Today is the day we say goodbye to Lucy. It is one of the hardest things I’ll ever do, but she has lived a good life.
My mom and I came across Lucy thirteen years ago, when I was only 14. She was a small ball of fluff with floppy ears and a scraggly tail. We had lost our Dalmatian to cancer within the year, and already adopted Maggie, a beagle, from the county animal shelter. For some reason, my family still frequented the animal shelter, looking at all the dogs every other week or so.
Our county’s shelter had a policy where each dog would stay for a certain amount of days to give the possible owners time to recover their pet, and after that the dog would have 2 days before it was put down. During those 2 days, that dog would be put in the very front kennels to encourage (read: guilt) any visitors to adopt them before it was too late.
My mom and I watched this German Shepherd/Collie mix, as she whined and talked and gave us the side eye. Mom had seen her the week before, and had been told that she’d been spoken for. For some reason, Mom decided to ask about her again. Just in case. Mom came back and said that the people who had “reserved” her had changed their minds. We stood there in a bit of a panic. That meant that this sweet thing who was clearly intelligent would be put down in 4 days if no one claimed her. And she probably would have been put down, too. She was not a very pretty puppy. She was a mutt.
The man working there told us he’d found her wandering along a very busy road nearby. She was lucky she didn’t get hit by a car. We made a knee jerk decision and claimed her. Dad would be mad. She would probably get big, and she’d shed everywhere. She was clearly a highly anxious puppy. What if she didn’t get along with Maggie? (Note: she didn’t, even 12 years later.) Dad didn’t initially seem to like the idea, but he didn’t tell us no (after some convincing).
We brought Lucy home, and I held her in my lap while she whined and trembled in the car. We gave her a bath. Lucy would be my support system as I went through my dreadful teenage years. I can’t even communicate how connected I’ve been with this dog. She grew into a beautiful dog, with all the gorgeous features of a German Shepherd and the fluffiness of a Border Collie. With the protectiveness and intelligence of any purebred.
Lucy is the reason I get upset when people refuse to check their county shelter because they don’t want to “support” kill shelters. These shelters will exist no matter what you do, because no-kill shelters will never have enough room for these animals. Consider saving a dog who will cease to exist if you don’t adopt him. You may not walk away with a pure bred, or a tiny puppy (or you might), but you’ll walk away with a friend who needed you from the start. With a dog who took the best characteristics of its purebred parents.
So, this week, watching her while she is skin and bones, encouraging her to eat, and trying to get in cuddles while her pain meds are working, I’ve been keeping in mind that without us, she would have had a short life. She gave us support and love, and we gave her thirteen years.