No one is sure if he's the oldest dog in town, but few would argue that after living the equivalent of 140 human years, one Homer canine deserves a spot in some record book.
At 20 years old, Bailey spent most of his birthday Tuesday dreaming about past adventures, but he has earned those moments of musing. The jet-setting canine with traveling tendencies and on-stage experience has plenty to dream about.
Bailey met Homer artist Mavis Muller in 1981 after an incident the small dog still won't discuss put him on the steps of a U.S. Forest Service office in Idaho. His lineage is a bit of a mystery. With his small stature and large ears, some have said he's quite foxy.
"I always called him the wonder dog," Muller said, "because I wonder what kind of dog he is."
Shortly after their chance encounter, Bailey and Muller moved to Alaska and chose Homer as their home base for the warmer months. Each fall, Bailey would pack his bags and journey with Muller to the Lower 48 for the winter. Rough figures indicate the small dog has flown in some 60 planes, sometimes with a ticket and sometimes not. He's been as far south as Mexico and all over the western states.
"If he had frequent-flyer miles, he would have earned a ticket somewhere really wonderful," Muller said.
Usually, Muller said, Bailey knew to stay in his "furr-ari" a tote bag that fits under her seat. But on one trip when Muller was recovering from a car accident and slept particularly soundly during the flight, she woke up to find he was not in his regular spot.
"I thought 'Oh no,' and then I saw him in the seat next to me, and next to him was a bottle of champagne with a note saying, 'We think your dog is really cute,'" she said.
In his heyday, Bailey was well known around Homer and far beyond. When touring with musicians such as Muller's friend Dana Lyons, Bailey often stole the show by wandering on stage mid-act to take a sip from a musician's water glass. The dog even appeared in a music video with Lyons once.
His popularity became obvious one day while hiking in the desert far from home, Muller said. Bailey ran ahead to visit with some other hikers on the trail when one of the strangers said, "I know this dog. This is Bailey the Wonderdog," she said.
Apparently, the hikers had seen one of his appearances at a concert in Denali.
But beyond all the fame, Bailey is a normal dog, with a propensity for steak, ice cream and field mice, and in his earlier years had a normal dog issue with wandering off on his own.
During his 20 years of life, Bailey has weathered many an injury and ailment, including three major dog maulings, kidney failure and bladder stones. The dog even survived carbon monoxide poisoning once.
These days, he has admittedly slowed down and, like many seniors, is losing his hearing and eyesight. As Muller puts it, the small dog is "one with his pillow and his heating pad."
For his birthday, Muller said she created a scrapbook with photos of Bailey's many adventures. The endeavor was a trip down memory lane that reminded Muller of the tremendous influence having a dog for 20 years can have on a person.
"The bond is like having a child," she said. "At first, it's like having a baby and you are teaching it all these things. Then they hit adolescence. Then they mature and then the aging happens and they are the elder. When you get a pet, you make a commitment to be there the whole course."
For his birthday, friends and acquaintances from all over the country have written to Muller with poems and stories of the dog's former antics, she said.
"I've learned so many lessons from him," Muller said. "Life has many turning points, and he's been by my side through so many of them."
Carey Restino is a reporter for the Homer News.
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