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A Million-plus Kisses
Lots of love in a too-short lifetime
Bailey during a break from chasing laser light, playing catch and giving kisses.

Lick. Lick. Lick.

Those little kisses on my nose sealed the deal. We had to take that adorable Beagle puppy home with us.

Our Beagle, Bailey, was a smart, people-loving, stubborn, sweet, independent-minded little soul. Though lacking English skills, Bailey was an excellent communicator. She could make her wishes known using a combination of her nose, barking and whining, and her big brown eyes, which could cover a range of emotions from happy to guilty to thoroughly annoyed.

When you talked to her, she would turn her head, cock her ears and furrow her brow. She looked like she comprehended everything, although I’m sure she was just listening for her favorite words: treat, dinner, dessert, bunnies, Daddy. Bailey knew many words, but her favorite was “light.” We couldn’t even say it—we had to spell it, due to our pup’s severe addiction to chasing the laser light.

She was first introduced to the euphoria that a laser pointer could give as a puppy. A man brought one to the dog park to entertain his Labrador, who couldn’t have cared less. But Bailey was hooked from the instant she saw that bright bead, glowing red on the ground.

The next day, when the man didn’t bring the laser pointer, Bailey went nuts—jumping all over him. She needed her fix. We were forced to buy one just so she would leave the poor guy alone.

After that, she chased the light three times per day, every day for twelve years. The vet used to remark about what amazing muscle tone Bailey had in her legs—it was from bouncing off our walls chasing the laser. She had a special bark (loud and crazed) and a special tail wag (full circle) just for the light.

With all games—the light, ball, squeaky squirrel—Bailey insisted you actively participate. You weren’t allowed to sit back and toss the toy du jour. No, she refused to play (would lie down and glare at you in her “We are not amused” way) if you didn’t get up too. She even invented a game where we were the ones who ran around. She’d stand on the couch and we’d bounce a ball at her. If she bounced it back, she got a point. If we caught it, we got a point. But if we missed and had to run after it, she’d get another point. She loved that game. She’d stand on the couch and purposely bounce it away from us, and then smile while we ran around like idiots.

She was a very funny girl. One escapade always makes us laugh whenever we think of it. When we first had her, we lived in an apartment. One day we opened the door to greet a friend, just as our neighbor walked out of his door. Bailey, who’d never bolted before, flew out our door and into the neighbor’s apartment, where the roommate sat on the sofa eating pizza. She snatched the last piece off his plate and raced out! She must have smelled it through the thin walls and plotted her perfect crime. I would have loved to see that roommate’s face: sitting there, enjoying his pizza, looking forward to relishing the last piece; when suddenly a blur of Beagle dashes in and steals it.

It was a great joy to have her in our lives. She made us laugh every day. We loved her very much. She loved us too—although her obvious favorite was Daddy. She would sit in his lap every morning, put her arms around his neck and kiss him before work. We wondered if she thought she had to re-mark him everyday (“Back off other dogs; he’s mine!”), before he went out into the world. After all, he shaved off all her kisses from the previous day. One day, I tried to count her kisses. Lick. Lick. Lick. I gave up after one thousand. We conservatively estimate that she gave him several million kisses over the course of her too-short lifetime.

Someday we’ll have another dog, but there will never, ever be another dog like her.

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Jackie Bouchard's day job involves writing boring reports and presentations about the scientific research database publishing market. In her spare time, she writes humorous fiction. She and her agent are looking for a publisher for her first novel. She lives in San Diego, where she volunteers at a local animal shelter.
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