I am a dog person. Always have been, always will be. I grew up with dogs and have trouble picturing my life without a furry friend by my side.
By Gretchen Snyder
I am a dog person. Always have been, always will be. I grew up with dogs and have trouble picturing my life without a furry friend by my side. I love almost every kind of dog, except maybe those Chinese Crested hairless dogs, which I find a bit creepy and reminiscent of Mr. Bigglesworth in the Austin Powers movies. You might even consider me a little nuts when it comes to dogs. I have a confession I probably shouldn’t admit: I actually find puppies much cuter than babies. Don’t get me wrong, I thought my own babies were absolutely adorable, albeit after their heads morphed back into shape and they got rid of that unsightly “baby acne”. But when I see a puppy, I will fearlessly cross four lanes of traffic just to rub her belly. I don’t do that for babies.
So you can imagine that when Lucy, our beloved 13-year-old chocolate Labrador, was diagnosed with advanced cancer, I was a wreck. She was our first baby, our test drive for children. She was there when we brought both our boys home from the hospital. She was there when my older son broke his femur at age 5 and was in a full body cast for six weeks. She was there to rest her head on my lap after I broke my nose playing tennis (don’t ask). She was there for all of our birthday celebrations, holidays and special occasions. Day in and day out, through good times and bad, Lucy was always there.
When the vet told us she probably wouldn’t survive more than a few days, we made the painful decision to put her to sleep. As difficult as it was to let her go, we had seen her suffering so badly the past few weeks and we knew it was the right decision for Lucy. Telling our boys was really rough – they had never lived a day without their loyal companion.
The night after Lucy died, our family decided to have a celebration of Lucy’s life. We were all extremely sad and I was hopeful that this might bring us some peace and even a few smiles. We chose the dining room for our celebration, and we displayed all our favorite photos of Lucy. We lit candles in her honor. I even pulled out the chocolate lab coasters a friend had given me many years ago when Lucy was a puppy. Our meal consisted of all Lucy’s favorite people foods: spaghetti, bagels, and Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano cookies for dessert. My younger son even grabbed his air soft gun and fired off a 13-gun salute – one shot for every year of Lucy’s life.
My husband and I started telling stories about Lucy and her “puppy days” before the boys were born. We told them about the day we brought Lucy home from Ballston Spa, New York. I was driving and my husband was in the backseat with Lucy lying across his lap. Just before we got to the exit on 87 South for the Palisades Mall, Lucy began to whine frantically. Although we were almost home to Rye, we knew that her puppy bladder couldn’t hold out that long and decided to pull off the exit for a pit stop. Needless to say the pit stop became unnecessary. No sooner did I exit the highway than Lucy deposited a nice puppy poop right on my husband’s lap. For all of you out there who have boys – you know what happens next – the boys were howling with laughter. They wanted to hear the story over and over again.
We also told the boys about Lucy’s first (and only) experience with obedience training. We enrolled Lucy in an 8-week session of “puppy school” in Greenwich, hoping that against all odds, our wildly energetic chocolate lab would rise to the occasion and learn to behave. It became quite clear after the first few sessions that Lucy had no intention of learning anything at puppy school. While all the other puppies learned to sit, stay, lie down, and walk calmly in a circle, Lucy spent all her time trying to get the other puppies to play. A room full of cute little puppies was just too much for her to resist (I can’t say I blame her). A few times we actually got kicked out of the room as the instructor told us Lucy was too disruptive and was distracting the other dogs.
At the end of the 8-week session, there was a “graduation ceremony” for the dogs. The instructor presented each family with a fancy dog diploma suitable for framing (I told you dog lovers can be a bit nutty at times). When it was our turn, the instructor reluctantly handed us Lucy’s diploma, but only on the express condition that we promised never to enroll Lucy in that obedience school again. We quickly agreed and hustled Lucy out of the room, giggling like little kids who had just narrowly escaped punishment for their naughty behavior.
After we finished telling Lucy stories, we went down to the playroom – sadly the last place where the boys laid down to give her a hug the night before. We unanimously agreed that our celebration of Lucy’s life wouldn’t be complete without the classic dog movie – “Marmaduke”. We all needed a little laughter and that movie was the perfect medicine. For all you dog lovers out there, “Marmaduke” is a must-see.
Days have gone by since we lost Lucy and the house is painfully quiet, especially when the boys are at school. Each time I open the front door, I wait to hear the clicking sounds of her paws as she barrels across the wood floor to greet me. Sadly, all I hear is silence. Now, if I trip while going down the playroom stairs, I have only myself to blame. There is no 85-pound ball of fur blocking the entrance, patiently waiting for me to stop doing laundry and take her for a walk. Now, when the boys drop the majority of their dinner on the kitchen floor, there is no dog to nudge their chairs aside and feast on the remains. Now, when I cook spaghetti, I feel a big lump in my throat, as Lucy is not there under my feet frantically wiggling while I pour the pasta in the colander.
But even now, while the wound is still so fresh and raw, I realize how very lucky we were to have Lucy as part of our family. She will forever live in our hearts and I feel blessed to have spent 13 wonderful years with a beautiful, loyal dog by my side.
There is something so pure and simple about a dog’s unconditional love.