Well, as if the past few weeks haven’t been hard enough, my dog Lucy became extremely poorly very quickly and sadly passed away at the vets yesterday morning. They think she had a tumour on her lung and there was nothing that we could have done to treat her; she was booked in for a day of tests but didn’t even make it to the table before taking a turn for the worse. In a way I’m glad that the decision was out of my hands; I’d have been tempted to do everything possible to keep her with us but at the same time I know it wouldn’t have been fair to put her through too much, for her to suffer.
My biggest upset is that I hadn’t seen her for weeks because I was in hospital and I never got chance to say goodbye. You know it is going to happen one day but I always thought I’d be there, stroking her and telling her how loved she was. I would have felt more peace with that but at least my mum was able to do this for me. I’ve actually had to be careful not to get too upset because obviously I’m already having difficulty breathing and I don’t want to make myself worse. So what I’d like to do is write a small tribute here, because as well as being part of the family, she was a very special dog in terms of my health and Still’s Disease too.
I bought Lucy as a puppy almost twelve years ago to the day. I was recovering from one of my worst flares and had recently had surgery on my left knee to ‘tidy it up’ and also to fuse the small tib-fib joint that had been totally destroyed. The surgeon had stressed how important it was to try and start walking again after so long off my feet; otherwise I could totally lose any mobility remaining in the leg joints at only 19. Then he asked if we had a dog and my eyes lit up with an idea; I’d been wanting a dog for years and finally had a great excuse to get one – I mean, how could my parents refuse? They couldn’t and as soon as I was well enough we went to have a nosy at some puppies :)
Lucy was a bit of a runt to be honest. The rest of her litter were typical black and white Border Collies but Lucy was nearly all black, a bit scruffy and very timid. Still, we fell in love with her and soon she was sat on my knee as my Dad drove us all home. She wasn’t an easy puppy and we didn’t bond straight away, maybe because I was still quite immobile from the surgery. I thought there’d be snuggles on the sofa but there were nips instead and when I moved onto crutches, determined to look after her, she would attack them and almost pull them from under me. Soon though, she did learn that I was the one looking after her and started to trust me. I would only have to pick up her dish and this little ball of black fur would come skidding into the kitchen.
By the time she was able to go for short walks so was I, first on two crutches and then on one. She never liked the sticks but seemed to sense my difficulty in getting about and so eventually tolerated them. As Lucy got older, I grew stronger and together we ventured a little further every time, until eventually we were out walking a fair old way every day. Before long, there was no stopping us and walking with Lucy became one of my favourite pasttimes. The doctors were amazed with my progress, my knee retained almost all of its mobility and the muscle weakness in my legs started to disappear too; in fact, this was the start of the longest controlled period of my Still’s Disease.
And Lucy was a brilliant dog in other ways too. Her soft side quickly appeared and she was loyal to us all, wagging her tail like a windmill whenever she saw us. She was always nearby, mothering me in her little way; she seemed to know when I was struggling and at those times wouldn’t leave my side. I only had to say ouch at a sore joint and she’d run up to give me a lick of concern. Being a Collie, she was very clever and I spent hours teaching her different commands that she picked up quickly and never forgot, throwing a few of her own tricks into the mix too. Like most dogs she had her own little quirks and habits. She loved rolling on our damp towels after we’d showered for instance and had to have presents to open at Christmas – she knew what was coming as soon as the tree went up ever year and would take up her position under it each night, guarding her gifts until it was finally time to open them.
Of course there’s so much more that I could say but the main thing is that I feel I have a lot to thank my Lucy for. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to make myself walk every day, despite being in considerable pain at times. But knowing she needed me as much as I needed her made me make that effort and I’ve had a lot less lower joint involvement as a result, I swear. Plus on those walks I would talk to her about my worries and she would look up at me as if taking it all in. If I was ever upset, I’d cuddle her and stroke her until I’d calmed down and then of course her silly ways and waggy tail would always put a smile on my face.
I didn’t get chance to say goodbye how I wanted to, but I do remember our last day together. Feeling unwell, I took a nap on my Mum’s sofa and must have been asleep too long in her eyes as she came and gave me a sniff and a lick before lying on the floor next to me. And just before I left her with my mum, I was struck with a sudden sadness – as if it was going to be the last time I would see her. I don’t know how but it’s like part of me knew. I cursed myself for being morbid at the time, but did at least give her a big fuss as a result, so at least I can treasure that goodbye.
I know the petlovers among you will understand my need to post this here and hope the rest will bear with me. She was part of the family and more important, one of the best friends I could ever have wished for. It is going to be hard to adjust to life without her; we already miss her so much.
You were a good girl Lucy, always; in fact, you were the best.
I hope you didn’t suffer and are at peace now,
Sleep tight x