SHE WAS STUBBORN, loyal, demanding, loving, protective. She was more than a dog - Lucy was our best friend and part of our family.
She went to a much better place Monday night. She was put to sleep and breathed her last in the arms of her owner. Actually, Lucy owned us. And always will.
She was almost 14. A month ago, she developed a tumor on her head. Cancer, the vet said. So we knew it was coming. Her heart was so strong and she was in such good shape that she could have lived for a while, but the pain was evident and she was having trouble breathing, and we knew it was time.
Sheryl got her in Wyoming, a cattle-herding farm dog with a tattered ear from an encounter with a coyote. One night Lucy saved Sheryl's life, and they moved back to Illinois together. They became inseparable, a Border-Aussie dog and her owner. Of course, who owned who was subject to debate.
I remember six years ago, when we first started dating. Sheryl's sister, Stephanie, warned me. "Sheryl loves that dog," she said. "Just remember that."
So I wooed my future wife by making friends with her dog. Soon Lucy and I were buddies, and we were enjoying evening walks through the Calftown hood and long strolls in Woodland Cemetery. Lucy gave her blessing to our union. I even wrote a Herald-Whig column about her, calling her the "Queen of Calftown." And we were off and running.
Lucy liked tummy scritches and "bootie rubs." In her younger days she hunted moles, rabbits and squirrels. She would bark at the cows when we drove through 48th and State. She'd tear the stuffing out of toy animals. And she'd sleep in front of the bedroom door, just to keep an eye on us.
Sheryl and I went camping in May 2008 at Mark Twain Lake. We took Lucy with us. In the dead of the night, Sheryl woke up with low blood sugar, so I had to hike a considerable distance to the car. It was pitch black and I couldn't see a thing. So Lucy showed me the way, and I felt a lot safer with my guide dog and protector.
In 2009, right before we moved to our current Calftown house, Lucy begrudgingly dealt with her adopted sister, Bella, who is dumber than a box of rocks. Last year we got Tucker, a Border Collie, and Lucy was a little more accepting. In the last few years she began to slow down, but she always kept up on our cemetery walks and she wasn't afraid to show the other dogs who the boss was in the house.
We started taking her to the store in the mornings. She made friends easily. She was great around kids and let them pet her. She became buddies with our delivery drivers and the mailman. They'll be sad when we tell them today.
Drew Kaiser from Katherine Road Animal Hospital is the best. He came to the house last night, and he told Sheryl what we suspected - it was time. Sheryl took Lucy around the block one last time. Lucy fell asleep in her arms, with a smile on her face.
She knew she was loved.
We've known this day was coming. I suspect there will be tears later, maybe a meltdown or two. I'm looking around the living room and I don't see Lucy wrapped up in a ball of fur, and my heart aches. I see little tufts of black hair in the corner where she slept and I want to pet her one last time, maybe take her for one last run.
Sadness and grief are normal. So today I am focusing on Lucy's glorious 14-year run, the fact she was our best friend.
I firmly believe there is a heaven for dogs. I hope I see you again, Lucy. I hope we can chase squirrels and I can give you a long tummy scritch and watch you herd cows. You used to herd them in your sleep. I have a feeling that's what you are doing right now.
And when you are done running them down, you'll guard heaven's entrance, waiting for us.