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Man’s Best Friend

(ROCKWALL, TX – Sept. 26, 2018) I buried a faithful friend the other day, the best a man can have. It took me a solid hour to dig the required size of hole and I picked the spot in the yard she loved to sunbathe. It was tough work, between shoveling and tears, Lucy loved and served our family for 14 years, and that’s no small feat for any dog.

I found her original paperwork and the memories poured over me. All my son Aidan wanted back then was a dog and like so many of you reading this, we refused time and again until he wore us down. He had given up, while we found ourselves visiting the Rockwall animal shelter for some Heeler-Lab puppies up for the price of the shots. A little brown and black girl wriggled her way through the gate and into our hands and our 8 year-old Aidan wept with joy when we surprised him. Lucy would be her name and through the years she came to Lou and Lou-Lou knowing exactly to whom we talked.

In fact, she did some talking on her own. All these years she would walk up to me as I sat on the couch and sit and then grumble, whine, yelp, woof, or whimper. Then I would go down the list: bathroom (nope), food (sometimes), water (maybe), and sometimes it would be something really important, something for which I truly needed to pay attention. See, we have chickens, it all started as a little project for my daughter to learn responsibility. We also wanted the fresh eggs. The problem is everything in the world eats chicken, so once the birds came on the scene, rat snakes, Great-Horned Owls, raccoons, hawks, and opossums followed. Lucy acted as their shepherd. When she first met the chickens she wanted a little taste, but with a little training, she learned she had a more important job of herding them into the coop and standing guard duty when we let them roam around the yard.

We have definitely lost some to predators, but it wasn’t Lucy’s fault, it’s mainly because I’m bad at speaking dog. She would whine, grumble, growl, and I would make her go out to the bathroom where she’d stand there and stare. It was like she was saying, “Are you coming?” By the time I figured out she was warning me about our flock, the crime was either in progress or had already happened.

This last year, Lucy’s health finally caught up with her age and we knew her days were numbered. Ireland, my sixth-grader, appointed herself as Lucy’s primary caregiver and biggest fan. She loved that dog and never missed the opportunity to give her a hug or a pat even as Lucy spent the majority of her time just laying around the house or on the deck. There was no more play and she rarely barked. She would still insist to accompany me out to the chicken coop when I sensed something was stealing eggs or threatening the birds. She lacked the energy to do anything, but she still took her job seriously.

As we neared the end, like all kids, Ireland wanted more time; she wasn’t ready, until one afternoon when Lucy took a turn for the worse. “Please call the vet,” my little girl asked, “I don’t want her to suffer.” We had already made arrangements and my baby girl and my wife stood by our old pup’s side as she peacefully breathed her last; surrounded by love in the only home she knew, it was the best departure for the greatest dog.

By Scott Gill is an RISD teacher, coach, and author of the book “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read more of his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com. 

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