Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bayley Beck, Ranch Dog Extraordinaire

Bayley Beck, Snow Dog on a road less traveled
As I write this, on a cold, snowy day in December, we are on day two of our Bayley’s osteosarcoma diagnosis.  After feeling as though I couldn’t breathe yesterday, today I am more together and able to function to care for our sick little girl.  And sick she is.  Osteosarcoma is a terribly painful cancer of the bone and the preferred treatment for it is amputation followed by chemotherapy, maybe buying a little time if your dog is younger than Bayley’s 10 years old.  The vet also recommended amputation strictly for pain…remove the cancer, remove the pain.  All of this is well and good if there are no metastasis but our Bayley has lesions in her lungs. Or you can try to manage the pain with medication until it can no longer be managed and then humanely euthanize your dog.  We’ve chosen this last option for our sweet girl.  After a conversation (via messages) with Suzanne, my golden retriever Sophie’s beloved vet in Tulsa, I feel more at peace with the decision that Bill and I have made.  Of course, the knee jerk reaction is to do whatever you can to keep them with you for as long as you can, but is that the fair and right thing to do for them or is the selfish thing to do for yourself?

When my Sophie was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, presenting as a highly vascular tumor in her heart that had ruptured and bled into the sac around her heart, I was shocked to my core. I had taken Sophie in to see Suzanne, who did an ultrasound of my golden girl and found that her weakness wasn’t caused by her hip dysplasia, as we had suspected, but was her heart, which was being compressed by the blood that had filled her pericardium.  I remember feeling angry that I knew too much medical terminology and the word tamponade kept popping into my head.  Medical emergency. With tears in her eyes, Suzanne explained that we could tap the blood, giving Sophie a little more time, or we could let her go.  I asked her then of Sophie, as I asked her today of Bayley, “if she was your dog, what would you do?”. And in the honest, caring, and kind way that I miss so much, she told me.  So, we let my lovely dog Sophie, she of the beautiful spirit, go with angels.  And when it is our beloved Bayley girl’s time to go, we will send her to God in the same loving way, thinking of her and her needs, and not our own.  Our own need is to keep her forever, but when you give your heart to one of these beings, your time together is finite.

Bayley and Bill, learning together
When I met Bayley, it was love at first sight.  I had come to Bear Creek with dear friends for vacation, soon after losing Sophie, and Bayley was more than willing to let me put my hands back on the familiar body of a dog – a feeling I had been missing so much.  When I moved there to be with Bill a year later, Bayley became my constant companion in a foreign land and I fell head over heels for her. She became mine. I changed her food, she got a bed and toys, access to the house anytime was hers. Still Bayley Beck, Ranch Dog, but also Bayley Beck, Family.  Bill often joked that I married him for his dog and he’s only half wrong – she sealed the deal!

Many of you know Bayley.  Many of you don’t and should.  Bayley is pure love.  Her heart is that of a trusting child – sweet, honest, free.  She gives her love to all she meets, which is wonderful because her job for the entire time she’s been with the Beck family has been just to love and be loved.  Bill’s son, Dane, his wife, Felicia, and our family friend, Johnny B, found Bayley in a Mountain Trader (or so the story goes).  She was living in the Flathead Valley with a family who had other dogs who picked on Bayley so they decided the best thing to do would be to find the gentle giant a new home.  They brought her home to live at Bear Creek and she bloomed and blossomed with people and no other dogs! 

Bayley with our wonderful friend, Linnea. Bayley is a wonderful surrogate dog!
She loves our guests and they, in turn, love her with abandon and with few exceptions.  Multitudes of people have threatened on many occasions to dognap her and take her to everywhere from Australia to Texas.  She is the very best surrogate for people who miss their own dogs back home.  Bayley loved to go on trail rides with us and our guests, and until age caught up with her in the last couple of years, went almost every time. She’s scared up little bears, chased a moose, and has a hate/hate relationship with the chipmunks who reside in the barn.  More people than I can imagine have photos of Bayley swimming in Buffalo Lakes! At Bear Creek, Bayley is a celebrity, a greeter, a watchdog, a giver and receiver of love.
Channeling Ferdinand, the Bull.  Stopping to smell the flowers and nap in the grass

In her time, she’s been an amazing bear dog.  Her size and her huge bark are intimidating to even a grizzly bear!  She’s a bit like Ferdinand, the bull, however, and would rather just sniff the flowers… Bayley is shameless in her insistence that EVERYONE must give her belly rubs and she routinely places herself just outside of the doorway to the breakfast room (where she is not allowed to be), rolls over, and waits for people to finish eating so they can get to the business of rubbing that tummy, because it’s not going to rub itself!  Those of you who have met her know exactly what I’m talking about.

Autumn is her color
Elias, Me and Bayley

When Bill and I wintered in Tulsa a few years ago, Bayley traveled in the car like a champ and made friends in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma.  She and Bill walked the trails of the Arkansas River in Tulsa every day – for miles – and she was very briefly an urban dog. She loved my mother with abandon and my mom became a “Bayley person”, not a dog person, or so she said!

But the country is her home and she thrives at Bear Creek, wandering the property, sitting in the creek on hot days, hopelessly dreaming of actually catching a chipmunk or a squirrel or a gopher.  And Bear Creek is where we will take her when it is her time.  It’s her home. It’s where she’s happiest.  And it’s where she should be…

As I write, she’s snoring peacefully on her bed behind me and the sound is music to me. I don’t know how long we’ll have her but I tend to think not long. We won’t have her suffer and lose herself and her joy and become something she’s not. We’ll also give her a good life for whatever time is left.  We’ll take her to see the horses, let her potty in the tall grass, go for car rides, take short walks to see the little lab who has a terrible crush on her and we’ll simply love her.  Every moment with her is a blessing - she is our love and our family.  My heart is breaking at the thought of the loss of her. 
Spectacularly beautiful Bayley at her home at Bear Creek


  1. So very sorry for all of you. Carol

  2. Beautiful... I am so happy that Bayley has you. She has been as lucky to have you as you have been to have her. I admire your love and courage because I have made this journey. Hugs and prayers of comfort and joy for the days ahead. Love you beautiful friend. -- Teresa Garrison

  3. As I dry my eyes and the end of this wonderful amazing story my heart aches for you my friend! What wonderful memories you shall hold so dear to your ❤! My prayers and postive thoughts are gently moved towards your breaking heart. Lots of love for you both at this much difficult time. I have a big shoulder so please come lean when you need it and lots of hugs!

  4. Bayley has definitely lived the life most dogs dream about, she wiggled her way into my heart the first moment i met her. Glad to know she will forever grace her presence at Bear Creek. She is and will always be loved and missed.- love you guys!

  5. You and Bayley have been blessed. Many of us have never been so lucky to live with play with and romp with a beautiful creature like that where they belong in The Great Outdoors. Sincerely, Rick LaValley

  6. This was so beautiful to read, Diana. I'm so sorry you all are having to go through this. I love you and am holding you, Bill and Bayley in my heart. Give her a big hug and belly rub from me <3.