Those that follow me on Facebook know that Nadyne and I had to have our Cairn Terrier, Lucy, put to sleep this past week. About three weeks earlier, she had shown some symptoms of something wrong, but at that point we chalked them up to her older age. She was twelve years old and of a breed that has a 12- to 15-year average lifespan. Having her thumb her nose at dinner, something that was one of her favorite things in the world, was concerning. But she did eat her food later in the evening, so we thought maybe she changed her mind about liking that particular brand of dogfood. She had done that before with different treats and dry food. We changed brands but she didn't seem to like those either. Then she started eating again.
When she started to throw up her food a few days later, we thought that she had a bug, something that feeding her chicken and rice had resolved in the past. It didn't this time. We were camping in "The Middle of Nowhere," Wyoming, and decided to cut our stay short so we could have her examined in Wichita, our next stop. In the meantime, things seemed to get back to normal and we held off having her seen until symptoms returned. When they did, we took her to a vet and x-rays showed a mass growing in her abdomen. They recommended surgery, about $5,000, with no realistic reason for optimism. On top of that, they would keep her in the hospital alone over the Labor Day weekend before they could further assess her. We decided to keep and watch her while we cancelled our next stop in rural Illinois and moved up our stop in Michigan near civilization, in case things got worse. They did.
We took Lucy in for a second opinion, which resulted in a terrible choice of having her put to sleep painlessly or risk a rupture of the mass and having her bleed out in excruciating pain. Her advanced age for a Cairn meant she likely would not recover well from any major surgery and there was little hope for a better outcome regardless. The doctor whole-heartedly supported our decision and cried along side of us while the drugs took effect.
Nadyne and I hadn't cried this much and this long for any human we've known, even parents. I suspect if we had lost a child, the pain would have been comparable. Someone that loved us unconditionally and who required our care to survive was looking for us to make her pain and discomfort go away. Instead we had to make the terrible choice, the only choice we could make.
It's obvious that even knowing that you did the right thing doesn't help heal you emotionally. Only time can do that, a lot of time. I remember the lyrics from Mr. Bojangles: "His dog up and died, he up and died, and after twenty years he still grieves." Most people we have talked to that have lost beloved pets fall into this category. Maybe it's worse for us that Lucy was our only pet when all of this occurred, but Lucy would not allow another dog in the house. When we tried, we ended up re-homing the interloper, twice. Other couples with multiple dogs seem to be able to recover more readily. At least that the way it feels.
Lucy had an interesting life. She was born in Wichita, Kansas, to a family that didn't want her on top of the family Boxers they already had. We hadn't intended on a long-haired dog but went to meet her anyway and it was love at first sight for her and us. She came home and we started her adventure. She was house-trained but very quickly learned to potty on command and we knew she was very smart. Eventually she learned the meanings of a couple hundred words, which was sometimes difficult for us.
At that time we were both working and Lucy was home alone all day. We felt like a companion might make this time better for her and adopted a young blonde girl, a miniature schnauser mix. Bella was a sweatheart but Lucy just wouldn't have it. She pouted and became depressed, and after a few weeks when she stopped doing anything with us, we decided it was time to re-home Bella. After a few months the pound called that they had found Bella and we picked her up and tried again. Again Lucy became depressed. The second time we re-homed Bella, it stuck and Lucy was happy again as the queen of the house.
I am an avid photographer and Lucy got to smell the odors of a hundred locations in Kansas before we moved to Colorado. There we bought and began camping in a fifth wheel and she experienced many more new locales. In Denver, she also got to have her daily chase of the local squirrels, running all day from front deck to back yard and back again, almost from sun up to sun down. We had to increase her food because the sheer activity was making her lose too much weight.
Twice a year, at her birthday (the same day as mine in September, we decided) and at Christmas, one of her all-time favorite activities- opening presents. We would buy toys and treats and wrap them in tissue paper, then one at a time, she would exitedly open them and hoard her haul. I never saw such glee on a dog's face before that. She was so intelligent that she could tell when her holiday was approaching when we started removing the older toys from her stash.
In April, 2018, we sold our house and moved into our fifth wheel, hitting the road permanently. Lucy was never a fan of riding in the truck and, despite our hopes, she never did get used to it. At each campsite, where we could, I put up a large pen with three wire fence sections, about 36 feet in overall length, making a fenced area of about 10' by 12', and installed a doggy door in our screen door. That meant Lucy could go outside anytime the outside door was open, and she was outside nearly every minute the weather was nice. Since she disliked car travel so much, we were happy we were able to compensate for that, at least in part. We circled the country and half way again before she passed. She personally set foot in 30 states, and I can't imagine how big her sensual database of smells must have been.
We will survive. We are looking into adopting rescue dogs, hopefully this time a pair, and some of the void we feel can be lessened. We don't expect any dog to replace Lucy, but we can love them and remember her.
Her are a few photos of Lucy from throughout her life:
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