I confess that my dog Lucy died yesterday. I say my, but she was ours, mine and Kristin’s, and we shared her with our two boys. We were up most of the night with her Saturday, and knew that if it didn’t happen any sooner, today would have been the day we had to let her go. While we were at church she pulled her favorite old comforter into her kennel, lay down on it, and that was all she wrote. I found her there when I hurried home from church to check on her, looking peaceful and like she just fell asleep. I was glad for that, and that we could take care of her to the end. Lucy was over 14 years old – a good long life for a Brittany. Her last day was a Sunday, which seems fitting given what a hopeful creature she was… sure was a good dog. We will miss her.
So today’s Monday morning confession will be dedicated to the voracious life of Lucy-dog. I say voracious because she was part goat. For the past few months we knew her liver was failing, which is surely nothing more than evidence that all living things reap what we sow, for Lucy ate, drank, chewed, and attempted to digest nearly anything she could get her paws on. That’s a lot of work for one dog.
I confess that Lucy once ate five raw chicken breasts, seemingly without chewing. They were sitting on the counter, awaiting the grill when the doorbell rang. When my wife returned to the kitchen from a short conversation at the door, they were all gone … and Lucy had a guilty look on her face.
I confess that Lucy’s favorite delicacy was cash-money. When we had house guests we had to warn them to keep their wallets and purses up out of reach. She’d get money out of pockets, from the counter, from bags or purses, shred it to pieces and eat it. Over the fifteen years, we’ve kept an approximate running total. Lucy devoured somewhere just shy of $2000 – $900 of it in one fell-swoop… not ours, either, it belonged to someone living with us at the time.
I confess that Lucy was highly susceptible to shame. Early on when I was still training her, if I caught her doing something she knew she shouldn’t do I would say in a voice of guttural-incredulity, “You put your head down,” stretching the words out as if I couldn’t believe she had just misbehaved. And she would do it. She’d hang her head down toward the ground, skulk around in a circle, and glance up out of the corner of her eye, and then start yawning. You knew you had Lucy good and shamed when she yawned two or three times.
I confess that we took Lucy with us in our three day trek across the country so she could spend eight weeks in a little house in Cape Code during my sabbatical. She spent most of the trip sleeping between the two boys. The house we stayed in didn’t have a fence, and Lucy once escaped one evening and ran over to see if she could scout out the landscape on the far side of Hi-way 6. She was hit by a car on the way, and had to cut her trip short. We heard the screeching of tires about three houses down and Kristin said, “Where’s Lucy.” We looked around… no trace. I started for the road when she came skulking back toward the house, moving pretty slow. I think it broadsided her & she bounced off. She was scraped up, and sore, but not much more worse for the wear. After that day she hated the Cape. Nearly every time we let her outside she would immediately go and stand by the car door and look at us as if to say, “I’m ready to go home now.”
I confess that when our kids were babies, Lucy used to guard them. When they were toddlers, she was a little wary of their energy, and would sometimes try to herd them… I think in order to feel some measure of control over the chaos.
I confess that for the first few years we had Lucy, I would hunt with her a lot. I never saw her more alive than when she was running through a field. She had a lot of natural talent. I used to put the bird wing on the fishing pole and work with her on pointing, not because she needed the work, but because she was incredibly graceful to watch. When Lucy hunted her entire body would hum with reverence. The only problem with our hunting was that I was a terrible shot. She’d work for a bird. I’d miss it. And she’d eye me with disgust as if to say, “Really, I worked for the past two hours and finally put us on a Pheasant and that’s all you got? It’s called ‘leading’ man. Go to the shooting range and learn how to do it.”
I confess that I was a bit vain about Lucy’s appearance, for she was a natural beauty, Lucy was, regal and pretty with perfect markings for a Brittany. She had a good figure, never let herself go, and she always smelled so good. Even when she got old and her head turned almost completely gray, she was still a beautiful dog.
I confess that over time, we may or may not have sung the chorus, “Our dog is an Awesome Dog,” to the tune of Rich Mullins’ famous song. If we did, I’m pretty sure she would know we were singing about her, or maybe with her, and she would wiggle her little docked-tail back and forth. Truth is we had a good six or seven songs we’d sing to Lucy, and she knew the words to all of them. Several may or may not have been about how she would eat her own poop… a habit so gross that it deserved to be immortalized in song.
I confess that I think part of why I am so sad is that during these last few days, I started to get the feeling that as she died, part of what was dying was our youth. Kristin and I got Lucy when we were first married so we could make sure we could care for something that we could still give away if it didn’t work out, before we tried to care for something you couldn’t. We were so young, just come off our first couple years of marriage, and they were hard years. Lots of struggle and growth. Nothing came easy for us in the beginning. After we had spent so much time working on us, it was a joy to be working on something besides us for a bit. We were still proving ourselves, and Lucy’s patience with us while we learned what it meant to love something completely helpless was a real gift. All those years I was on the road, I was always glad that Kristin had somebody to sit with in the evenings, and keep her company. That part of our life is over now, and we’re working on a whole different level of complexity. I think perhaps, in some way, Lucy kept us tethered to that time of youth and innocence. As I mourn her death, I think I’m mourning the passing of time just as much.
I confess that what I think I loved most about Lucy was that she didn’t have a mean bone in her body, which is more than I can say for any person I’ve met. She was a gentle dog with people and other animals. I never once saw her angry. I think this might have been owing to the fact that she was interminably curious, and up for anything. She could take a nap or make a ruckus. She could lie in the sun alone, or keep you company… didn’t much matter which, although she always preferred to be with her people. Every night about three in the morning, she’d start batting at the door of her kennel, announcing that she had had enough sleeping alone for one night. We’d let her out and she would promptly jump up on the bed and snuggle up in between Kristin and I, and snore. I will miss her for sure, and always wish she could have been around a little bit longer.
I confess that I’m still pretty sad today, and that I am unashamed of loving an animal as much as I loved that crazy dog. All of Gods creatures are a gift, and we count ourselves lucky to have been Lucy-dog’s family.