Monday, January 19, 2015

Lucy


One of the many unfair things about the world is the relatively short life span of a dog. The average time man's best friend gets on this earth is 12 years. I'm not asking for 75 years, like a human, but 12? C'mon, God! For as much joy as they bring us, and as much joy as they get out of being here, dogs get a raw deal when it comes to life expectancy.

My dog, Lucy, passed away this weekend. She lived to be 15, so I guess I'll take that. She beat the average. But I would have liked another 15 with her.

She had been extremely healthy for most of her life, but in November she tore the ligaments in her left knee. I worried about surgery on a dog that old, and my vet advised me to wait a few weeks to see if she would adapt to the injury while we managed the pain with meds. By mid-January, amazingly, she was almost back to normal. We were taking our daily walks, she was doing everything she normally did around the house (with the exception of going up and down stairs). Life was, for the most part, regular again.

Just as I thought we had gotten past the knee injury something hit us out of left field: seizures. The first one happened early last Wednesday morning. In her bed, which is right next to mine, she started groaning. When I turned on the light, she was stretched out and shaking. She had wet her bed, too. Then she sat there, seemingly in shock. The next morning, there was another one—it happened in my arms, as I was carrying her down the stairs (like I had each morning since her injury). The next day, I took her to the vet.

Lucy was an Australian Cattle Dog (known as a Heeler in these parts). They are a smart, robust breed. They are almost never sick, but because they are so active and don’t know how to slow down, they are prone to injury. Lucy was always on the go, physically and mentally. Some dogs sleep all day, but Lucy seemed to abhor sleep. Instead, she relished being on guard at all times, watching over me and her home. She wanted to be around me at all times. When I would leave the house, she’d look at me as if to say “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re about to betray me by leaving again!” Then, like all dogs, when I would come home she acted as if it was the single greatest thing to ever happen to any dog—and she reacted this way all 10,235 times I walked though the front door.

The last thing Lucy ever wanted to do was run away from home. I could leave the front door open for a week and she wouldn’t even think about fleeing. Once, my neighbor was keeping her for me because I was going to be gone all day. While in my neighbor’s back yard, Lucy dug under the fence, escaped down the alley, turned the corner, came back up the street, walked to my house, and sat on the front step until I came home. How many dogs would do that?

Lucy was a runner. Not a distance runner, but a sprinter. In her younger years, I must have heard “that’s the fastest dog I’ve ever seen” at least a thousand times as I was playing fetch with her at the park. One year at work we held the “Ticket’s Fastest Dog” contest on the track at Lone Star Park. Lucy won. What made Lucy’s victory even more impressive was the fact that upon hearing the starting gun she turned and started licking the face of the girl who was holding her, giving the other dogs a big head start, which she soon closed down. That was her first and last official race, so she retired undefeated, 1-0.

I probably should have entered her in some of those agility contests, although I worried about her having too much athletic success too soon and it ruining her, like Michelle Wei. Not only did she have great speed, but she could cut on a dime, a la Barry Sanders, and she had a vertical of about six feet. She was also a swimmer—I took her to Galveston a lot, where I’d throw a tennis ball as far out into the water as I could, and she’d retrieve it, diving over and under the breakers to get to it. She could do that all day.

Something happened one day which showed me that Lucy always had my back—literally—and it’s one of my best memories of her. We drove to her favorite place, the park. I opened the car door and she jumped out, as always, and started running around and sniffing things. I leaned into the car to get her ball out of the backseat. When I turned back around to face the park, there was a giant Rottweiler standing right in front of me. He seemed friendly enough, but before I could process what he wanted, Lucy came out of nowhere, at warp speed, and got between me and the Rottweiler—then went for the neck of the Rottweiler to drive him back and away from me. The Rottweiler, who probably weighed 100 pounds to Lucy’s 40, turned and ran away. Job done, she came back over to me and stood guard to make sure nobody else messed with her owner. I always felt safe with Lucy around.

Lucy was a rescue dog. Friends of mine had found her as a puppy, in the rain, on Skillman, at night, with no collar or chip. They couldn’t keep her, and since I had just moved into my first house, and had a yard, and loved dogs, I decided to take her. I would like to think I gave her a good life. I was home from work most days late morning, so we spent afternoons and evenings together. She ate well. She had a soft place to sit in every room. She got to run at the park or go for walks every day. She played in the ocean and hiked in the mountains. I think it was good ride.

Because of her age, I should have been more prepared for the end. I wasn’t. I had convinced myself that Lucy was so healthy that she would live to be 18, maybe 20, especially since she had adapted so well to her knee injury. But, in reality, she was dealing with not only a bad knee, but arthritis in her spine, failing vision and hearing, and, in the end, something that was lurking in her system that finally manifested in seizures. Ultimately, it was just too much, even for a tough, resilient old girl like her.

Watching her demise over the last five days was awful. This best friend of mine, who had always been so alert and full of energy, was suddenly struggling to do everything. It’s one of the things about being human or animal that really sucks: having a will to live, but having a body that disagrees. Sometimes the will to live wins a battle here and there, but ultimately, the failing body always wins the war.

Lucy spent her last weekend at home. Her health was going south in a hurry. The seizures were taking their toll. On Sunday, I had to make the difficult decision to put her down. An owner is caught in that terrible middle of wanting to wait long enough to see if the pet will improve, but not waiting so long as to prolong the pet's agony. I hope I got it right, for her sake.

I was able to spend the last 36 hours of her life by her side. I rarely got more than an arm's length from her. I didn't shower, I ordered delivery meals, and I slept next to her. We had one last weekend together to say our goodbyes. Her vet, Manny, graciously made a house call on Sunday evening to put her to sleep. She went quietly and peacefully, and in her own bed in her own home. Her final few hours were hard to watch, but at least I was with her, my hand never leaving her soft black and grey coat.

I was by her side when she took her final breath. I didn't think I'd be able to handle that moment, but I'm really glad I was with her. There was a beauty to seeing her misery brought to an end.

I’m going to miss her incredibly. She was my constant companion for 15 years. She never got mad at me, never ran away, never disappointed me. She was a loyal, wonderful dog. I will probably never have children, so Lucy was the closest thing to a child that I will ever know. I loved her completely. I cried a lot over the weekend, and more today as I came home from work for the first time to a house with no Lucy. As I walk around and see the places where she used to sit, sleep, eat, and greet, I find myself longing to see her come into the room one last time.

In her final days, I held her and petted her as much as I could. After a seizure, I would spoon her to comfort her. She always had my back, and I hope she knew that I always had hers, too—right to the end.

55 comments:

  1. Craig, I know the feeling. I have tears in my eyes and have petted my Gabby laying by my chair here in the office. Just know that the wonderful memories of 15 years will overtake the sad thoughts of today. We have loved hearing about her on the air, we all share in your sadness. Craig Harper

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  2. Ugh, dammit, I shouldn't have read this at work. I have a 9-year-old dog named Lucy. She's basically the opposite of your Lucy - lazy, loves sleeping, not much of guard dog - but I imagine we will feel the same when we have to let her go.

    Great tribute, sorry for your loss.

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  3. So so sorry. I think all compassionate humans have a story about animals like this. It is what makes us look to the sky and ask why, but at least you had a companion that loved you. Thanks for sharing your pain, mourning should be done as a group.

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  4. Craig - I too loved hearing about Lucy from time to time on air (most recently the time you lost it and screamed at the neighbor's dog(s) when he said "this is MY street" or something to that effect.)

    I feel your pain, have had my lab suddenly die in his crate after eight years, several years ago. I remember that day like yesterday, but the good memories outweigh that one.

    Love ya, man. Sorry for your loss.

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  5. So sorry for your loss Craig. I know it was heart wrenching but perhaps sharing her story in this post helps. Thanks so much for allowing us to get to know Lucy just a bit over the years.

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  6. So sorry for your loss. I have my best friend who is in her final years and your story reminds me to make sure to cherish every last moment.

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  7. Caig, I'm sorry for your loss. Reading about the wonderful life you shared with Lucy had me almost crying at work. I also have 2 dogs that are my best friends and I can't even imagine having to say goodbye to either one.

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  8. My kids and I feel your loss as we lost our Belle last year. We now have a Corgi that we named Junior! Cherish the good memories and stay hard Lucy!!

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  9. I had so hoped that Lucy would live many more years with you. Your beautiful tribute brought tears to my eyes as I have an elderly dog, too that I consider to be my best friend. I had to put his sister down one year ago this Wednesday due to a sudden terrible illness, and although the decision was the right one for her, I struggled terribly with my choice afterward for a while. Bless you and sweet Lucy.

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  10. Great piece. Thanks for sharing. Sorry for your loss; I've been there. The pain is never fun, but the 15 years spent with Lucy is the most important and worth remembering.

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  11. Extreme empathy for the lost of your best friend. I cried through out your beautifully written shared memories of life with your beloved companion!!

    My boyfriend, a P1 and now myself, has a 14 almost 15 year old blue heeler. She has been blind for 4 years, but is smart as a whip and navigates through the house extremely well using her other senses. He has shared countless stories, very similuar to yours, of her youthful agility, speed, aggressive behavior, and never being a disappointment to come home to. He doesn't sleep until she is in her bed next to his side. She is his only child, and has been his closest friend for the past 14/15 years, just like your Lucy.

    We loved listening to your stories and encounters with Lucy while out walking. We feel like we lost a friend too.

    Kevin is in denial of Bandit's deteriorating condition and we are both hopeful for 3-5 more years with her, but the fact is it's not likely. Soon we will too have to mourn the lost of a best friend and a loyal campaign.

    Hope you find comfort in her memories. Thank you for sharing.

    R.I.P Lucy

    Sincerely,

    Kevin, Christy, Bandit

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  12. Great tribute to your buddy Junior. I too lost my best friend of 14 years, 18 months ago. He was a beautiful, smart, loyal border collie. Still think about him every day, moreso today after reading your blog.

    No advice to offer because there is no solace
    but time. Take care and thank you for sharing your loss with us. RIP Lucy.

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  13. Wonderful tribute Junior. So sorry for your loss and thanks for sharing. I enjoy listening to you every morning and I know the pain you're feeling all too well. I don't know you but the radio sure makes me feel like you're my friend.

    I had to put down my Casey not long ago due to seizures like Lucy had. I was with her until the end and held her tight as she breathed her last. Casey was our first "baby" and we treated as if she were human. She was with us for 15 fabulous years. All that remain now are happy times, laughter, and smiles. The pain she was in is gone now. The pain I felt (still feel) is still there but it has subsided somewhat in the comfort of knowing my Casey had a good life, she was a true and faithful companion, and that All Dogs Go To Heaven. Peace Craig.

    Loyal P1 Eric

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  14. "Lucy's in the sky, with diamonds!"

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  15. Craig - I can remember you talking about Lucy all the time. Very sad to hear about your loss. I am extremely jealous, my dog hates me. Loves my wife and the kids, but would let a Rottweiler tear me to pieces and enjoy watching it. Stay strong Craig. Be grateful for a special friendship not everyone has experienced. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. I re-married and inherited a new step-dog Britany. I made her live outside in a dog house before eventually allowing her to share the comforts of our new home. Her owner went off to college and Britany died of Cancer while he was away. I spent the most time with her at home most days and we grew close. I read Lucy's story in parts to keep from crying in public today while staring at my cell phone. I read this story to my wife allowed again but could not get all the way through it and had her finish it. Sorry for your loss.

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  18. "...I hope she knew that I always had her [back]..."

    She knew.
    Thanks to you, she enjoyed an existence most living things never do. She won the lottery. You can be very happy about that. Cry, heal, love again. That's all we can do.

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  19. HappyCrySad. Happy for the life you gave Lucy and years of joy she brought you. CrySad for your loss. Such a great tribute, your story of you and her.

    I suspect she's already begging Seattle Slew for a match race.

    Stay hard Lucy!

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  20. Craig, So sorry for your loss.

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  21. Craig, having rescued a couple labs, I too have had that time to say good by..it's very important. It's been 7 yrs on Mothers Day. As time has passed, the fun days are what I remember most. And as we have a new lab its a constant comparison between Jake and our new Wink. While loving on Wink we talk about him and Jake as well. Every rescued dog that finds a loving home have hit the doggie lotto..Lucy and you were the winners..sucks now, but brother its will pass. If interested, I have read Rescuing Sprite, good quick read, I have bought copies and giving to others..hang in there.

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  22. Great tribute to a wonderful dog, loved hearing about Lucy on the air. So sorry for your loss, you gave her everything she needed. Hugs...

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  23. Craig,
    I work in animal control and I know how difficult what you have experienced is. Below is a great story on dogs lives in comparison to our own:

    Years ago, I owned the very best dog in the world.



    I was a child when we got her. She was a graceful brown hound, a foundling who taught me that our pets are not purchased, but ordained.



    She romped when I did and knew how to smile in that funny way that only some dogs have. She grew up with me, always there when I needed her. My grown hand still remembers the sleek bump on the top of her head and that gentle divot just past her nose that fit my index finger just perfectly.



    She passed away during one of my college vacations. My heart broke then, and I knew that there would never be another dog like her, and there hasn't been. I was sure that I could never love another dog as much as I'd loved her.



    Fortunately, I was wrong about that part.



    My next dog came into my life when I was married. My husband traveled for a living, and I was often lonely. This dog grew into a lumbering Wolfhound and Sheepdog mix who taught me patience. He was a large, grizzled sentry, that dog. He rarely left my side until the children were born, and then he became their guardian, too. I can still feel that swirl of fur along his back and
    the weight of his chin when it rested in my lap.



    When he passed away, my heart broke. As much as I had loved that childhood dog, I had been wrong This was the very best dog in the world. There would never be another dog like him, and there hasn' t been. I was sure I would never love another dog as much as I'd loved him.



    I was wrong again.



    We got the next one, a loping black Lab-and-Terrier mix, when the children were little. He taught me the importance of adapting. He was everyone's dog from the beginning, and that was just as it should be. When he played tug of war with the children, he dragged them across the kitchen floor as they shrieked with laughter. He always seemed to sleep in the room of the child who needed his company the most.



    These days his face is expressively gray, and he spends more time with me since the almost-grown children aren't around so much. The other day my oldest, home from college, played tug of war. We all laughed--just a little--as the dog was gently pulled across the kitchen floor.



    He is, of course, the very best dog in the world. I will never forget that exquisitely soft tuft of fur behind his ears or the tickily feel when he nuzzles. There won't be another dog like him.



    And that's okay, because we will never be at this point in our lives again.



    Sometimes I've wondered why two species that get along so well should have such different life spans. It just doesn't seem right. And then I wonder if that's part of the lesson: To teach us that love itself has a spirit that returns again and again and never really dies.



    It's amazing, in a way, how they bring to our ever-changing lives exactly what it is that we need at the moment. They make room for one another, this family of dogs who has never even met. And they fit--into our families, into our lives, into our memories, and into our hearts--because they always have been and always will be the best dogs in the world.

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    1. What an eloquent memorial of your dogs. I agree about mine 100%. I never think I'll love again, and then I get another and they teach me how to love more and differently. They're all unique with their lessons and I'm happy to have them.

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  24. Sorry to hear that Junior and I will second the recommendation of Rescuing Sprite.

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  25. You were a great dad to her and you were lucky to have each other! I went through the same in September and I only got 10 years with my girl. Our time with them is short and I think it's a great reminder that any day could be our last. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all kept that in mind and didn't take each other for granted? I think so. Dogs teach us all we need to know about living. This morning, I saw a dog walking with his homeless owner, and I could see from the wagging tail that that dog couldn't have been happier. Although he doesn't have a comfy bed to sleep on (or even a home to sleep in), and although he may miss a meal here and there, he's got an owner who loves him and that's all he needs.

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  26. So sorry for your loss Junior. Our furry friends are a true blessing.

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  27. Sorry for your loss.

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

    Author unknown...

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  28. that's rough, thanks for sharing

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  29. So sorry for your loss, and I'm right there with you due to losing mine on Friday morning. Days later I still feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. I enjoyed reading your post because it allowed me to reflect on the great moments I had with mine. So thank you and again truly sorry for your loss.

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  30. Thanks for sharing such a personal post, Junior. Sorry for your loss. I had to say goodbye to two dogs last year. I'm grateful for the time I had with them, even though they were both old. Every day I spend with the dogs I have now, I cherish them.

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  31. My heart aches so much for you Craig. My Husband Tim and I are big P1s and are going through this now. We have an Australian Shepard named Buddy and he is 11. He is in congestive heart failure and we don't have much time left. Your beautiful tribute to Lucy could be written for Buddy. There are so many similarities it is scary. He is our first dog that we sort of rescued. A teenager bought him from a breeder without asking permission from his parents. We took him when he wasn't allowed in their home. Why not? We had just moved into our first house with a yard and fence and we love dogs. Always loyal and happy to see us. Never disappointing us. Could chase a tennis ball until he fell over from exhaustion. And even then, he couldn't understand why his body wouldn't allow him to continue chasing that ball. As I was listening to your segment on air this morning, balling, I got a call from the vet with the results of his latest EKG. His heart rate is better after adjusting his medications recently, but his heart failure seems to be increasing and we believe he has fluid in his lungs. The hardest question keeps coming back to me. What is the right thing to do? Are we giving up too soon? Can the medications reverse this and give him, and us, more time? Or, not. My heart is breaking into. I don't know that I have ever felt so much pain.

    I wish you peace. I have been reading There Are No Sad Dogs in Heaven trying to prepare myself.

    May you run forever fast and strong Lucy.

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  32. Next to our parents, nobody else loves us as unconditionally as our dogs. They share so many of our ups and downs in life. I have enjoyed all the stories you've told of Lucy, and am so sorry to hear she is gone. She was a good puppy dog...

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  33. Junior,
    I'm living the very same thing right now.....we had to put our boxer named Flash down yesterday (1/19/15) after 13 wonderful years. I too had hoped for several more years with her, but in the last few weeks she started having problems getting around and had fallen a few times. She stopped eating her normal food on Friday and wasn't getting up. We gave her some sausage patties on Saturday morning to try to get her to eat....she did and started getting around, but became totally incontinent. We took her to the vet yesterday and they found a very large mass in her chest/abdomen....After much discussions with the vet, it came down to quality of life for our girl, and we went ahead with putting her down. You are right....I'm dying inside wondering if the time was right or not. I truly feel like I've somehow let her down.

    We said our goodbyes before they gave her the sedative, and I held her to the end. I wanted her to know how important she was. I just hope now that she finally catches those butterflies that she used to love to try and catch...and I hope God helps me replace that piece of my heart that left with her.

    Mike Gray

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  34. I knew I shouldn't have read this at the office. Such beautiful words for a beautiful friend. Lucy was clearly very loved and had a full, wonderful life. So very sorry for your loss.

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  35. Craig - Any of the P1s around have known Lucy for years and feel your loss along with you. Hopefully one day some other puppy will get to feel the years of love that you gave Lucy.

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  36. Junior, hate to hear about Lucy.  Felt like I knew her all these years as a P-1.  The timing is so eerie in that yesterday I learned my 8 year old Lab, Drake has bone cancer.  He has maybe 2-4 weeks left with us.  You can bet the family and I are going to make him as happy and comfortable as we can during the time he has left.  Thanks for the inspiring words.
     
    Bryan Hall
     

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  37. Thank you for sharing, Craig. Reading this and listening this morning tore me up. We have two aging girls and I cherish each day with them as you did your Lucy. Our four-legged friends are always there for us through good times and bad; truly man's best friend. You were a great friend to her and she's in a better place. Thoughts go out to you.

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  38. Thanks for the story of the love you and Lucy had.

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  39. I'm in my 40's with no kids. I lost both my dogs in the last year, the closest thing to children I'll ever have so this so close to home. Thank you for sharing, it was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Bless your family.

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  40. Be proud of your tough decision. My vet told me something when I did this for my dog, "better to do it 3 weeks too early than 3 hours too late." It is truly the best last gift we can give our beloved companions. My thoughts are with you.

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  41. I always loved hearing about Lucy on the show. I laid on the floor at the vet's office for hours after my 12 year old German short hair had to be put to sleep. I am so glad I had her cremated so she will always be near. She saw me through a divorce, the death of 2 parents, and the death of 2 grandmothers. She could understand words and was soooo smart. You were so good to Lucy and gave her such a great life.

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  42. Thank you for sharing your story, Craig. And thank you for making me cry on the way to work when you were talking about it on air a few days ago! If only all dog owners were as good to their dogs as you were! You will know when it is time to get another dog. Having been in a similar situation as you, it is nice to have a dog in the house again after having lost one. Love the Musers......Jill

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  43. Thank you for sharing your story and love of your sweet Lucy. I had to put my dog down today, my Basset Hound, Higgins. He was not as fast as Lucy but he loved to run with his long ears flapping in the wind! I like to think he is in doggie heaven running around with her and barking with all of the other sweet dogs!

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  44. When you feel like you can do it, you need to read or listen to the book, A Dog's Purpose. I am listening to it right now and being a dog lover, it is so refreshing to read about a dog's lives from their perspective. I think you would enjoy it. When you feel a little more healed from losing Lucy you can enjoy it.

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  45. Sorry for your loss, Junior. She's with Javier now.

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  46. Jr, what a heartfelt tribute to Lucy. It made me want to go home and pet my soon to be 13 year old beagle, Kasee.
    You were a wonderful daddy to her and she knew it.

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  47. So sorry for your loss. Reading this brings tears to my eyes remembering when we had to have our 12 year old golden retriever put to sleep around 4 years ago. It was the hardest thing I've ever gone through in my life - it was just as heart wrenching as being at my mother's bedside when she took her last breath after her battle with cancer.

    Don't make the same mistake that my wife and I did.

    We didn't get another dog for over two years because we thought that no dog could ever replace our beloved Brooks.

    We live in Michigan - about two hours northwest of Detroit. Back during Labor Day Weekend of 2012, we drove down to Owensboro, Kentucky - 531 miles one way - to rescue Isabelle from a kill shelter. She is part Golden Retriever and part American Eskimo.

    Rescue dogs are the best - they just know. While Brooks was a pure-bred/registered/AKC, Isabelle is just as smart and just as loyal.

    Take time to grieve - then, don't wait as long as we did to get another companion. There are so many dogs out there that need loving and forever homes....and you definitely are someone that one of those dogs so desperately needs.

    Lucy was lucky to have you.

    Much love from up above...from the frozen tundra of mid-Michigan.

    Skip Mize

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  48. Thanks for your thoughts, watch the movie HACHI.

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  49. So sorry for your loss. She was your baby & you took excellent care of her when she needed you most.

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  50. Fur babies are the best! While reading this post, all I kept thinking about is my dogs are so mediocre compared to yours, yet we adore them anyway. Sharing your story has cause my husband and I to just love and appreciate our dogs more especially since they are both creeping into the double digits and we know our time is limited. Thank you for sharing the love and pain; it made a difference.

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