My baby girl, Layla

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This isn’t my normal blog. But I know I can only go through this whole story once. If I haven’t told you in person, please don’t be offended. I just can’t make it through without crying, and this seemed the best way to let everyone know without losing my sanity. So for my girl, my Layla, this one is for you.

My Dearest Layla,
“Maybe now that daddy’s home, Layla will come home too!!!” That’s what Aaron said the day after your daddy came home for R&R. Oh, if we’d only known.

That picture right above is when we brought you home. Wrapped in a baby blanket, snuggled up, smelling like a puppy. Even after your brothers, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a puppy. We spent so much time choosing you, and when it came down to it, it was your daddy who declared that you were ours. And you were. Patient with the kids, always ready for a snuggle, always such a home-body. Sure, you ventured to the neighbors, but never farther than that. You hated the leash. I remember trying to take a run with you one day, but you kept slithering down the sidewalk like you were a secret agent. You were always happier at home. You loved the sun. You would lay out in the sun as long as we let you, happily stretched out, soaking it in. You hated being cold.

We were so careful with your health. We’d been told that you couldn’t be out in the heat for too long because of the way your nose and throat are shaped. You had to see a vet. A lot. No worries, they all loved you. Everyone loved you. I remember being in Pets Mart when you were just a few weeks old, buying your bed with you, when a lady turned around and smiled at you. “You know they can’t swim.” I asked her what she meant. “English Bulldogs, dear. They can’t swim. We lost ours at a party when someone tossed her into the pool thinking she’d have fun like a lab.” There were so many things to remember about you. Clean your ears regularly because you were prone to ear infections, keep your wrinkles, your adorable wrinkles dry so there would be no infections there. Be careful how fast you eat… You, my dear, were a mess waiting to happen. But my God, we adored you. We adore you still.

6 Months ago today daddy left for Afghanistan. Just a few hours before he left, he took you out to potty. You never came back. Oh baby, we looked. The instant we knew you were missing, my first instinct was to run your dad to the road. I thought for sure you’d gotten out to the Route, and someone would hit you. We spent hours looking for you. Dad pulled back the cover on the pool, even though it had been locked up and closed for the winter. We looked under the deck, drove around the farms behind the house. We looked, baby. I called every shelter. Every animal control. I activated your microchip, hoping someone would pick you up and have you scanned. I put your picture up on Facebook, I put an ad on Craigslist. Your dad drove every street in a five-mile radius. But he had to deploy. I thought for certain, you just felt the stress in the house from the deployment and maybe stepped out for air? I should have known. You were never one to get too far away. In one day, we lost your dad to Afghanistan, and you to the unknown. It was heartbreaking. The next weeks, which turned to months, friends came out. They helped me put your fliers up everywhere. The boys rode in circles on their bikes, calling for you. We talked to every neighbor, and stopped at every farm in the area. I even talked to the transportation department, thinking they drove the roads, maybe they’d seen you? I kept getting told that it was more than likely you’d been stolen, and that no one gives back English Bulldogs. I didn’t think those people understood that I didn’t care how much a new English Bulldog cost, we would have paid any amount just to have you home. I still would.

Within the week of dad leaving, winter set in hard. The temps dropped. The pool froze over. The snows came, and I was so scared for you. I couldn’t stand the thought of you out there in the cold that you hated so much. You were an Alabama puppy. You’d only ever seen the snow once in your life, and to put it mildly, you hadn’t been a fan. But now it was cold, and you still weren’t home. When the temps dropped to -32, I just hoped that someone really had stolen you. That you were somewhere warm.

Last week, the temperatures finally warmed up here. I saw the grass, baby! Your dad was home for mid-tour and when he arrived, everything was still frozen, and by the time he left, the thaw was on. He started helping me do all the neglected chores around here, which you know that I adore him for. I should have known something was wrong when he sat down, when he didn’t speak until your brothers cleared out of the room. Then he sat really close to me and said “Baby, I have to tell you something.” I thought he was going to say something silly after that, like “I love you,” and then laugh. No. Oh, my Layla, my little world crashed down. He had found you.

You were in the pool.

The top layer of ice had finally melted, and your dad went to shock the pool to get it ready to open it, and you were there. Your daddy wouldn’t let me see you. He promised me that it was you, and that the ice had kept you looking just like you. I can’t imagine you any other way. Oh, my Layla. Why the pool? You hated the water. You never went near the pool. Ever. Why? We looked for you there, honey, I promise. I know, even if we’d found you that first look, you would have already been lost to us, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve racked my brain, thinking of how I could have prevented it. You had to have slipped onto the deck from under the stairs, through that tiny spot only a dog could fit through. Everything else was locked for the winter. Freak Accident. That’s what I keep hearing. There was nothing we could have done… that’s what people keep telling me. The pool alarm wouldn’t have helped, because the pool was shut down. The pool couldn’t have been drained because it’s above ground. The GPS tracker I wanted for your collar would have shorted out the moment you hit the water. Bulldogs can’t swim. If I had known this would happen, my Layla, we would never have taken this house. I would have followed you every 2 seconds while you were out pottying. I would have kept you in a damn life preserver your whole life. Baby, I’m so sorry. The whole time, we were out, looking for you, and you were 20 feet away. The whole time I was praying that you were warm. Warm.

You left us just hours before your dad deployed. It was kind of fitting that your daddy brought you home just hours before he left to go back from his R&R. You came home in a little box that would have fit you when we first brought you home as a baby. Layla, I love you. I have thought about you every day since we met your mommy before you were born. I have missed you so much that only another dog-mommy can understand. I made sure that you’re tucked in and safe here with us, and I promise you’ll never be cold again.

We love you, and we miss you terribly.

Bye, baby.

So patient with the kids. Always willing to let them cuddle you, or examine your ears…

“Uhhh…. Hi, mom!”
Her idea of “helping” me fold laundry.
Just checking to make sure Brody is hanging out

Reading with Daddy, one of your favorite places to be. I wonder if this is why you always felt that no matter your weight, you were a lap dog.

The bowls we bought for you were just to big! For your first month or so, we fed you out of the Fondue dishes. You were just so tiny!

Oh, your boys love you. Even now, they ask to see the videos and the pictures. They miss you so much, baby. We all do.

Oh, that right there is why you won us over. So beautiful. I miss you every day.

6 Comments on “My baby girl, Layla”

  1. Katie Garrett

    I know I don't know you, but I'm an Air Force wife, and dog momma too. I found your blog through HWHV and just cried reading this. I am so so sorry.

  2. armystrongspouse

    My heart goes out to you. I too am a bully mommy and understand the care you took and the way they twist around our hearts. Our baby is 6yrs old and became the baby of the family the day we took him home. There is nothing as special as the love a bulldog has for their family. God bless all of you.

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