Thursday, March 28, 2024

Bailey Tuckerman Kent 2010-2024

After the Hike

Bailey died peacefully at home this morning. I was right there by his side. When long-distance hikers take a day off from the trail, it's called a "Zero Day." After hiking and running many mountain trails over the course of his long, happy life, Bailey has earned his Zero.  

Eight weeks. 

We had the best veterinarian care here in Rumford throughout Bailey's life. My brother Fred, his wife Pam, and the staff at Countryside Animal Hospital treated Bailey like a prince and helped this neurotic Dog Dad survive the many struggles, real or imagined, of dog ownership. When Fred retired, I worried. But in came Dr. Terry Mickols with her professionalism, care, and love, plus 30 years of experience. Her staff members are ready with big smiles, kindness, and treats galore for food-centric pups like Bailey. 

When I brought Bailey's remains up to the hospital this morning, we all shed tears and hugs. Dr. Mickols and her staff have endured a pandemic and a catastrophic flood...and kept on serving our community's pets. We're so lucky. If you haven't noticed, the new Rumford Animal Hospital is now under construction.

The River Valley Dog Whisperer

Sharon Madore loves Bailey and her other pups with all of her heart. And we love her. Whenever I drove Bailey down Porter Avenue to stay at Sharon's home,  he would throw his head out the window, bark in celebration and whimper in anticipation. He loves his Aunt Sharon and her kindhearted husband Mike. We're so lucky to have them in our lives.  


Of the 2000+ mountain trails we hiked, Bailey and I went up every active ski area in Maine except for Fort Kent (after hiking Big Rock Ski Area in Mars Hill, I spaced out and headed south...duh). We also hiked several "lost" ski areas in Maine. The most fun: Evergreen Valley Ski Area (ME) closed in 1983. Since 2019, we traveled throughout New England in The Rig to hike small-town ski areas in the offseason. Some favorites include the Middlebury Snowbowl (VT), Mount Pisgah Ski Area (NY), Burke Mountain Ski Area (VT), Dartmouth College Skiway (NH), Willard Mountain Ski Area (NY), Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic XC Trails (NY), Bretton Woods (NH), the Nansen Ski Jump (NH), Lyndon Outing Club (VT), Beartown Ski Area (NY)... 

"I'm spoiled": Bailey's bed in The Rig

We live in the western mountains of Maine and can walk out the back door of our home onto a mountain trail. Our favorites in the area, most within about 30 minutes, include Rumford's Whitecap Mountain, Black Mountain Ski Resort, Mt. Zircon, Bald Mountain/Speckled Mountain, Puzzle Mountain, Tumbledown Mountain, Little Jackson, Fireplace Trail on Center Hill, Blueberry Mountain, Bald Mountain (Weld & Oquossoc), Mystery Mountain, Glassface Mountain, Red Hill, Dunns Falls off the AT, Lollapalooza Trail on Sunday River, the AT off Height of Land...  

Sonke & William, 2015

Over the past 14 years, Bailey and I have hosted 20+ international exchange students, some for a year, others on a temporary basis. Bailey loved those boys... He'd chase them around the house or play soccer in the yard. I "trained" Bailey to run upstairs to wake up the boys for school in the morning... he loved that chore. Sonke and William (2015) were the last two kids to come back and visit in the summer of 2023, so I've included their picture here. 

Bailey upta camp in Weld

When we'd head up to camp in Weld to visit family, Bailey would leap out of the car and slink into the brook. Then, he'd swim up into the lake. He always looked good after swimming in Webb Lake...then, of course, he'd roll in sand, pine pitch, and needles. My smart boy... 

Mystery Mountain, December 2023

Typical Bailey on the trail. Smiling and sniffing. One fun aspect of hiking with B is watching him greet other hikers. I'd call up trail, "Are you OK with a dog?" Most hikers would call back, "Yes!" and off Bailey would go to say hello. Actually, he was looking for treats, but the hikers didn't know. 

We loved hiking in the rain... 

If you know Berners, you know they love snow. 

Rasmus and Bailey at UMaine

Bailey loved loved loved the University of Maine. My office building, Shibles Hall, was like smorgasbord in his mind. He'd run from office to office to office picking up treats from different friends. I took him to the university in August of 2010 as a 12-week old. We were walking on the great grassy area known as the mall when a mass of Black Bear football players headed to eat at the Union. "It's a puppy!" one of them yelled. Next thing you know, a half dozen gargantuan man-boys were on the ground rolling around with Bailey. He had the time of his life with those guys.  

Bailey and the Moose
"That's a big dog!"

We took our last hike on March 3rd up the Yellow Trail on Whitecap to the saddle and down. I still never learned to take a decent selfie. 

Bailey contemplating life on Black Mountain

Our days had a similar rhythm: I'd read, he'd bark at me for reading. I'd write, he'd bark at me at 10am for his treats (carrots). After lunch, we'd hike. Most days we'd fit in a walk around the neighborhood to stretch our legs and say hello to friends, both two- and four-legged. I loved watching him run up the hill to say hello to our next-door neighbors, Paula and Carlo Puiia.  This morning, I wrote Carlo and told him about Bailey's death and asked if he'd help me lift him into my car. "I'll be down in 5 minutes," he wrote right back. That's what good neighbor-friends do. I'll never forget his kindness.   

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Vet visit

We went to see Dr. Mickols today with her assistant Sarah. I expected Bailey to be put down. His heart has improved, but he's not eating. 

The vet said, "If Bailey were my dog, I'd try these two medications..." I agreed. Prednisone and a stomach drug.  This is after Sarah the tech, Terry the vet, and Richie the weepy dad, all shed a few tears. They're so good to him and to me. If by Monday he's not improved, that will be the final sign. 

I'd love for Bailey to have a real old man retirement, but I swore he's not going to suffer. These meds will make him feel more comfortable and may get him to eat... he needs to get stronger. That's the news.  

Monday, March 25, 2024

Fig Newtons, whipped cream, and dog biscuits

Scrambled eggs, crackers and cheese, burger, chicken

Bailey has stopped eating regularly. He's not interested in any of the protein-packed delights I've fed him recently like burger, chicken, pork loin, yogurt... Today, he had a few dog biscuits with cheese and three Fig Newtons. Watch his eyes as he eats this fruit-filled beauties!

You may need to let this video clip download over time
to see Bailey eating Fig Newtons... :-) 

Bailey and the Snowstorm

We got two feet of snow on Sunday, the 24th, in an all-day storm. Thank goodness for snowplows and shovels with back-saving, angled handles. I probably spent 3 hours shoveling around the van in the driveway and out back on the deck and through the poop yard. Loads of fun! 

Snow Boy


Monday, March 18, 2024

Saying Hi to Neighborhood Pals and a Burst of Energy!

Finn and Kobe

Depending on the walk we take in the neighborhood, we see a different crew of dog friends. Two of our favorites are Kobe and Finn. Other favorites include Duke and Stella, Delilah, Anna, Grif, and so many nameless dogs who bark at us from their windows or chains.     

Last night, I checked in with my brother, Fred, about food for Bailey. He suggested beef broth on the burger I fry for Bailey, He lapped it up. I gave him the same this morning. And what happened? I was answering email and heard a bark... and another. Bailey came prancing into my room with Charlie, his toy chicken. It's the first time in 2 weeks that he's tried to play with me and his toys. So very cool to see the old boy back, even for a morning.   

Let's play! 

Bailey and Charlie the Chicken

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Still my writing assistant


In the dining room

I moved downstairs to write a two weeks ago so Bailey wouldn't have to go up and down the stairs so often during the day. Now, it's just one up and one down each day. Because of his hips that may be coming to an end, too. I didn't mean to look stern or sad in this picture above; I just thought smiling might be wrong... like on our last hike back on March 3rd. 

The Last Hiking Selfie, I suspect.  


The Great Escape


The Escapee. 

Bailey seems to like to wander these days. Twice, he's gone down into my neighbor's yard to hang out in the sunshine. Maybe he misses the adventure of the trail. I write a bit more on this phenomena a few blogs later. I've read about old dogs and their need to be outside as they grow old. He spends more time outside now sitting in the snow than he ever has previously. He looks a bit lonely but at the same time looks interested in what's happening.  I now tie him with a clothesline rope... he's not skillful with that as you'll see below. 

All on his own in the backyard. 

Not a master with the rope. 

He looks some pathetic in this picture. 



Medicine line up. 

Bailey has pills for his heart arrhythmia, his liver, and his arthritis. Two weeks ago when he was coughing a lot because of his collapsed trachea, I fed him Tussin DM to stop the coughing. What a mess as I tried to toss a little cup of the raspberry liquid down his throat. He'd spit it up and drool. Poor boy. Eventually, he stopped eating his kibble, and he also stopped coughing a lot. Maybe crumbs of the kibble got stuck in his throat.       


Cheese & Crackers

What's been difficult these past 2 weeks has been finding food that Bailey will eat. He may well just feel miserable, so nothing tastes good. Or, he might be old-guy picky.  I know that feeling. He'll eat some hamburger, and he definitely loves dog biscuits. One discovery has been that disgusting cheese in a can spread on a Saltine Cracker (above)... he loves them. 

Pork loin... yum. 

The Smorgasbord
Trying different foods, including yogurt, which he used to 
love; chicken, rice, and cheese

Fresh Burger for the boy.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Bailey's Health

Here's Bailey as heart disease and
hip issues take their toll. 

Over the past nine days, Bailey has been battling numerous health issues. On Sunday, March 3, we hiked up into the saddle at Whitecap Mountain. The next day he spent most of his day with Sharon at daycare. He sat in a snow bank. As I sit here tonight, I'm thinking that Sunday hike may have been his last. I'm not saying he's going to die tomorrow; he's ill, that's for sure. I hope he'll get back to the point where he's a retired hiker and old gentleman...a.k.a.,  a good dog. Time will tell. 

He sleeps 90% of the day and is struggling with his hips. He's finicky about eating, though this evening I cooked some pork loin for him and he liked that. I've been to the Vet's 3 times and they're great. One step at a time. I had the hard conversation about euthanasia on Thursday, but Dr. Mickols said, "We're not there yet." I asked her technician what Bailey could eat... she said, with a small smile, "Whatever he wants." 

At this point in his illness, Bailey is sitting outside in snowbanks a lot. Sometimes he's looking around as life floats by; at other times, he's  sleeping. I keep an eye on him out through the dining room window where I usually do my morning reading. This morning, I got up from my chair five or six times to check on him. More time passed and I looked out again, no Bailey. I looked through all the various windows around the house and then grabbed a pair of shoes to run around the house in the snow. 

In the distance, I saw him trek through the woods into my neighbor Cindy's yard. He lay down in the sunshine on her front lawn. I stepped through the trees and bushes and got to him. He looked at me like, "Really? Can't a guy just take a nap?" Hand on his harness, I led him down to the road and up Prospect Avenue to our driveway. Not sure if this a sign of aging and dementia, or boredom from not hiking for 10 days. 

Last Friday, he walked 2 miles, including a loop at the base at Black Mountain Ski Resort. Other days, like today, he's walked less than a mile. Not that anyone needs to read this, but he didn't poop for 6 days.

As I write here in the dining room, he's asleep on the carpeted floor. He's had a good dinner of pork loin  and a big handful of dog cookies. I had hot dogs, beans, and apple sauce. We took a 30-minute ride in the van to charge up the batteries. Nowadays, he rests on multiple cushions between the driver's seat and the passenger seat. I scratch his ear and feed him dog biscuits. 

This decline has been fast, but not unexpected. I'm selfishly hoping he makes his 14th birthday in May, but I won't let him suffer. He's too much of a good dog to end his life that way.  

One of my favorite pictures after hiking Whitecap.

Hiking Mystery Mountain, December 2023. He looks so damned 
happy in the picture. Probably knows a treat is in his future. 

This is the first time Bailey looked like an old dog to me. 
Must have been around 2021. 

First check up in July 2010.
He likes that lady doctor. :-) 


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Reader report and revision

Anne and me in 2017 at the Maine Writing Project's
20th Anniversary Celebration 

My friend and former doctoral student, Anne Miller, agreed to read a new draft of my novel, Sing On, Maine United! Anne's a curriculum coordinator as well as an expert on young adult literature after a good deal of time as a high school librarian. She took over my young adult literature class back when I had my hands full, and she became a real star in that role. 

Here's Anne's response to my draft book:

Hi Rich,

I have just finished reading Sing On and want to say first, yes, absolutely, it has legs!

The focal characters - the team - come across as living, breathing teenage boys with all the contrasts that define being an adolescent - boundless energy and the ability to sleep anywhere, bathroom humor and astonishing maturity, quick to judge and just as quick to forgive. 

Although at moments I wished the setting were present day because today's readers will be baffled at life without cell phones, I concluded by the end that the setting works. The boys really don't seem different from today's teens. Their playfulness and camaraderie, and love of soccer are authentic and will speak to current teens. I think athletes  will appreciate the sporty parts of the story, whether they are soccer players or not. I enjoyed the chapters about the games and could mostly follow the more specific details about soccer. It was the actions and reactions of the players that interested me most, like Jimmy's flip throws and the excitement they generated, the way the teams would swap players at the half, and the appreciation for others' skills that came through in journals and team discussions.

I see Andrew as the main character, at least for the first half or so until Louis is mugged. Andrew is incredibly likeable - almost to a fault.  If he is the protagonist, who or what is the antagonist? Is it Coughman? I thought so at first, but Andrew doesn't really have any more conflict with Coughman than the rest of the team. So, is Louis the main character with the problem to overcome . . . anger, sadness, lacking social skills, a mom who is unstable. . . the crisis of the mugging turns both he and his teammates around, seeing each other and their own actions in new ways. I was riveted by this part of the story and the outpouring of kindness when the boys sing in the tube station to raise money for Coughman. 

I would  enjoy seeing Amanda's character developed a bit more. More of her thoughts and emotions as she plays the older sister to the team might be appealing to a female reader. The budding romance with Dante could also be developed. I had visions of a bunch of the team sneaking out at night to meet the Italian girls, running in to Amanda and Dante who are on a date, then realizing Coughman was missing and they find him in the park . . .  

The whole team is so well behaved - a little more mischief from kids who are essentially  good but who are, in fact, teenagers, might enhance their relatability (is that a word?)

Back to Coughman's mom for a moment. She is kind of the villain, isn't she, apparently having made Louis' life miserable. His dad mentions "getting her help" after the crisis of the mugging. Has he known before now that she has a mental illness or has it just become evident to him? Is Louis figuring it out? It is clear that her terrible behavior stems from the illness - something that wasn't talked about or understood very well in the 80's. Could Louis come to understand this a bit more, perhaps with guidance from someone who has experience with a friend or relative with mental illness? 

Georgia/George is really interesting! S/he represents one piece of the big city picture that is so new and exciting and shocking an scary and fun for the Maine boys. I like how George and his family become part of the team at the end. 

And lastly, I love the singing soccer players and the characterization of these all - star athletes as multi-talented, multifaceted people. Their music brings people together and heals wounded and broken hearts. Did you have a team that really sang together like that? Real or not, it's very cool and just lovely. And a YA story should, in my view, ultimately be uplifting and hopeful, and your story is all that and more. 

Sing on, Dr. Kent! You've got a gem here and I look forward to seeing it on bookstore shelves!



I felt inspire by Anne's comments, and as a result I added about 2000 words to the manuscript by building Amanda's character, writing a scene where 3 of the hockey-playing, soccer boys get caught out on the town with four Italian girls (Hmm, where did that idea come from?), straightening out Mrs. Coughman's illness, and adding a draft "Author's Note" at the beginning of the book to help ground 21st century readers: 

Author’s Note--Draft

This story takes place in April of 1989. That month, the first pocket-sized mobile phone appeared. Cost? About $3000. Not surprisingly, very few people owned portable phones at the time. In 1989, the concept of the World Wide Web came on the scene. Although the Internet materialized in 1983, public access to the Internet didn't occur until 1991. And texting? No texting. How did we stay in touch? We left notes on the kitchen counter, and phone booths could be found all over the place and especially in big cities like London. In April of 1989, a fatal human crush at a soccer match in England killed nearly 100 people.

I also had Bobby or one of the guys make fun of Andrew for being just a hair bit too perfect. It's a playful addition. 

Our Last Hike... March 3, 2024H

Our last trail selfie. 

 We hit 53 degrees today on Whitecap. The Yellow trail is weighted down in ice on the hills, but on the gentler slopes and snowmobile trails, the hardpacked snow allows the microspikes to work flawlessly. On the way down the Yellow trail, I held Bailey upright with a leash connected to his harness to prevent him from slipping on the icy downs. I battled sections of the trail where I'd posthole, but for the most part, we both did fine. 

About 10 days ago, we visited the vet and Dr. Mickols recommended I feed Bailey protein like beef, chicken, and turkey, along with low-fat, low sugar, yogurt. He loves it and is getting a bit spoiled. 

"What's up?" 

Connector Trail bridge

Heading up the Yellow Trail on Whitecap

Connector Trail

Ski Glades

Farther up on Yellow

Steeps on the snowmobile trail;
I helped Bailey on the way down using
his harness and a leash. 

"What's taking you so long?" 

Top of the Saddle

The other side of the Saddle looking northwest

Notice the smile? He just pooped.
A happy dog. 

On the descent.