they don’t get their way. But, then, almost without thinking they come, sit at the windows of our beautiful sanctuary, safe and loved and welcomed, and like Bailey don’t even know what happened. That is my Job. I am a pastor.

Oh, the vet was clear. Had I not driven like a ‘mad man’, or even waited another minute or two to leave for the hospital with Bailey cradled in my arms, she would have stopped breathing, and her heart would have stopped, and she would be dead. The veterinarian  said, as we picked her up for home today, “You saved her life.”

Yes, they say that I saved my dog’s life; truth is, she and my wife’s love save mine almost every day.
Welcome home, Bailey, daddy loves you.

2 Responses to “They Say That I Saved my Dog’s Life”

  1. Mary ann Harrison says:

    I am sooo happy Bailey is home. My heart is beating so fast from reading the story. You are one strong human being and we love you!

  2. Donald Pauley says:

    I am so happy that Bailey made it. As I read the story, my eyes teared up. You know I understand your fear and anxiety.

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