Lucky came into my life in February of 2003. I was getting new tires on my 1992 Ford Tempo (and a good thing – a week later, they probably saved my life, when I had the accident that resulted in changing careers and going back to college to be a social worker). It was unseasonably warm, and I was hanging out in front of the tire shop with the owner. I only half paid attention when he yelled something at the street, where someone passing had just thrown a bag of trash out of their car at 35 miles per hour.
A few seconds later, a passing school bus screeched to a halt. In the road, out of nowhere, was a small terrier puppy (possibly a mini schnauzer – we were never quite sure). I ran into the street, snatched up the puppy, and brought him inside. He was infested with worms, filthy, and shivering in terror. He still had a bit of the trash bag caught on his leg.
As luck would have it (hee!), we were looking for a dog. But not a terrier. My husband was hunting for a bird dog. I picked up the phone and promised my husbnad we’d only take the puppy home, clean it up, and take it to the pound tomorrow.
Have you ever taken a puppy to a house occupied by a kindergartner? That puppy did not go to the pound. After much finagling and arguing and negotiating, we named him Lucky Joe Murphy, Champion, Loveable Lapdog Division – Lucky, for short.
Lucky was a terrible dog in a lot of ways. No, he really was.
He couldn’t travel in a car more than a mile with vomiting all over the place. I read up on this, and tried to get him used to cars so he’d stop. It didn’t work. Fortunately, we live less than a mile from both our groomer and our vet, so that was okay.
He didn’t like anyone but me. Oh, when my oldest son, Cave Dweller, was younger, he used to curl up with him, but he never forgave Cave Dweller for hitting puberty and discovering girls. Not until the last year of his life did he let him get anywhere close to him without growling and snapping at him.
And when Overthinker was a little guy, boy and dog played together, but we always had to be careful, because both of them played so rough it was difficult to say which would get hurt.
He chased the cats. Our old cat, Brigid, would see him coming and materialize on top of a tall surface. Squirrels taunted him from the trees. Once, he faced off a possum in the middle of the night.
But he was the best big dog companion in the world. When we brought him home, my husband’s dog of his heart, Bob, a black lab/Rottweiler mix, was getting elderly and depressed. Raising a puppy was just what the doctor ordered. I strongly believe that Bob lived an extra year, powering through severe arthritis, just to make sure Lucky stuck around.
Around three months after Lucky came to us, Nuni walked into our yard. The most gorgeous part husky, part Goldie dog in the Universe, Nuni was skittish and flat out crazy, but Lucky did his best to be her companion, too (Nuni, however, was gay, and didn’t like males of any species. Lucky learned to respect her and give her space).
But his longest doggie relationship was with Chloe. After Bob crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Husband began a search for a Brittany spaniel, convinced that was what he needed for a bird dog. I spent probably 100 hours searching for female Brittany pups under six months old (per Husband’s instructions) without finding one both 1) close enough and 2) inexpensive enough to buy (I was pursuing my Master’s at that time and we were living on one income) .
One day, when I was at my internship at the local VA, I got a call from Husband. He’d been working on an HVAC call south of town, and an empty nest couple had given him a dog. Apparently, she had been bought by one partner at the same time the other partner bought a Harley Davidson, and the Hog won over the Dog. So, when I got home that evening, a petite nine month old Golden Lab had joined the family. Her name? Carr’s Chlorissa (that’s what her papers say) or Chloe for short.
From that day, the two were inseparable. They slept together, ate together, played together. Nuni watched with that enigmatic look in her eyes and never got close. For this last year, they’ve had to be confined to a kennel when we’re not home due to incontinence, and they would curl up in it during the time we were home, too, sharing love and body heat.
Two years ago, Nuni wandered away the same way she wandered in, and we found her by the side of the road – not hit by a car, but mostly likely dying of the heart attack that had threatened since she’d been struck with heart worms when we found her ten years earlier.
In November of last year, Lucky, who still barked like a puppy, ran like a puppy, played like a puppy, started acting strange. He seemed confused and unhappy. He appeared to have become unable to remember to go outside.
We took him to the vet. It turned out he had early stage liver disease, and was going blind. By January, he was totally blind, even to most light. He didn’t adjust well to blindness. He still ran full tilt into everything, bumping his head on steps and walls and furniture constantly. On the one hand, it was hilarious, as he would just bounce up and make due. On the other, it was tragic.
Then his breathing became labored, and he started whining day and night. I caught him several times relieving his bladder and bowels without any apparent knowledge that he was doing so.
I made excuses. I kept holding on. I kept loving and washing him when he fouled himself (okay, often making Overthinker wash him) and cleaning up after him. He got to the point where he was barking and yelping and crying all day and night. It was depressing Chloe. It was depressing me. I didn’t have a full night’s sleep for weeks.
Last Friday I made my decision. On Monday, I would bring him in and have the vet help him across the Rainbow Bridge. We spoiled him rotten. He slept on or near my feet all day and night. I slept two nights on the couch so he wouldn’t have to sleep in the kennel, with an old blanket under him in case of messes. I bought him Snausages for treats, and gave him most of the bag in a day. Cave Dweller and Overthinker both spent hours just sitting with him and petting him.
We got to the vet this morning and the waiting room was packed. All these people, with puppies needing shots and dogs needing toenails clipped and one or two needing flea treatment. Everyone looked so GODDAMNED happy and the wait took forever (well, 45 minutes, but who’s counting?)
About ten minutes before the doc called us back, a man and woman with a little girl about eight years old came in with a kennel from which emitted a faint meow. The only seats left in the room were next to where Overthinker and I sat with Lucky between us petting him and telling him he was a good boy.
They sat next to us and I knew, even before the receptionist called the mother up and asked why she was there, that it was that cat’s day to cross the Bridge, as well. All the tears behind the dam cut loose. I cried, Overthinker cried, and the family with the old cat – 16 years old and had had a good life cried.
The doctor called us back and I tried to talk him into changing my mind. He wouldn’t let me. He remined me Lucky was in pain and afraid, not just sometimes, but all the time, now. That he could no longer do the things he loved. That he was embarrassed when he fouled himself and his cage. That he was even “arguing” with Chloe over little things – which they had never done before.
They shaved a little patch of fur, give him a quick shot (he tried to nip at the doc, but missed. It was my fault. I should have warned the doc.) Then he was gone. He just – went to sleep.
Well − he died. And I know he died, because when I got home Chloe greeted me, and the look on her face told me she knew, too. She curled up on my feet all afternoon, just like Lucky used to do – except different, because despite what they think, Labs aren’t really lap dogs.
Goodbye, Lucky Joe Murphy, Champion, Lovable Lapdog Division. My mother and stepfather, Jane and Virge, are waiting there for you to join their huge family of pets. Bob is waiting. Nuni probably is, too, though she’ll pretend she wasn’t. And Brigid might even let you catch her once or twice, there across the Bridge.
Thank you for being a part of my life. Whoever threw you out in that trash bag never knew what a wonderful life I recycled that day. Thank you.
P.S. I have gone through and edited several small mistakes and poor word choices. That’s what you get when you try to write through tears.