Night Out With The Man Who Loves Dogs

The man who loves dogs (who doesn’t?),

Las Cruces, New Mexico, September 2011


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Photos and Text by Bruce Berman

Las Cruces NM —

Gary Bailey.

Mensch (in Yiddish it means “a person of integrity and honor”).

He is the man who loves dogs. One of them.

He rescued all five of these. The manager of his trailer park asked him if he’d take on the three small ones. Gary was leaving the park, and the owner of the dogs had passed on and left them behind.

He said “yes.” He rescued them. He’s done it before. This is not the first ones. The big one, he rescued nine years before after “…he was beaten near to death,” Mr. Bailey relates, shaking his head, acknowledging the world of man but not really understanding how that could be.

After a time, Mr. Bailey was back in Las Cruces. He went back to the trailer park. He liked living there. His dogs liked it too and no one bothered him or them there. The manager, the same one, would not allow him back.

“We have a three dog limit,” he said, “you have five. Can’t let you back in”

Thanks a lot, right?

In disbelief, he moved on, found another place, another lesson, about Man, learned.

The world of dogs, it seems,  is better, safer, more rational, and certainly more fun.

We talk. He shows me how to “introduce myself” to a dog. He talks about them and their manners and how good they are, and how they recover from the worst and how long that takes but how they don’t hold grudges. They stay in the car without being asked to do so. No discipline problem for them, that’s what you give back to a mensch.

For “kicks,” twice a week, Gary Bailey takes his dog “posse” to Mc Donald’s for burgers.

When I pull into the parking lot, I noticed the dogs, and noted that there was no human around. They were waiting, eagerly and with discipline, for something, or someone, outside the McDonald’s on University Boulevard in Las Cruces, New Mexico. A guy comes out touting two bags of something in a bulging McDonald’s bag. He carefully takes out wrapped burgers, the dogs eagerly awaiting, but not budging from their spots hanging over the back seat of the car, on a ledge, almost like a stage designed for this very purpose. He opens the bag, pulls out its contents, all burgers, and lays them in their wrapped paper out on the back of the car, each a perfect rectangle. He places the burgers dead square in the middle of each one. He works methodically. The dogs are, amazingly, silent, eager, propped up, high on their platform, waiting, excited, tails waging to the point of almost stirring a breeze. He pulls out a twelve inch hunting knife and with precision cuts each burger into perfect parts of nine. He feeds them, carefully handing each eager dog, his perfectly portioned share, careful that no dog receives more than another, except for the larger one, who gets a little more.

“He’s larger, needs more to keep going,” Gary explains.

They are happy. Delirious, really. They seem to smile. He does for sure. He looks even happier than they do.

It’s a grand night out on the town for everyone and everyone is happy. Me too.

Finally, dinner over with, he takes the remaining paper, wraps it up, puts it back in the bag, walks over to the trash container and disposes of it, returns to the car, stands back, smiling, and, like someone who has just finished a masterpiece, watches as the dogs finish consuming their “happy meals (indeed!).”

“They like ’em,” he says, “and they’re good for them.” He pauses, aware of the irony of what he is about to say, but confident in its truth, “Those dogs are just a little better than a lot of people, ain’t they? And the burgers,” he muses, “they’re a whole lot better for ’em than dog food. They deserve it.”

They do, and he deserves them. They’re better than a lot of people.

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