I Miss You Every Day
April 11, 1998 – November 16, 2006
P and I got married in May of 1997, closed on our home in May of 1998, and bought a puppy a month later. We always knew that we would get a dog as soon as we got a house. In fact, we chose our house specifically because the yard was already fenced. Perfect!
Not knowing what we know now about backyard breeders and such, we found a classified ad in the paper and drove about two hours to meet the last two puppies of a litter. In the yard was a pretty fawn Boxer who was being harassed by her two eight-week-old brindle offspring, a boy and a girl. We could see that the dam was a nice dog so we asked about the sire. Apparently this dog was so wild (not wild as in aggressive, but wild as in bonkers) that the breeder just wanted us to wave at him through a door and not meet him in person (dogson?).
We chose the female, whose name was Delilah. I guess there was never any question that we were going to take one of these chubby little upstarts home. We put her in an open cardboard box and began the trek back home. We debated names along the way and settled on Lucy Annabel. Boxers have a “so ugly they’re cute” type of reputation so I wanted her to have a pretty, girly name. Annabel is after the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe. Check it out if you’ve never read it – it’s amazing.
Lucy, in her youth, drove us crazy. We knew right away that she was smart as a whip. She was solidly housebroken at 11 weeks. She did all the things that puppies do – kept us up at night, tore up the toilet paper, and chewed things that didn’t belong to her. We had a sapling in the back yard and she swung from its thin branches by her teeth. I took her to puppy class and learned that I knew nothing about training a dog. She made a fool of me every chance she got.
We made another rookie error in those early days – we allowed her to sleep on our bed. It wasn’t bad when she was just a little brindle sausage but eventually she grew into a ruthless bed hog. In her adult years she weighed 60 pounds by day and by night . . . she weighed more than our refrigerator. I sincerely believe she had the ability to re-arrange her mass and make her body heavier at night. It was not possible to shift her even an inch.
I remember being mortified in those early classes. All the other dogs would heel nicely around the ring while my little goober would roll around wildly on her back, four white paws jabbing the air. But we kept going. And going. Eventually the instructor encouraged me to enter Lucy in an obedience trial. I’m struggling to remember the specifics but I think she actually qualified in her first trial, although it was the lowest score you could get and still pass. You have to qualify in three trials to get a title, and eventually she got her Novice titles in both AKC and UKC. I was so proud of my girl. She gave me a hard time, though. In classes and in the ring she always acted like she was just doing me a favor by showing up. During a trial I would bore holes into her head with my eyes, just begging her not to stand up during the down-stay. One year we competed at the American Boxer Club Nationals. She was disqualified for running out of the ring. Ah, that was money well spent.
We never moved up to the next level in obedience, although we did try. The next level involved doing a retrieve with a little dumbbell. The dog must hold the dumbbell in their mouth and bring it back. Old school trainers teach this by pinching the dog’s ear and forcing the dog to hold the dumbbell. I couldn’t do that to my Goose and she didn’t want to do it of her own free will, so we gave up.
At about the same time she did pass the Canine Good Citizen test, as well as the therapy dog (TDI) test. She also took a temperament test and passed that. Eventually we decided to have a go at agility. As it turned out, she was really good at it. Lucy was an extraordinary jumper. When we competed I sometimes heard the crowd gasp when Lucy went airborne. She earned many ribbons and a couple of titles along the way. I was so proud of my Boxer girl. A couple years after the first debacle at the ABC Nationals, she went back again and competed in agility. She took first place in her height class.
In addition to competing in Agility, Lucy also worked as a therapy dog. Initially we worked in the pediatric wing of a local hospital. Later we moved to a residential facility for developmentally disabled adults. I wasn’t comfortable around sick babies at the hospital but for some reason I’m a-okay around people whose brains don’t work right. We usually made our visits on Saturdays. Everyone loved Lucy. The residents would give her treats and she would do a few of her tricks for them. One time we were visiting a new resident, a boy who appeared to be only 15 or so. Because he didn't seem to have the coordination to give Lucy a treat with his hand, I put the treat on his knee and tapped it so Lucy could take it. This kid was fast, though. He was chewing it before we knew what hit us. I will never forget the look on Lucy's face as she watched that boy eat her treat. It was the milkbone-type treat, too, so it was incredibly dry. The kid chewed and chewed for what seemed like an eternity.
Lucy’s other job was training foster dogs. From the time she was around two years old, we fostered lots and lots of dogs for Boxer Rescue. One time I took Lucy to an animal communicator and she told the communicator that she and I ran the rescue together. If a foster dog got out of line, Lucy was on them like white on rice. If she thought a foster dog was getting too big for their fur, she would hump them. She was an equal opportunity humper – she would hump males and females alike. And no one was allowed on the bed except Lucy. At night she would stand on our bed and walk around the perimeter, just making sure that everyone knew she was the queen bee. She never gave her brother a break either. We adopted Karl from the local shelter when Lucy was around 10 months old. Karl and Lucy always got along great, as long as Karl remembered that he had no say in anything. Desperate to chase after a squirrel he had seen in the backyard, Karl would always run out the back door . . . only to be intercepted by Lucy, who would not allow him to leave the deck (at least not until she said so).
Another vivid memory I have of Lucy is the time she and her brother ate all the Halloween candy. P and I went to church and forgot to pick up the basket of candy. When we got home, everything was gone except the Smarties. Wrappers and all. Because chocolate is toxic to dogs I called the vet in a panic. We were instructed to use a turkey baster to squirt hydrogen peroxide down the dogs' throats. It was an unpleasant affair but we did as we were told and then stuck the dogs in the garage. And waited. Karl was the first to vomit. After a lot of theatrics, this is what came out: one Nestle Crunch bar, still in its wrapper. Here is what came out of Lucy: at least 30 or 40 candy bars of varying shapes and sizes. I laughed when I pictured the scene that must have unfolded while we were at church that morning. Lucy upended the Halloween basket and then guarded the candy with her life. I'm not sure how Karl even managed to get that solitary Crunch bar.
Those two were so funny together. One of their favorite things to do was to go up north to my friend's cabin and run around in the woods. Lucy told the animal communicator that she loved to "run at the place with the pine trees." I knew she meant the cabin, with its towering pines and lakeside beauty. I am so happy that she got to take one last trip there in the months before she died. I hope she is somewhere like that now.
When my daughter was born in May of 2005, I wasn't sure how Lucy would react. I told her a baby was coming and I believe she understood. We did make the decision to allow Lucy to continue sleeping on our bed, just as she always had. A lot of people looked at us funny when we said that we had decided not to let the baby sleep in our bed because the dog was already there.
In November of 2006 Lucy started to have trouble breathing. She kept looking at me as if to say, “Why is this happening?” I made an appointment to take her to the veterinarian. We had two days to wait before her appointment and during that time she started coughing up blood. P convinced himself that Lucy had pneumonia. I knew better. After almost seven years of fostering dogs, I had seen virtually every illness known to dogdom. I knew pneumonia, and this wasn’t it. Lucy had no fever, no loss of appetite. She simply couldn’t breath. “There’s a mass in there,” I told him. I was blinking back tears all the way to the vet clinic.
Dr. Barr’s face was grim as he re-entered the exam room, x-ray in hand. He showed me how Lucy’s lungs were chock full of tumors. The tumors were displacing her lung tissue and that’s why she couldn’t breathe. He showed me a large mass that was next to her heart and indicated that the blood was probably coming from that. There was nothing to be done. I arranged to bring her back the next day. Lucy had a mild heart murmur her whole life and somehow I always thought it would be her heart that would take her. And here she had cancer - and lots of it. Dr. Barr said that lung cancer is often a secondary cancer, meaning that it had probably spread from some other organ that was also riddled with the disease.
That night, P cooked some chicken and steak for Lucy. He has never cooked anything for me, but I was touched that he wanted to do something special for the Goose. We took pictures of Lucy and A together. We choked back our tears.
The next day, P and I made arrangements for a friend to stay with A while we took Lucy to the veterinary clinic. We felt that our daughter was too young (at 1 ½) to understand what was happening, and we didn’t want her to remember her doggie that way. Plus, it was her naptime.
Our hearts were heavy as we trudged into the clinic. Not wanting to bawl full-out, I kept looking upward, willing my eyes to stay clear just a little longer. The staff was ready for us and led us into a darkened exam room. The technician took Lucy into the back and inserted a catheter in her foreleg and then brought her back in. We spent a few more minutes with her until Dr. S entered the room. She gave me a hug and told me how sorry she was.
Within a few moments, the fatal fluid was in our girl. We held her in our laps. In a few short moments, her heart stopped and Dr. S confirmed that our beautiful dog was gone. We were alarmed when Lucy started bleeding out of her nose. Dr. S grabbed a towel and assured us that this is just something hat happens sometimes. I tried not to focus on it too much, because I didn't want to remember her quite that way. I wanted to remember the girl who sailed through the tire jump, who accompanied me on countless road trips, who looked at me with eyes that were almost human.
I have only seen my husband cry once or twice in the 15 years I have known him. He cried at his mother's funeral and he cried at Lucy's euthanasia. Who would have known that the naughty puppy who howled all night would grow up to be the coolest dog ever?
I miss you, Goose.