Bailey1On March 3, we said goodbye to Bailey, our Welsh Corgi.  We’d had him since he was a tiny cute ball of puppy fluff, way back in the fall of 2000.  He was clever, patient, loving, forgiving, trusting, sweet, funny, fast, and, always, hungry.  He was Dan’s wedding gift to me.  He was our “kid” for a long time before we had kids — before we even knew we wanted to have kids.  He was with us through ups and downs, 3 homes, 8 jobs, 2 babies and 2 continents.  He was the best dog I have ever known.  He was a member of our family.  We all loved him very, very much.

Bailey Agility (jump)Corgi Fun Fair5/12/2001In his younger years, Bailey had a constant reserve of energy.  He would run around our apartment like crazy, snapping at imaginary butterflies and chasing his “tail”.  He would walk (and even sometimes run) with me all around the neighborhood.  In fact, he was my running companion when I first discovered running (we both have short legs, so it worked out).  He was an excellent student to everything I tried to teach him, and he let me think it was my talent as a dog trainer that was behind it all.  He chased sheep.  He slept on my feet.  He ate everything that didn’t move faster than he did.

BaileyPony Swim7/25/2001As he got older, he slowed down a bit, but it was gradual.  He still ran and played, but not for as long as he had before.  And then we brought one, and then another, baby home.  Bailey accepted them instantly.  We were worried, since he was nearly 8 when B was born, and had had us to himself for a long time, that he would be jealous or inflexible.  He was not.  He would follow us around when we walked with the boys, he would sleep under their swings while they slept, he would urge me along if I was too slow to respond to their cries.

And he became an excellent playmate.  Dan, who had a retriever as a child, tried unsuccessfully for years to teach Bailey to fetch.  Bailey let B teach him, when B was not yet 2.  Bailey endured over-enthusiastic petting, became the landing spot for a few early and awkward walking attempts, and learned to adeptly dodge poorly controlled tricycle, bicycle and scooter trajectories through the house.

1863He handled our transition here with ease.  As an old dog (he was already 10), it could have been hard on him, but he was just happy to be here with us (though he never learned to love public transportation).  He got to go with us more places than he had before, but not as much as we would have liked — he slowed down a lot and his health began to deteriorate after a few years here.  First there was a heart condition, but good medication let him bounce back from that (though it would never go away completely), but then, in his last year, he began to lose the use of his back legs, and the strain began to show on his front legs as well.  Eventually, though he never lost his kindness or patience, we knew he had been trying long enough.

Though we knew we were doing the best thing for him, the end was hard.  Dan and I made the decision, along with our vet, that we had done all we could and that it was time.  We waited for a few days to tell the kids, and I spent much of those days darting into the kitchen or hiding in the bathroom so they wouldn’t see me crying.  I knew it was right.  He was so, so tired.  But my heart was broken.

When it came time to tell the boys, I didn’t know what to say.  I had tried, but failed, to come up with a plan or script to work from.  My brain wouldn’t process or hold on to the words I wanted to use, so I just opened up my mouth and spoke.  I don’t know what I said.  I know that I cried.  And I know that I avoided the euphemisms that can scare kids — “put to sleep”, “going away”, “moving on”.  I know I was clear.  Bailey was going to die.

At first, B tried to come up with alternatives.  Maybe there was another medicine.  We could carry him everywhere.  We could take him to the vet again.  When he finally understood there were no more options, he broke down and sobbed.

And then the boys collected up all of their stuffed animals (starting with the dogs) and surrounded Bailey with them.


1725When Bailey had had enough of that (he was very patient) and wandered away, I heard a terrible scraping sound coming through the apartment.  The boys had gone to get Bailey’s huge, plastic, air travel crate, and were dragging it into the dining room for Bailey.  To protect him.  After coercing him into the crate, they covered it with stuffed animals and got out their foam swords, so they could stand guard over him.

Those moments were very sad, but also very sweet.  B told stories and memories of Bailey.  He commented on how Bailey was “the only person he knew who was never, ever angry”.  (He’s right.)

And then we finished up the emotional turmoil of the day with Liam bonking his head on a drawer knob and needing a trip to the ER.  (Never a dull moment.)


1835We told the boys on a Saturday, and over the next few days many of Bailey’s friends came to see him.  The boys decided that Bailey should have one last birthday party, and so they threw him one, complete with hats.  Though we were always strict with Bailey about his diet (which is why he is one of the only Corgis I’ve ever known who was not fat), in his last few days we relaxed the rules.  On his last evening, I shared a krapfen (like a doughnut) with him.


Though Bailey usually slept in his crate in our room (it was his preference), he spent his last few nights sleeping in with the boys, and on his last night, he slept in front of the boys’ door, all night.


105The last day was surreal.  We all knew what was happening, but I could not entirely accept it.  I spent as much time as I could with him that last day, but it passed by so quickly.

We all went together with him to the vet, and we were all there when he died (we gave the boys the option of being there, and they wanted to be).  It was awful, and it was crushingly sad, but it was peaceful.  The vet was very kind, and she gave us all the time we needed to be with him.

We went home (where I almost immediately got another piece of devastating news) and it was immediately strange that he was gone.  Over the days and weeks that followed, I gradually less often thought I heard or saw him.  Less often jumped up in a panic thinking I’d forgotten to take him out.  (Though, late at night, I still OFTEN think I hear him roll over in his crate.  Make of that what you will.)

Shortly after losing Bailey, I read the phrase, “not all sacred moments are pleasant“.  That pretty much sums it all up.  This experience of saying goodbye to him was not pleasant.  It was heartbreaking and unbelievably sad, but it did feel sacred.  It was important, and heavy, and I think we did right by him.

His things are still where they were.  Dan put his water dish away at one point, to try to tidy up the bathroom, but B asked that we put it back.  A few months later, I heard about a dog that was up for adoption, and was surprised to find myself already excited about the idea of another dog.  Dan was up for it, but the boys said it was too soon for them.  (And I think they were right.)

From time to time, we still get sad.  We miss him, though it is getting easier.  At one point, when B and I were sharing a cry about it, L said, “I’m not sad.  I think about Bailey, and all I think about is loving him, so I’m not sad.”  I’m so glad that he feels that way, and as time goes on, I’m able to feel that way more and more.  It’s amazing to me how quickly my mind is deleting the memories of him near the end — tired, hurting, unable to get around.  I superimpose older memories, of him young, energetic, and enthusiastic onto more recent times.  I have to constantly remind myself of how hard he had it near the end.  But I’m glad that I remember him as happy and vibrant.

He would have been 15 years old today.  I miss him tremendously.  He is probably the best and most loved dog I will ever own.  I told him, before he died, that he had ruined me for all other dogs, and I think that’s probably true.  I do not regret a moment of the time I got to spend with him.  But our time together was too short.

Austrian anniversary

So, today is the day — we’ve been here two years.  This second anniversary of our arrival here feels like an accomplishment — partly just because we’ve been here two years and have not only survived, but flourished, but also because it was originally our intention to only be here for two years.  So, even though we’ve revised that and updated our plans, some part of my brain is still stuck on the idea of, “Ok, it’s been two years!  You’re done!  Time to go home!”

It’s been two years since we climbed off of the plane, overwhelmed and weary.  Very overwhelmed.  Nothing says “What did I just do?!?” like arriving in an airport with two small kids, seven suitcases and a dog, being unable to read any signs or remember why you thought this was a good idea in the first place.

I remember collecting our suitcases, piling them up on a luggage cart, and looking around to figure out where we were supposed to pick up Bailey.  We didn’t know whether to expect him in a special luggage area, or whether there was a certain counter to go to.  Instead, we found him in his crate, set aside, kind of near the baggage claim area.  We expected to have to show some paperwork or something to collect him.  Nope.  We picked him up and moved on.

Our next priority was Customs, where we also prepared to present paperwork and have our things inspected.  But no, this is Austria.  No paperwork, no inspection, no stopping at all.

We dragged ourselves outside to wait for Dan’s friend, Greg, who had so kindly agreed to meet us at the airport.  I got Bailey out of his crate and took him for a quick (and much-needed) walk.  It was cold, and raining.  I remember thinking again (for the second of at least a dozen times that day) that I was not at all sure this had been a wise decision.

We waited for Greg, and when he arrived, he was so nice and helpful.  We packed his car full of all of our things, and drove through Vienna until we found our temporary apartment.  Once we figured out which one it was, I remember being freaked out about everything — whether the car was going to be towed, whether our landlord could be trusted to help is carry our things, and whether we were going to be expected to pay for our stay right away (which would have been troublesome because we had no Euros).

I had nothing to worry about, really, I was just freaking out and unaccustomed to being so far out of my element.  Our landlord was helpful and nice, we got everything unloaded easily, and the kids were happy to be “home”.  Greg very kindly made a trip to the grocery store to buy a few things we’d need to get through that first morning.  When he left us his grocery bag so we’d have something to shop with, I almost cried, both because it was nice of him and because it represented, in my mind, how many things I didn’t know about Vienna (I mean, who knew you HAD to bring your own grocery bags?!?).

262But we got settled in.  We took a collective nap.  We watched tv.  We got comfortable.  We relaxed.  I remember being the only one awake, later that evening, while everyone else was napping.  I remember looking around our apartment.  We were all safe, secure and happy.  I didn’t know anything, really, about Vienna, or about what would happen next, but everything was peaceful.  I still wasn’t sure we had made the right decision, but I was sure, in that moment, that we were all ok.  It was a beginning.


And now, here we are.  Two years later, with another year ahead of us.  I still get that feeling — the feeling that I’m not sure if we’ve made the right decision, but that, in the moment, we’re all ok.  That first day was hard, and there have been other hard days since. There have been days when I’ve wished I could snap my fingers and just be home.  But really, this has been wonderful.  Fundamentally, I’m incredibly glad that we’re here and that we’re having this adventure.  And I’m learning to be ok with being out of my element, with not understanding what’s going on, with trusting people.  I’m learning to expect good things to happen.  And I’m learning that, as long as we’re all safe, secure and happy, everything is really ok.

The same “hund” as the Queen

So today, some observations.

First, allow me a moment of American ridiculousness:  Busch Gardens has gotten so many things right.  Seriously, walking through the little cobblestoned streets of Vienna today, I kept thinking of Busch Gardens and how the way they depict the winding alleyways and tiny shops in a way that’s really quite accurate.  More trees at Busch Gardens, though.

Secondly, in Vienna, backpacks and scooters are not just for kids.  I’ve seen several adults on their way to work with backpacks over suits and likewise, several suited adults riding on scooters, headed to work.  Not Vespa scooters, the little ones that kids ride in the States that you push like a skateboard.

264While we were out walking yesterday, and again on our long mid-day walk today, we were getting a lot of stares.  We weren’t sure whether it was because of Bailey (who seemed to be getting a lot of attention) or because Dan was wearing Liam in the Ergo (although, Baby Bjorn would have us believe this is a European thing?) — they both seemed to be getting looks.  Turns out, it was Bailey (or maybe Bailey AND Dan, but at least Bailey).  Three separate people came up to discuss him with us today.  The first guy stared from across the street, and then came over to ask in German if that was one of the same kinds of “hunds” that the Queen of England has.  Unbelievably, I understood exactly what he said, and managed a “Ja”, in response, which then unleashed a stream of German stopped only when Dan interjected that we didn’t speak German.  Then, two schoolboys followed us, to ask, in English, why Bailey didn’t have a tail.  That’s when I remembered that tail docking isn’t legal in Europe, so that may be at least partly why he’s been getting stares.  Then a woman complimented us on his muzzle — it apparently seems more civilized than the kinds most people use here (however, although muzzling your dog is a law here, from what we’ve seen, it’s rarely followed).

We’re generally finding that the people here in Austria are very friendly and helpful (and willing to speak English).  Of course, my first attempt at German today was pretty well shot down by the woman working at the market down the street — she was also impatient with the speed of my shopping because she apparently wanted to get back to sitting outside.  It wasbeautiful outside today.  But, I was brave enough to try!  And I got vollmilch for Benjamin.  So, success!