Monday, November 30, 2009
I lost my best friend on Sunday. While we only had her for four years, her impact on our family was in much greater proportion than her size.
In my 64 years, I have always had large dogs. When our Rottwieller had to be put to sleep because of advanced arthritis, I felt that we should not have another dog. Losing a pet is like losing a family member, and in my late fifties, I did not want to deal with any more losses.
After more than a year, my college age daughter brought home a tiny little furball named Lucy Belle. A Silky Terrier puppy, she was not much bigger than my hand. I had no experience with small dogs, other than yappy little ankle biters. Lucy, however, did not fit that description from the very beginning.
Like all Silky Terriers, Lucy topped out at about 14 pounds. However, she thought she was a big dog. All of her neighborhood canine friends are big, including Ava the Retriever, Charlie the German Shepherd, Beau the Yellow Lab and Wrigley the Boxer mix. Our extended family also includes larger dogs, especially my oldest son’s two rescue Dobermans. Lucy fit right in, playing with them, and tearing up the yard with the best of them. They accepted her as an equal, and all of them became fast friends.
Lucy loved company, and on our many walks, made friends with all of the neighborhood children. She would play ands run with the older ones, and was very gentle and affectionate with the younger ones. Many small dogs are nervous around children, but Lucy loved kids of all ages. Her soft and luxurious coat was an invitation to them to pet and cuddle with her, and she loved the attention.
She also assumed the duties of watchdog, and pest control expert. No one could approach the house without our little dog bell letting us know, and she stopped the local rabbits from eating my wife’s flowers and plants. She played roughhouse with our young grandson, and enjoyed tug-of-war, fetch, and tag with anyone who would join in. But it was her impact on my health that I will miss most.
2008 was my year without a summer. For me, summer meant lots of camping with the Scouts, training new adult leaders in Scouting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities. However, beginning that May, I had a stroke, heart attack, and quadruple bypass surgery. Upon my release from the hospital, my first physical challenge was to walk, made difficult by my substantial weight loss (dropping from 175 to 135 pounds), and leg pain from the stripping of veins for the bypass.
Lucy became my physical therapist. Our walks were the first step in my recovery. She somehow knew that I was not the same person I was before, and was patient as I slowly built up my endurance. The first walks were only four or five houses from home, and at a very halting pace. As August turned to September, we were walking a mile, at a rate close to that prior to my medical issues. When I began my cardiac rehab sessions in September, the staff were surprised that I had already progressed to that point. I could only say that my little friend Lucy encouraged me to work on regaining my strength.
More than a year has passed since I graduated from cardiac classes. This past summer, I again went camping with my grandson, attended baseball and basketball games, helped coach Little League, and resumed my Scouting activities. While all of these activities are part of my life, what I looked forward to each day were the walks with our little girl. They provided me with both physical exercise, and a chance to reflect on what is important. Family first, community and friends, my faith, and all of the issues of the day are worthy of thought, and are best shared with good friends who don’t pass judgment or criticize, but simply accept who you are. Lucy fit all of this, and more.
Lucy charged out of the house this past Sunday, perhaps to chase a rabbit, and out into a street. She didn’t make it across. Like all Terriers, she was a sight hunter, and if locked onto a target, ignored everything else. The emergency room veterinarian did all he could, but her internal injuries were too severe, and she passed away without a sound.
We lost our eldest daughter in October. As my Grandson and I left the animal hospital, he said that he thought Aunt Kim was now walking Lucy. He said he was glad that Lucy had a friend in heaven, waiting to take care of her.
I have loved all of the dogs we have had over the years, but Lucy will remain special to me. A tiny dog with the heart of a lion, and a true friend who helped me regain my health, leading me to what I call my “bonus year”. Thank you for being part of our family, my little friend. You will remain in my repaired heart for the rest of my days.