Thursday, September 8, 2011
The Life of Lucy
Either you are an animal lover or not. And, it is safe to say that even if you are an animal lover, you may not be a pet person. Well, I am both. As a kid I always wanted a dog. My parents had an Irish Setter, Shawn as newlyweds and he was pretty defiant and wild-into everything. A shoe eater I hear. He also ate the top of their wedding cake on the day of their first wedding anniversary. When my brother was born, Shawn didn't take too well to the new arrival. He was a good dog, but needed more space to run and get out his energy. My mother grew up with several dogs and cats and had never given a pet away. But Shawn needed a better home. So they found him a 100+ acre farm to live out his days, and afterwards received many reports that he was healthy and happy in his new home.
Shawn sealed my fate for ever getting a dog as a kid. However, my parents wanted my brother and I to have pets. Just pets that seemed to be less work. Pets that could be left for a few days if we went on vacation. My brother got a red haired rabbit that he named Thumper. He was the best bunny you could have. Acted more like a dog than a rabbit. Greg had him on a leash and took him for walks. He was the sweetest animal and my brother loved him to pieces.
We had a rather large yard growing up and somehow along the way my dad decided to build Thumper a pen outside in a shed off our garage. The pen had access to the outdoors if he wanted fresh air, but when it was real cold, he could be inside out of the elements. This evolved into finding Thumper a mate so we could have bunnies. Oh, Thumper had many girlfriends. I think I named them all- Tiffany, Violet, and maybe another. Thumper had several batches of bunnies and it was such a thrill when they were born. They were the cutest things ever. We sold them to neighbors and friends and of course kept at least one. In the winter my brother was always out checking on the rabbits. There was a space heater out there on really frigid nights and he would bring them inside sometimes much to my parents dismay.
Tiffany and Violet eventually passed away. The life of a bunny isn't too long. But Thumper kept hanging in until age 6. I'll never forget the day Thumper died. It was my first experience with death and I felt so awful for m brother. He was devastated. By that time my brother was a young teenager and had more important things going on in his life than to breed rabbits. But the lessons of love and tenderness learned by having Thumper were priceless.
For my sixth birthday my dad decided to follow through on an ad in the paper for a cockatiel (in the Parrot family). He thought a bird was harmless enough and again, we could live it at home for a few days. It wouldn't ruin the house, didn't need to be potty trained or walked.
We went to the pet store and there was a huge window full of baby cockatiels. Who knows how I picked out my bird but eventually I found the one and the person at the pet store got him out and helped me hold him. We realized that he had a lame leg and may not make it so my dad suggested I pick out another.
We brought the bird home with a fancy new cage and bells, and special treats. I named her Maxine. I don't remember much about the early days of acclimating with a bird except that she was ornery sometimes, and if she cam out of the cage, it was hard to get her back in. After a few weeks I thought I would change the name to BeeBee. Who the hell knows! Then it was Maxine BeeBee.
After about a year we found at the Maxine was really a Maxwell. Flesh colored feet and beak were signs of a male and a better disposition as well. After some thought his name became Chucki. And this one stuck. Notice it had to be with an 'i." He was the greatest little creature. Again he was a bird more like a dog than a bird. He came when he was called, flying from the living room to the kitchen where I would be making breakfast. He never wanted to be without me. If I left the room, he followed me. He was always on my shoulder or in my lap. He had the best personality and if you didn't think birds could smile, you're wrong. He hammed it up for people and loved showing himself off. He never learned to speak English but he had several different songs and each of them meant that he was in a different temperament.
He liked to eat breakfast with me so I would offer him some cheerios and there he sat on the table chomping away as I ate my bowl of cereal. I loved that bird more than anything. He was the first thing I saw in the morning and the first thing I wanted to see when I got home from school. He comforted me as a child the way most pets do.
When I went away to college in Delaware, I had to leave him home. That was really hard. I got home a couple of times a semester and our reunions were always the same- adoration.
Chucki moved in with me to my first home. I got married and moved to a second home. He filled our house with song and I loved taking him out just so he could sit on my should or as he got older in my lap on a blanket. He loved to have his cheeks rubbed.
One morning I found him at the bottom of his cage. This is the tell-tale sign that a bird is failing. They are such strong creatures that they do not show many signs of their age until it is time for them to pass. I picked him up in my arms and cradled his little body as his eyes closed. His breathing became rapid and I just lay on the couch with him in my arms making sure he was warm and felt safe.
At 28 years old I lost my first pet. It was extremely difficult to not hear him sing when I walked in the door. I missed his silly antics and smiling eyes. What a blessing he was to me. All because my parents didn't want us to have a dog. Chuck was in my life for 22 years. Amazing. And again I learned so much about love, compassion, and companionship. I was responsible for taking care of him and he in turn, he took care of me.
Part of what helped me get over the loss of Chucki was my invaluable relationship with my beautiful Brittany Spaniel, Lucy. AJ and I had gotten her when we moved into our first house. By the time Chuck died Lucy was 3.
Lucy has been my lifesaver. AJ always calls her my dog and I know it is true. She follows me wherever I go whether it is down to the basement to fold laundry or upstairs at night when I go to bed.
How we came to bring Lucy home is a story of fate. We called the breeder from a newspaper ad. The farm was 2.5 hours from our home. AJ requested a girl and the man on the other end of the phone said he had one girl left. A couple requested her and were supposed to pick her up the day prior. He said if we got there before them, we could bring her home. We rushed out of the house and made the drive. As soon as we pulled up to the farm I saw a bunch of boy pups romping around in the mud. They were adorable. The woman asked me if I would like to see the girl. She was inside and bathed already. I left AJ outside to make small talk with the breeder. Walking into the cramped farm house I looked down and saw the most precious little puppy wrapped in a pink blanket. She had a shiny cream coat and reddish floppy ears. When they are that young, their spots haven't formed yet so her coat was almost all creamy white. I held her in my arms and instantly knew she was ours. I hurredly brought her out to AJ and one look at her and we were sold. We gave our money, signed the papers, and headed to our car.
For months we had debated on a name. I am big on names and I had all sorts of ideas. AJ wasn't keen on any of them and kept saying she will name herself. As we stood on the farm in the cold November weather, I whispered a name that was never on my list, Lucy. She is our Lucy. And she was.
We wanted to show her off to everyone. We brought her to my parents house (the non-dog lovers). My mother was smitten immediately.
After puppy-dom waned and she was potty trained and got past the stage of wanting to chew we got along famously. She grew and turned into a dog but boy did she have a personality. Just like a toddler. She made AJ and I laugh so hard. After we got married and tried to have kids, Lucy was our baby. She was there for us during our many disappointments.
I recently read a memoir and the author spoke of her relationship with her dog as a young girl. She said, "my dog was a great listener, as most dogs are..." This is my Lucy. During our infertility journey and the countless disappointing pregnancy tests, Lucy was my savior. I cried in her soft coat countless times and she lay there just knowing that I needed her. She was my only baby for 5 years. I took care of her, doted on her and loved her the way she loved me.
We were so lucky that other couple never showed up that cold Saturday morning. Lucy was meant to be ours. After becoming adoptive parents, this seems to be a recurring theme in our life. Our little family has been brought together by chance and luck or perhaps the fulfillment of a story already written.
Lucy will be 9 in a few days. She is eating senior food. Brittany Spaniels are notorious for their energy and need to run. They act like puppies well into the senior years. People have told us that their 14 year old Brittany still acted the same as when he was a pup. Lucy runs in our big back yard for hours. She is a hunter by nature and loves being outside.
I've noticed that her beautiful red "mask" that covers her eyes and eyelashes had turned white. On rare occasions she will lay down in the grass now instead of running for 3 straight hours. But she only lays down long enough to create a beautiful picture. A creamy white dog laying in lush green grass looking out into the woods behind our house.
Recently we had to bring Lucy to the vet. Both AJ and I decided we could no longer try to ignore the bulge coming out of her right side. We could feel two lumps, one big and one small. We have had her checked before and the lumps are usually just fatty tissue, but at her age we needed to be more proactive.
I cried my eyes out that night. I always expected Lucy to live to her life's capacity which is 14-16 years. I just could not wrap my mind around her leaving us too soon. The results from the vet were somewhat comforting but left doubt. They don't believe the thumps are cancerous but unless we completely remove the lumps, we will not know for sure if they are benign.
AJ and I believe in quality of life for all creatures. We will continue to monitor her and if it is necessary have her undergo surgery. But for now she seems in great health.
I cherish every day with her. Seeing her face in the upstairs window every day when I pull in makes me laugh. Watching Min run around in the back yard with her is a dream come true. I love my Lucy. At age 9 I am coming to terms that her life is becoming shorter. Hopefully we will be lucky and get to see her live out her days relatively healthy and when it is her time to go, she will die without pain and in peace.
Lucy is my savior. She is a dog with a human-like soul. She is another unforeseen gift and I am forever changed by having her in my life.
Posted by Parenthood for Me at 9/08/2011