Monday, October 13, 2014

A Star named Lucy

     On July 22nd, 1997 a shooting Star entered our lives. She was 76 pounds of black fur, cold nose, wet tongue and pitiful to look at. It all began as an idyllic Tuesday afternoon quest to adopt a dog from the want ad’s in our local paper. About three months after our old dog died, we had decided to look for another dog to adopt. We had always raised our former dogs, from the usual puppy age of six weeks.

All had been very special. This time however, we decided to adopt a dog that was older and just needed a good home. We decided we did not want to go through all the work that puppy training entailed. After scanning the Sunday paper, I found a listing for a dog, which seemed to be just the dog we were looking for. It was an ad for a small Yorkshire terrier and stated that the dog was housebroke, gentle and only two years old. The ad said the people were moving out of state and unable to take the dog. They had actually advertised two dogs; but the other dog was a Lab/Chessie mix and was advertised as one, which had unspecified special needs.
     After calling to inquire if I could drop by to see the Yorkshire terrier and I received a positive response, I drove over to look at what I expected to be a well cared for little lap sitter type of dog. At least that was my plan when I set out that Tuesday afternoon. When I arrived I discovered that another family had arrived before me and were taking the little dog. Just as I turned to leave, the woman who owned the dogs asked me if I would be interested in the other dog. She practically begged me to take a look at the dog. The other dog of course was the big Lab/Chessie mix. This was certainly not in my plan that day…until they told me her story.

     Star was her name. They had raised her until she was a year old and then given her to their daughter and son-in-law who lived on a farm fifty miles away. The dog was now 3 years old. Unfortunately the son-in-law was an abuser of man and beast alike. Star was gentle and kind with everyone, especially the daughter and the grandbaby the woman explained. She said that a couple of months earlier, the abusive son-in-law had tried to harm the woman and her baby in a drunken rage. Star in her effort to protect, had jumped in to receive a knife wound intended for the daughter. The woman was able to escape with her baby and the dog was left to fend for itself. Eventually, the wounded animal had walked, crawled and strained to get all the way back to Kansas City and the parents home. She had been tracking her way home for several weeks the woman explained; when within blocks of the parents house the dog collapsed at a gas station on the inter state. As she described the scene and named the station location, my
heart skipped a beat. I knew the very dog she was describing.

     You see, two weeks after our beloved Cocker Maddie had died, my husband had come home from work one evening very upset. On his route home that particular day, he had passed by that same gas station and this was the very scene he had described to me. He said; he had seen a badly starved and beaten black Lab mix dog collapse. He had stopped to try to assist the dog if possible. Several other people had also stopped and were trying to divert the rush hour traffic to save the dog. The dog kept staggering in and out of traffic before she finally collapsed in front of the gasoline station. The dog was terribly frightened and would not let anyone approach her. Finally a woman had come along and said she recognized the dog as her neighbors missing dog. Impossible as it seemed, the dog had survived more than a fifty-mile trek across Missouri. The woman said she was sure it was her neighbors missing dog. Everyone decided it must have been true, as the frightened animal offered no resistance when the woman called her Star. She became docile and allowed the woman to load her in the truck.

   It was as though God had planned our adopting her all along. My husband had worried about the fate of that dog every day since it had happened. Here I was, being given the opportunity to save her once again. This time, the save would be because she was not getting well. She had heartworms and was dying. The couple was moving; they had no money to care for her and did not want to have to put her to sleep.
     I wish I could describe the look on my husbands face when I came home with this pitiful, scrawny piece of canine fur. He took one look and said;” Good Lord! She looks just like the Lab I saw at the gas station. Of course when I explained it was the very same one, he was instantly in love with what would become a 100 pound lap sitter, once we got her well again. It broke his heart that she shivered and was terrified every time he came near her. He finally discovered his wearing his baseball cap terrified her. We finally concluded that must have triggered a memory of the man who abused her. Being a farmer, the abusive man had probably worn jeans and a ball cap. Gene packed away all of his hats from then on. Slowly but surely over the next few weeks she warmed up to him.
     After several rounds of treatment for her heartworms, she regained her health. In the meantime, she quickly learned that Gene was her champion. He held her and cuddled her through all the misery she had to endure with the treatments. After a couple of weeks, Gene decided we should change her name from Star to Lucy. She wasn’t responding to her name, and he decided the man must have used it when beating her. She seemed to associate the name Star with pain. Sure enough she instantly came to accept the name Lucy and it stuck. We never mentioned her old name again. She liked it so much she decided Gene was her best friend. Now she wanted to snuggle by his chair when he came home and sleep beside him in the bed. He didn’t have the heart to make her sleep on the floor. She quickly wormed her way into every fabric of our lives.
     For the first few months, we thought they had removed her voice box, as she never made a sound. But one day, as we were walking her a child who ran out onto the path unexpectedly startled her and she let out a bark. Then she cringed as though she expected a beating. My husband and I laughed and cried and hugged her over and over. We praised her and told her it was ok. From then on, she got her doggie voice back and she could sing like and angel on cue. Within days of getting her voice, she would prove to be a hero once more.
     During the night that first November after we adopted her she woke us by barking and growling. She jumped at the window and then ran to the front door of the house and barked some more. We turned on the lights and looked around but could not discover the reason she was so upset. We were puzzled, but she finally calmed back down and we went back to sleep. The next day we discovered a burglar had broken into two houses on our block during the night. We were pretty sure Lucy had run them off from our house.
     As the years went by, Lucy became as dear to us as any dog we have ever owned. While she would never completely regain her health, she was just the perfect companion for us. She had the sweetest face, which oozed love and affection.
     In the summer of 2003, she began to have problems with kidney failure. Her kidneys had been damaged in her

earlier years of abuse and it would finally prove irreversible. But even though she was becoming more and more frail, she still managed one last heroic deed before her Star burned out. In early October of that year, she had gotten into a habit of jumping up and licking my husband’s neck. She would shiver and whine and bark. This was something she had never done before. I finally asked my husband why she was doing that and he said he had no idea. He did finally admit though, that he had a sore in his mouth and his neck hurt. He did not like her new trick at all.  I finally managed to convince him to see a dentist. The dentist recommended an immediate biopsy, which tested positive for oral cancer. The cancer required extensive surgery but thanks to Lucy, they were able to try and stop the spread of cancer. Lucy had tried to saved his life. Unfortunately Gene would live only another two years but they were full and she allowed him a time to be with us he would not have had if she had not alerted us.He lived another year and a half after Lucy died.

     At, at 1:00 PM, July 30th, 2004, Lucy’s earthly light burned out. We grieve and we miss her but we shall always think of her as “God’s little Angel Dog”, sent to be our special companion. I like to think there is a Star in the heavens above us, burning brightly tonight. A Star named Lucy.

 Copyrighted 2007