We’ve had Lucy for twelve plus years. I remember sitting in my office tapping away at my Mac one night when the husband came in with the newspaper.
“They have dogs in Frederick,” he said.
“Huskies?” I wanted a husky.
I kept tapping away, considering. “So you want a dog?”
I turned and looked at him earnestly. “You do know if we go look at them, we’ll end up bringing one home.” He nodded sheepishly, but he already had me. The only time I’d been petless was in college and even then we tried to have everything from fish to a bunny to rats and a hamster. Little animals and I do not get along, as evidenced by three dead hamsters, a dead rat, and a bunny we gave away because he was a nasty little sucker.
So we went to this farm about 30 miles north of where we live and we found Lucy: a 3 month old lab grehound mix who would chew through my dining room chair rails and drive me about bonkers for two years until she finally grew up a little. The day after Lucy came home with us, we found out we were having son #1. (There went my office, by the way, which I still haven’t gotten back.) She was his best friend for several summers of playing in the back yard.
Lucy has been a puppy forever. She’d run around the back yard, play with the kids, and has been a fabulous dog. But Lucy is approaching 13. Old for a lab. Ancient for a greyhound. About a year ago, she stopped running around so much and started slowing down. Then the coughing started. A quick trip to the vet confirmed our worst fears.
Lucy is in congestive heart failure.
We’ve been buffing her up with lasix for nearly a year, and she’s done pretty well. But then she stopped eating. Feeding her wet food made her sick, but putting hot water on her dry food made her happy, so she started putting on weight again.
But now, as we watch her black fur turning white around her delicate muzzle, she’s stopped eating again. She still likes her table scraps, but can’t eat much of that before it’s too much for her and she gets sick. She’s getting thinner and thinner, and I don’t think she’s long for this world. And it’s terrible.
There comes a point when you wonder, “Is this when we let her go? Is this when we put her down?” But then she smiles in her eyes and wags her tail, and I know I can’t do it. I wake almost every morning wondering if she’s still with us. I don’t want her to die, but I know it’s coming. I want to her to live as long as she can remain pain free, but then I watch her gasping for breath from her wet lungs and I wonder how much she’s suffering.
Death is all around her. One day I think I will wake up and she will be gone. I think that day is soon. And how terrible am I to think that day will come with so much sadness, and yet relief. We’re all waiting for our sweet dog to take her last breath. We all dread it, and there is a sense of mourning about us all. It is a wonderful thing to be able to say goodbye to our friend – our protector for 12 years. And it is a horrid curse to watch her fade.
Some debate that we should put her down, but I can’t. Not yet. It may come to that, but I doubt it. She does not seem to be in pain, but if she doesn’t eat, she’ll soon be too weak to draw breaths. She’ll fall asleep and just not wake up. And we’ll cry as we make her arrangements. And yet, we’ll thank God that our friend will be free to run around the yard again, if only in spirit.