remembering Lucy, or the cool thing about dogs
I still miss my dog. Two full years ago today, she slipped away.
I had always wanted a greyhound. Many people think they are funny looking, but I always thought that they were beautiful. They are elegant and lithe yet powerful, like a ballet dancer. I asked for one as a kid and was told, “Those dogs don’t make good pets.” Fortunately, many people believed otherwise and created adoption groups to give these magnificent beasts a chance at a life with a family after their grueling early years at kennels and racetracks.
So in 1999, I contacted a greyhound adoption group and went to meet Lucy. She had that lovely sculpted greyhound shape and her coat was a tawny gold with black brindle spots. And she had those huge brown doggy eyes – you know the kind. She seemed small, shy and afraid. We brought her home and she remained tentative and quietly obedient.
Then one day, in her little doggy kibble brain, she decided that this new home was going to be ok. It was then that we met the real Lucy. Beneath her quiet, graceful greyhound beauty lived a heart of clumsy goofiness, extreme silliness and fierce mother-bear love. We learned that what we thought was a shy personality was in truth, a dog who becomes deeply attached to her people. She hadn’t been a shy dog, a “spook” as some shy greys are called, she was simply confused and grieving. But no more.
She was made of unrestrained love and unrestrained passion. She was always ravenous – for attention, for food, for connection. She loved “walkies”, mostly for the attention she inevitably received. If she spotted another person a block or two away her tail would start spinning and her head would be bobbing, as if she was saying, “I greet you this fine morning! Now, you may adore me!” And people always did.
She loved to eat. If we would have allowed it she could have been the fattest greyhound on record. But we kept her weight at a fairly steady “pet weight”, which is much heavier than racing weight which allows you to play their jutting ribs like a xylophone. Even so, first thing in the morning she would push me downstairs with her bicycle seat shaped head on my behind, right into the kitchen to her dish. “I’m starving,” she’d whine. “I didn’t think I’d make it till dawn.” Big brown dog eyes. This is a dog who once ate an entire box of Milkbones, making her look like a a bloated Macy’s parade balloon with skinny legs dangling down.
She was brave. The adoption groups work hard to make sure adoptive families understand greyhound quirks. They emphasize that greyhounds are not good watchdogs. Lucy proved that to be true. Her love for people would have caused her to invite absolutely anyone in to take whatever they wanted. She was a people pleaser, that dog. But there was one day when my (then) teen-aged daughter was home alone and two men came to the door. Lucy, the dog who never met a stranger, barked and barked and barked for the first time ever. Somehow she figured out that a teenage girl home alone with two intruders was not a good scenario. Smart girl! She couldn’t have understood that the two men were kind and harmless Mormon missionaries out to bring us good news from the planet Kolob. Nevertheless, we were very proud of her.
She craved companionship. She was lonely when I worked so we got her a dog. Shiner was our second greyhound, a sweet submissive guy whose passion came out while running in track-shaped circles in the backyard. Lucy whipped him right into shape, fully embracing her role as the alpha dog. Shiner excelled at being the auxiliary dog- our emergency back up dog.
He’s moved up to main dog now. After Lucy died, he was confused about this for a long time. He actually enjoyed having her there to tell him when to eat and where to poop in the yard. He misses her. He has been slow to embrace his new status.
In early December 2006, Lucy became sick with what we thought was yet another bout of pancreatitis. Once again she came to me, head hanging low, leaning her weight against me. That was her “I don’t feel well” posture. We scheduled her for a vet appointment that afternoon.
I let her out into her yard before we left. Through my kitchen window, I watched my sweet, funny old dog walking up the railroad tie steps from the backyard toward the house. The fur on her face had turned all white with age and her dark almond eyes stood out in bright contrast. It was an icy, grey day and she stepped gingerly around the patchy snow. The grey skies cast a bit of an other-worldly aura. Somehow I sensed that I was watching her come up from her yard for the last time. It seemed like she was already walking on different soil. I took her in for her scheduled appointment with the vet and the phone call came as my husband and I waited together at home. Abdominal tumor. Malignant. Fast growing. Suffering.
We drove to the office, hearts the same color as the chilly sky. They led us into a room where she was lying on the cold floor, drowsy from sedatives. I knelt down and she placed her head in my hand. The vet came in with his syringe. She died listening to our murmurs of love and gratitude for her faithful friendship, and feeling our last strokes on her soft fur. I vaguely remember calling clients and canceling the rest of my day.
Amidst the tears, words from scripture kept swirling around my head: Behold, I make all things new. I believe that this is true, even for old dogs. I think my remembrance of Lucy is also part of my advent preparations. If we can be honest and reach beyond our starched doctrines and truths, the possibility of life coming from death, new coming from old, clean coming from stained is too strange to wrap our minds around. Our minds and hearts need to be readied for truly new possibilities if we are to recognize Him when He comes. That’s the cool thing about dogs. They give us a foretaste of something really, really good, tantalizing us with the hope that what we long for most just might be true – that beneath the cold, hard wintery ground, in a season where hope grows so tired, a Seed clings to life and will burst forth again.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24