In either 2001 or 2002 an English Mastiff puppy was born.  She must have been sweet and adorable because somebody named her Baby Girl.  She was probably the runt of the litter because when she was full-grown she was small for her breed – about 2″ shorter than the minimum shoulder height to be in dog shows and only 125 pounds.

We don’t know much about the first 5 years of her life except that Baby Girl was a slave with harsh masters.  She was a puppy mill breeding dog, having litter after littler of beautiful puppies – and then as soon as they were weaned they were taken away from her.  Baby Girl was probably bred every single time she was in season and had puppies until her body wore out and couldn’t carry them to full term anymore, resulting in miscarriage after miscarriage.  She was probably beaten by men and came to associate people holding cameras up to their faces with Something Bad Was About To Happen.

My mother purchased Baby Girl from the puppy mill and I met her for the first time a few months after that.  She was this large, beautiful dog, fawn-colored with a black mask.  She cared for stuffed animals like they were her own puppies so we think she loved being a mother and missed her babies.  She moved slowly – actually it was cautiously, like she was waiting to see how you would react to her every move before she made another one and if you made a sudden move or raised your arm(s) she was instantly on the floor in a submission position.  Baby Girl was deathly afraid of men.  When my brothers came into a room she was in Baby Girl would slink along the wall farthest away from them and get to another room as fast as she (cautiously) could.

Being a kennel dog for her entire life up until Mom took her home, Baby Girl had absolutely no socialization or manners but she had a heart of gold and desperately wanted to please you – if you were a woman.  If you were a man she hid from you and would work very hard to squeeze her large body into ridiculously small spaces trying to get away.

My mother kept her outside on a cable during the day and brought Baby Girl inside at night.  (Unfortunately the cable was necessary because Baby Girl would run off and not come back for hours, but it was a very, very long cable.)  Mom taught Baby Girl to sit on a mat and lift each paw up, one at a time so Mom could wipe them off with a cloth each time Baby Girl came inside from being outside.  To Baby Girl it probably felt like Mom was holding her paws and lifting her paw up became the most comforting thing she ever learned and for the rest of her life if she was confused or thought you might be mad at her she would sit down and lift up her paw so that you could hold it.  Mom also taught her to stay off of the linoleum floor of the kitchen and Baby Girl obeyed that rule very well.

Baby Girl could have been a “poster child” for Love.  She was the most loving creature I’ve ever met and all she wanted was to be loved in return.

My mom had cancer and one month later took a turn for the worse so I spent a long weekend with my her and was able to spend more time with Baby Girl, who just seemed to get sweeter and sweeter every day.

One month after that my mother passed away and I was back again – I spent a week in her home, just me and Baby Girl, getting everything ready to vacate the house.  Baby Girl and I really bonded and I wanted to take her home with me but our living situation didn’t allow it so one of my brothers took Baby Girl home with him.

Not quite a year later that brother asked if we wanted Baby Girl as she was having issues fitting in to their family.  Our living situation hadn’t changed but we decided to ask the landlord if we could have a dog and just see what would happen, fully expecting a “no” because she was such a large dog.  Amazingly enough the landlord said yes and we were able to bring her home with us!

In the 4 1/2 years that followed she went from being a cautious, scared dog to a very happy one who loved being with us and picked my husband as “her person”.  She became able to be around men, even strangers, without cowing in fear at every sudden movement.

Her greatest joy in life was to sit on the futon with you and put her head in your lap and just lay there while we watched a movie, or sit down next to you and lean all 125 pounds of her self into you, sometimes pushing the chair you were sitting in away several feet…  🙂

She was fascinated by our cat although he snubbed her and did his level best to pretend she didn’t exist, they were so funny to watch together!  Anybody else’s animals she tried to dominate so we had to be really careful outside the house with her.

Baby Girl tolerated going to the Doggy Wash, it was clear she thought she was being punished and didn’t know why but she loved car rides so it was always easy to get her to go.

Just last week we had to put her down.  We spent all day Sunday with her to say goodbye and Monday after work we took her to the vet.  We figure she was about 12 years old, which is long-lived for such a large breed of dog, and the vet said she had bone cancer, which was excruciatingly painful.  It was so much harder than I thought it would be to, chosing to end her life but with the cancer she was headed for a slow and agonizing death.  Going to the vet made her passing super-quick and painless, she just slipped away into doggie heaven with her head on my husband’s lap and me at her side.

We buried her in the back yard along with pieces of our hearts and planted a yellow rose on her grave.  Baby Girl, you were amazing and we will miss you very much!