She was one of twelve littermates when we chose her fifteen years ago and believe me, twelve Dalmatian puppies can seem like “a hundred and one” when they come tumbling into a room. They were six weeks old and (remember the movie…) their spots were just beginning to appear. The chubby female leading the pack promptly climbed into my wife’s lap and the selection process was over. It was as if she said, “I’m the one you came for. Quit looking at these other guys. Come on, come on, lets go!”
We named her “Lucy” and she took over the house immediately. Every rug was her personal bathroom, every shoe her dearest teething toy. Oh, we had rules, it was just that none of them mattered. Lucy went wherever she wanted to go and slept wherever she wanted to sleep.
Before long, at least, Lucy began to prefer the outdoors to “do her business”, but the house was still her personal fiefdom. She was just as comfortable eating our dinner from the table as she was eating her food from a bowl on the floor. Lucy would start every night on her own blanket in the corner of the bedroom, yet somehow manage to quietly make her way into our bed and UNDER OUR COVERS every single night. On Polly’s side, of course.
We let her get away with it all. If Lucy had been human, she would have been a con artist. I still think about her and marvel. Of all the dogs I’ve had in my life, she wasn’t the smartest. Or the prettiest or the strongest. Or the best watchdog. It is odd, I know. Lucy wasn’t the best at anything…she was just the best, period, my favorite of all time. She was pure love in a fifty pound sack of spots.
Polly and I had only been together a few years when Lucy came into our lives and, as I remember, neither of us were paragons of compromise at that time. We loved each other fiercely, but disagreements were frequent as we navigated the uncharted waters of early- married life.
Lucy was Solomon-like in her ability to love us both and never take sides. She would console Polly after a dispute, listening without agreeing, understanding without approving. And of course she quietly counseled me in similar circumstances. Many times during those days, I feel certain that Lucy heard one of us say something hurtful about the other that we probably should not have said. But she never took sides, never told one what the other had said, and was quick to dismiss our anger in any event.
She was at her best when Austin and Adam were born. We still watch videos of Lucy greeting each of them as we came home from the hospital. They grew into toddlers, pulling on her ears, crawling on her back and she was never grouchy, never impatient. Lucy swam with Polly, ran the beach with the boys, and wrote several books with me.
As good as she was though, Lucy was never able to conquer the extreme addiction she had to food. Any food. Her food, your food, the cat’s food, and anything that looked like food. Never mind trying to hide something or keeping it locked away. Once, after having their sack lunches stolen for several days, construction workers next door caught Lucy jumping through the cab window of their pick-up truck and back out again with their lunch bags in her mouth.
She unwrapped Christmas presents that had food in them and would eat the paper, too. She consumed soap, liver, lettuce, onions, lemons, dead fish, and live bees. The dog was absolutely unapologetic in her brazen quest for one more bite. Lucy just couldn’t help herself. She would take a popsicle off the stick in a child’s hand or look you in the eye as she snatched the ribeye from your plate. It was a sickness. We knew it wasn’t her fault so we just learned to live with it.
Then, there was the ham. It was a big, beautiful HoneyBaked gift from Aunt Barbara that had been delivered to our front porch by Mark, the UPS man at about four o’clock one afternoon. Well before five o’clock, Lucy had chewed a head sized hole in that box and eaten the entire ham. The entire nine-pound ham. She ate it with her head still inside the box and left a bone about the size of my thumb when she was finished. Yes sir, I am still amazed that a fifty-pound dog could eat a nine-pound ham. How would you like to eat 20% of your body weight at one sitting?
There are enough “Lucy stories” to fill a book and one day, I might do just that. Everyone loved that dog. When we decided to put an invisible electric fence around our yard to discourage Lucy’s increasingly wide-ranging food robberies, Dave and Maryann next door insisted we put the fence around their property too. Just so she could visit. Many were the evenings we’d call at bedtime for Dave to send Lucy home.
Kevin and Glenda kept Lucy at their house several years ago when we evacuated for Hurricane Ivan. And when our house was destroyed, she stayed with them for more than a year. Now that I think about it, very few dogs can claim more than one family as their own, but Lucy could.
Her birthday was Thanksgiving (which seemed appropriate in several ways) and we were fortunate to mark fourteen of those before Lucy was gone. I learned a lot with Lucy. I learned a lot from her, too. She was a great example for me about how to greet people and was a constant reminder about how to treat my wife. Don’t think that I didn’t thank her for those lessons and her unyielding devotion to my family as she took her last breaths. I was with her at that moment, you know—when she closed her eyes, sweet head in my lap, and just went to sleep.
It has actually been a while now that Lucy has been gone, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make an official announcement—write or say anything—until today. It was tough for a while (especially as Adam continued to pray for “God to bring Lucy back alive”) but the heartache has slowly been replaced with a wonder at how blessed we were to have been her family. What an incredible part of our life that crazy dog became!
As you might suspect, we’re beginning to think now of a successor. Obviously, whoever the new pooch turns out to be, he or she will have impossibly large paws to fill. And I’m sure that we will fall in love immediately and begin to make room in our hearts for a new “character”. That having been said, we understand that the new dog might turn out to be smarter or better behaved or have a more manageable appetite. But the new dog won’t be better…
Because Lucy was the best.