Haley – My Baby, My teacher

My first baby. Her name was Haley. After a short time, a middle name was given. It was Jane. So this is Haley Jane’s story.

Haley Jane

I was single and living alone in the town that I had grown up in. I had a dear friend, I will call Allison, who had a female chocolate lab by the name of M&M. She had bred M&M with a yellow lab that belonged to her brother-in-law. There were various colors in that litter of puppies between the yellows, blacks, and browns. Though all of them were the cutest things.

I had always been a fan of the Rottweiler because my grandmother had a couple of them. They were strong and powerful dogs with a protective disposition and I liked that in a dog. However, I also loved the look of a chocolate lab. They have such a wonderful, loyal and playful demeanor. Not to mention that they are simply beautiful dogs.

When I would go to Allison’s house I got to play with M&M. I always enjoyed that time with her. And when I saw her puppies, it definitely put a large smile on my face and a thought in my head.

Another friend of mine got one of those puppies. As I watched that puppy grow, I couldn’t help but fall even more in love with chocolate labs and consider having one of my own. I reached out to Allison and asked if she would be breeding M&M again and she said yes. I asked if I could have one of the puppies if there was a chocolate lab. (Yes, Allison charged money for the puppies. But she wasn’t what one may call a “breeder.” She only bred M&M twice and took very good care of all the puppies and their mama.) She said yes.

Just a little note, Allison wanted $600 for the dogs and that was a pretty little penny for me at the time, but I said yes anyway.

The time had come when I was told that M&M was pregnant. I was soooo excited. I kept tabs on how things were going nearly every day. Eventually, the time had come when I was told that M&M was giving birth. I got to be there that night to see them all. That very night I picked that beautiful little girl that would be mine. I visited two to three times a week just to see my little girl.

I thought I had all the things figured out. I was buying a house. The house would have a yard and that would be where this beautiful little girl and I would live. Unfortunately, the house fell through and bills started piling up.

I was looking to get a job in the big city and move down there. I was traveling back and forth on the weekend and there would be no one to watch the dog all day and no place that I could keep it as the house I rented had no yard. I had no idea what the days ahead looked like so I had to tell Allison that I couldn’t get the dog.

She flat out said, “You’re getting the dog!”  She said that I could make payments and that she would even keep it for me. As soon as it was old enough it could stay in the house when people were home and she would chain her up outside during the day when no one was home. That part I really didn’t like and didn’t want to do that to her. Still, with great trepidation, I said okay.

(My friend knew of my recent breakup and she had dogs her whole life. I suspect she knew that beautiful baby girl would add to my life in a way that nothing else ever would.)

I had always liked the name, Haley. I had thought that if I ever had kids that would be the name I would give to a daughter. And so I did, though this kid had four legs and fur.

The rainbow pack, Haley, Lottie, and Kersey

On my many trips to the big city, I would stay at the home where my aunts lived. They are HUGE animal lovers and definitely had an affinity for dogs. They were very excited for me to have a dog, and even more so I am sure, to get to see the dog when they could. They also knew of the situation I was in.

At the age of six weeks, I knew the time was drawing near when the pups would go to their new homes. I was heading to the city for my usual weekend trip and I asked if I could take Haley with me. Allison said yes.

I picked Haley up and headed to the city. Now, I owned a little 2-wheel drive Toyota pick-up. The truck had a bench seat that would sit three. So while there was room for that sweet little girl to lay anywhere in that truck, she curled up right alongside me with her head on my lap. The drive took 1 ½ hours and she laid there the entire time. She stole my heart and I fell completely in love with her at that moment.

When I got to my aunt’s house, they were in heaven. They loved labs and puppies. They held her, kissed on her and pet her. Oh, and took full advantage of the sweet smell of puppy breath.

I knew the situation with me and understood my dilemma with Haley. I told them what Allison offered for accommodations. They said no, that Haley couldn’t live outside chained up like that. So, as animal lovers do, they offered to keep her until I found a job in the city. I was very surprised and yet very relieved. I knew in their home she would be well taken care of and treated like a member of their family. (They already had both a yellow and black lab at the time.) Plus, I would get to see her frequently being that I was coming down every weekend.

When it was time to head back home, I ended up talking with Allison to see if Haley needed to go back to M&M for any specific reason. Allison said no. Ultimately, all that Haley needed was the necessary shots at eight weeks old. Since I could take care of those, Haley didn’t return back with me that trip. She was in her forever home with her forever family.

Haley’s puppy picture

My aunts played weekday moms and I played a weekend mom. The took on the task of potty training her which entailed sleeping with her on an air mattress that laid next to the doggy door, taking her outside every two hours. (I took that task over every weekend when I came down.
Their work schedules were such that usually one of them was home and of course there were the other dogs in the house

They set up the barriers in the house where she could roam all day to prevent the least amount of destruction, (which by the time it was all said and done equated to 4 couches at minimum). They fed her, gave attention to her, loved her and cleaned up all of the mess that resulted from her destruction. All the while I would make my weekend trips to see her and she was coming to know the house, dogs, and people as her home and pack.
Of course, she was bigger every time I saw her. I missed seeing her grow up and yet I knew she couldn’t be in a better place. This situation lasted for nearly two years.

During those two years, I had moved to another house. It had a yard. The security of the yard was not that great, but it was better than nothing.
One weekend during the wintertime, I decided that I would bring her back home with me that way we could be together all of the time. It would be a new place, but I thought I would be with her the night before and she would get used to it. My aunts were concerned about how she would do and asked several questions, but ultimately knew it wasn’t their place to say yes or no.

(My one aunt did get teary-eyed when we left.)

When Haley and I got to her new home, I could tell she was a little uncomfortable. I figured though that she would get used to it by the time the night was through. She slept with me on the bed and I thought that would give a bit more familiarity with the house. I got up to go to work the next morning. There was not a doggy door so I left the back door open to the back yard. I lived three minutes away so I could check on her throughout the day.

I went home at my first break…and she was gone. I was devastated. I was also panicked as I had no idea where she was or where to start looking. People at my work knew what she meant to me and during their breaks began looking too. I called my one aunt who got teary-eyed when we left. I told her what happened and I began to get emotional. She said to call the closest vets office. She was going to make up flyers and come up to help look.

I called the local vet’s office. No one had turned her in. I looked all over the neighborhood driving up and down streets, calling her name. My aunt got there and we started posting flyers. I would have done that all night long and the next day too. But I got a call from one of my coworkers who had been helping me look for her. She said she had found her and told me where she was. I got to that house and there she was, laying in the snow. I loved on her and cried because I wasn’t sure if I would ever see her again, and I knew I was the one who put her in that position.

When the reunion with her was over, I told my aunt to please take her back with her. Selfishly I took her from the only home she knew and an environment where she was never alone. Now that I understood that, I knew  that I couldn’t do that to her.

Eventually, I got a job in the big city and got to be with her full time. I loved it.

I took her for training lessons, though truthfully, she was so laid back I don’t know that she ever needed them. She was just such a sweet girl.

family hike

We would go hiking and I would let her off of her leash. She would walk ahead of me by about 50 feet, but she never went so far that she didn’t keep me in her sight.

We would take the dog pack on the boat at the lake. We have pictures of them swimming and having a great time. She never ran off. She just stayed with the group.

When we went walking down the street she would drag her feet. She reminded me so much of the Sesame Street character Snuffleupagus, that I started calling her shuffleupagus.

Through various circumstances, we ended up with 5 dogs in the house. They were all female and we didn’t have any issues at all. We were quite a sight to see when we all were walking down the street. One person holding 5 leashes in there hand with all of those dogs walking along side. When the yellow lab became too arthritic to walk, we had her in a buggy and walked the other four alongside.

Then I met someone and we started dating. He had a dog. It was a wolf, collie, and something else mix. His name was Parker He was a beautiful dog having no issues with humans. However, he did have some aggression issues with other dogs. Haley and I would go to his house or him to ours and it wasn’t uncommon for a problem with fighting to arise.

One time we went on a trip to a cabin his parents lived and we took both dogs. At one point both dogs tried to enter the front door as we were walking into the cabin and apparently Parker didn’t like the fact that Haley came into the house before him, so he attacked her. We stopped it with no injury to her. But for the next several hours, she stood in the corner shaking.

I knew I had let her down. I didn’t protect her even though I knew that Parker had these issues and I didn’t want to stop the relationship, so I continued to put her in these situations. Eventually, we broke up. Though I was sad about it at the time, I also knew that Haley would be safe now even though I wasn’t the one to make that happen. I realized that I failed her as her protector…as a mom.

But as life went on, I continued to learn.

As she got older, there were more trips to the vet. She was so funny about those visits. We would go into a room and Haley would do a howling bark if there was even the slightest indication that the vet was going to walk into the room. Any sound and constantly you would hear that bark.

With every vet visit, I was so fearful that every test or blood work or checkup would reveal bad news. I would get tearful at the thought that something might be wrong. I always told my vet and cried to God, please don’t make me have to make a decision to say goodbye. But no test ever revealed anything like that. X-rays though were showing significantly arthritic bones.

We started having to say goodbye to some of the pack. I didn’t start to understand the loss my aunts were feeling until I began realizing life without them at the house.

At about nine years old I thought that it may be a good thing to get Haley a sister. We had other pack mates, but I wanted her to have a sister, so I adopted a rescue dog, another chocolate lab named Hanna.

Haley really didn’t have a problem with Hanna, but they weren’t necessarily buddy, buddy.

Hanna was a lover, but very respectful of Haley’s space. (Haley always had the seat right by my side.) It’s like she knew what her place was in our relationship as a family. Even though she knew she was a part of it, she didn’t try to take over Haley’s mama. So there we were, a happy family.

We would go to my sister’s house back in the town I used to live in. Her house was a two-story home with a kitchen upstairs and the bedroom we stayed in downstairs.

Haley was getting shots and taking Rimadylthat were intended to help ease her arthritis.

When we stayed at my sisters, she would usually walk up with me anytime I would go upstairs, but the last trip we made to my sister’s house there was one time she couldn’t, and halfway up the stairs I looked back to see her sitting there. I told her it was okay and that I would be coming right back down. I didn’t realize or understand what was really happening was that she really wanted to come with me to be where I was, but that she just couldn’t make it this time. When I headed up the stairs I didn’t think about it, but looking back now I know.

(A lot of kleenix was used in the process of writing this story, the majority of it happening at this part.)

Then one night we had gone to bed. Haley was always allowed up on the bed, but she chose to sleep under the bed instead when we were at home. When we went to bed she was under my bed. She must have moved to go into my aunt’s room.

My aunt had come into my room shortly after we went to bed and said I should come into her room. She thinks that Haley is having a seizure. I went in there and saw her on the ground. We weren’t sure what was happening so we decided to pick her up and let her lay on the couch. I would keep an eye on her there.

Only a few minutes went by when she had another one and I told my aunts that I was taking her to the emergency vet. They chose to come with me.

When we got there, they took Haley into the back.

We waited on an update and they confirmed that she did have a seizure. They would keep her overnight and then we could pick her up in the morning and take her to my vet.

I asked if I go in and give her a kiss goodnight. When I was her, she looked a bit out of it. But I just automatically assumed she would recover by the time I saw her in the morning. I went home and went to bed. (Spoiler Alert: If I had known what I know now, I would have never left her side.)

When I woke up I called the hospital and asked how she was. They said that she wasn’t responding as they had hoped. That was when I got scared.

My aunt and I picked her up and took her to my vet. We got her out of the car and he took her in the back and said he would monitor her. Again I went home.

I took a nap because I didn’t sleep that great the night before. I had already planned in my mind that I would take her back to the hospital to stay overnight and then back to the vet as many times as she needed to get better.

My vet had called and I missed it because I was sleeping. I called him back when I woke and saw that he called. When I spoke with him he told me she had passed. He said she took one deep breath and then was gone. He said had that not happened he would have talked to me about needing to decide for her.

After I hung up the phone, I was in shock. I couldn’t talk. Haley was not here and she is never coming back. My world just came crashing down all around me. Hanna was sitting next to me and all I could do was to hold her.

When I got enough strength to stand up I went and told my aunt who was home at the time. She called my other aunt who was at work. We all were devastated. We went to see her one last time. And while I didn’t want to leave her side, I knew I had to let her go.

My vet knew I was hurting. He reminded me that I always said that I didn’t want to make the decision if ever that time came and that she made it for me. He was right.

He gave me a hug. Through my tears I told him he would miss her bark. He agreed.

When I was asked about keeping her ashes, I said no because it wouldn’t be her.

Apparently, a conversation was held between the vet techs and my aunts where they at least got her paw print which I am forever grateful for and will keep always.

I still have an oil painting of my beautiful baby girl. I still see her sometimes when I look at Hanna. It’s like she checks in to say hi. When she does, those times bring smiles to my face.

There are so many more stories I could tell about my Haley and I could write about our memories for another 10,000 words, but enough tears have been shed in just writing these.

So to end, Haley taught me patience. I have more patience now than I ever had. She taught me to pay attention to love. Stand up for and protect my kids, and be open to having to say goodbye and not live in so much fear of losing them, that you miss out on all of the joy of living life fully with them while we are together.

I have learned so much from Haley that I can’t convey it all. I am definitely forever indebted to her for being my teacher.

I guess God always knew that I needed Haley. I don’t know that I realized it until she was gone. One thing that I do know for sure is that I am a better person because of her and I can carry on the lessons that she taught me with all of the kids that would come after her.

One day I hope I can see her and love on her again.