by Teresa Lynch
Even when her daughter was a little girl, Rachel Bailey’s mother knew that Rachel would have a big heart for animals. Some time around age four or five, Rachel began insisting on hauling stray dogs into the car on the way home because as she saw it “they had no home.” And being raised on her family’s cattle farm far out in the Missouri countryside, there was no shortage of animals – especially dogs.
In the years when Rachel lived on her family’s farm, she helped with caring for a number of these homeless pets, but it wasn’t until she began college that she started rescuing them on her own. With a busy graduate school life and travel both to conferences and home, taking care of pets can be a challenging task. Rachel found herself earlier this year with four dogs: Shane, Percy, Penny, and Petey. The first one to be adopted by Rachel was Shane, a friendly mutt with at least a bit of German and Australian shepherd. Next came Percy, a dachshund with an incredibly sweet disposition. Penny and Petey, her other two dachshunds, were given to her as gifts and despite not being so, act as if they are brother and sister. For years, Rachel coordinated their care when she was away, made sure she lived in a place with yard space, and doted upon them whenever she could.
But, there’s a harsh reality to being a rescue owner. Although Shane lived to an old age, passing away earlier this year, many rescued pets suffer from ailments and complications brought about by abuse or neglect. Percy, suffered from terrible arthritis and had to be carried nearly everywhere for the first year she had him. He unexpectedly and suddenly passed away earlier this year possibly from degenerative myelopathy, a deteriorating spinal disease. The loss of her two pets was understandably difficult, but that didn’t stop Rachel from agreeing to provide a home to her newest rescue named after the Goonies pirate, One-Eyed Willie.
One-Eyed Willie is also a dachshund, fitting in nicely with Penny and Petey. He’s even the same color. And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, he only has one eye. The vet speculates that Willie was either born without the eye or lost it when he was a very young puppy. Either way, it doesn’t cause him any pain now.
When she lost Shane and Percy earlier this year, an acquaintance (a fellow rescuer) contacted Rachel about taking the then unnamed, one-eyed dog who had been rescued from a destitute rescue kennel. The woman described the dog as a hopeless case, but Rachel was up for the task. Or, so she thought.
The next few months proved to be quite trying. Willie had obviously been terribly abused, fearfully biting Rachel any time she tried to pet him. He was good at hiding and very fast, making it difficult for her to keep tabs on him. In effort to get him used to her and his new home, Rachel kept crates in three different locations throughout her house. These crates effectively became safe spaces from where Willie could watch the action, but still feel hidden. Over time, he began to creep out of the crates, although he still has to be fed alone. The sweet dog that Willie is deeper down has started showing. Rachel says he loves soft toys, but will only play with them when he thinks he’s not being watched. “I look at him sometimes and I think ‘Who are you?’ He’s got this whole little world I don’t know about.”
Penny and Petey have definitely accepted him into the family, sleeping in a big dachshund pile whenever possible. Overall, Rachel says she and Willie just adapted to each other, learned to coexist. But, as she told me about her (not-entirely-futile) attempts to get him used to the eye patch her mom made for him, I could tell that One-Eyed Willie definitely has a spot in his heart for her, although it’s likely not as big as the spot she has developed for him.