This past Monday, I buried my lab Lucy.
Lucy was very sick for about 5 days. We knew something was wrong when she didn't want to eat one morning, and after I'd gone to work Krys notice she was having a lot of trouble getting around and was concerned that she was losing her sight (bumping into things). We took her to the vet, who felt like she'd developed a brain tumor. On further observation & recalling her behavior for the past 8 months, Krys and I thought that she might have instead had a couple of strokes.
We took Lu home with some various pain medications to see how she might improve. This was heading into a weekend, so I was able to spend a lot of time with her. I was up with her most of 4 nights as she became more and more restless and tried to get comfortable. She continued to decline over the weekend.
Hours of sitting with Lucy, loving on her and talking to her, I recalled a lot of things about her that I wanted to record. Mimi is old enough (4) to have good memories of Lucy, but Jack (almost 2) is not. Someday they can look at this and know more about her. I spoke to Lu of many of these things, though with her senses diminished I'm not sure she could hear me.
When I got Lucy, she was 6 weeks old. That was January of 2000. I had just bought my first house in West Homewood. My niece, Kathryn Barrett, was born about 3 weeks after Lucy. My sister and I commiserated during those months while sleeplessly caring for our "infants" in the middle of the night. Lucy quickly decided that she would very much enjoy living indoors, eating leftover scraps, and generally lounging around.
I had roommates from time to time, but for a long time Lucy was a constant. It dawned on me Monday night that I'd had Lucy for 1/4 of my life. She was born when I was 31 and died when I was 42. And those 11 years have been the best years of my life. Early in that time Krys and I started dating & were married. Together we moved from Homewood to Avondale to and adventure of living in the city. We had our 2 children. We helped start Red Mountain Church. I started a new business just a few blocks from our house. I started eating broccoli. Well, just once. When Lucy died, she was a part of a full family. She was the extrovert that I was not - knowing somehow that everyone who came to our house surely came to visit her.
Lu was very well travelled. I'm not sure if she ever left the Jefferson/Shelby County area, but her dog fur showed up in Washington State, Harlem, Edisto Island, Cairo, Jerusalem, and most anywhere that either Krys or I have ever been. Or, to be accurate, any locale that a guest who has ever visited our home might have gone to and unknowingly transmitted a strand of hair to. Krys and I will forever be finding her hair in our house, car and yard.
Lucy made a life-changing decision last winter. During the week btwn Christmas & New Years, she decided to become an outside dog. VERY strange for a dog who had always insisted on being where ever I was. If I was inside, she wanted to be inside. If I was in the front yard, she barked until I let her come with me. We weren't sure why she decided to move out - maybe she'd had enough of two whiney kids. After the events of last week we are thinking that she might have had a mild stroke then, causing the change in behavior.
This year we have experienced loss in several ways. In May, our greyhound Murphy died suddenly. He was the same age as Lucy, and became her "brother" when Krys and I merged families in the spring of 2005. A few days after Murphy passed, our former pastor, who married us, and long time friend (and of course friend of Lucy), Steve, died of cancer. There has been a lot of grieving in our house this year, and a lot of conversation about these things. And I could not be more thankful for Krys in all of this. We often talk about how glad we are to go through these things together.
When we knew by Monday morning that we were going to have to put Lucy to sleep. I asked Krys if I'd be crazy to want to bury her in the back yard. I thought she would think I was nuts. My friend Whitney once commented when we bought our 100-year-old house in Avondale that I would want to be buried in the back yard - as a way of stating "you'll never want to move from there, will you." So when I suggested this, Krys said, "sure - what about the little spot out between the garage and the turnaround?" It was a perfect spot - shady, and approximately where we'd talked about planting a tree in the next couple of years. Mimi, the budding flower gardener, would be able to place some of her zinnias there if she wanted to. From that vantage point, Lucy would still be near the house and able to hear me crank the lawn mower (she was a great helper with yardwork) and crank the old air-cooled Porsche (she would always hide under the deck until I drove away).
So we left the vet's office (we have the most wonderful vet clinic on earth by the way) and brought Lu back home. Jack had returned from a wonderful trip to the park with Melanie Grant while we were at the doctors. Mimi was off at kindergarden. When we got home, Krys and I dug a grave, and Jack - not at all aware of what was going on - helped move dirt around with his little plastic rake. Once he walked over to where Lucy was lying down and patted her paws, saying "hhhah, hhhah" - trying to make the sound Lucy made when panting. He hasn't tried to say "dog!" or "bark!" yet - just "hhhah!" Jack wandered off to play with his sister's scooter, and we moved Lu to her new "spot".
I think I knew way back in 2000 that my time with Lucy would be limited. Dogs' lives just aren't that long. I knew I'd grow very fond of her. I knew she'd be a loyal, brave and valiant dog - that's why I gave her the name Lucy Pevensie. She was loyal - dealing with anything that came with being "Brian's dog". She was so brave to the very end. I knew those years ago that one day I would bury my sweet dog.
Dogs are not people - I get that. But you care for something like that and a bond is made. Lucy taught me a lot about myself - how anxious I can be, impatient, irresponsible. I'm better for having known her. But the cloud of death and sorrow hangs around, just out of sight.
And that's not how it was supposed to be.