‘I gather my strength and I start off and it feels good, like I have no age at all, like I am timeless. I pick up speed. I run.” – Garth Stein The Art of Racing in the Rain
Many of you already know, that Miss Lucy is gone. I posted a longer version of the above quote on Facebook the day after she passed, but this is the part that stays with me when I think about the days after she died and when I think of what I know happened next for her. It doesn’t make it easier and I keep thinking that if I just believe hard enough that she is happy and she is free, it will get easier, but it doesn’t.
I have been reluctant to tell the story of how she died because I was saving it to publish in the novel I have been working on about Lucy. I came to a decision this morning that the story of my life with Lucy is not something I am ready to share with the world just yet. It is too personal and too private. My grief is too new and I don’t know that I will ever manage it well enough to discuss my girl on a casual basis without massive quantities of alcohol flowing through my veins. I also came to the decision that I need the closure that I know will come with writing about how we let her go. I hate how things ended. I hate it so much that I didn’t want to write this post, but she deserves a eulogy and I have put off writing it for far too long, so here goes.
On Monday, August 8, 2011, Lucy had trouble getting up and preferred to stay laying down. She was still able to go outside to the bathroom, but stairs were hard for her. We took her out front on lead to let her do her thing that day and I figured that she’d just injured her shoulder somehow so I chose to do conservative management and then we’d see how it went.
Tuesday, things were a little better and I thought I saw her improving until later that night. When Lucy was laying on the floor, I saw massive bruising in between her front legs. I called the emergency vet and we went in. He told me she was not bleeding internally, they ran her blood work again and her platelet count was recovering to a level that lifted my hopes a bit. He sent us home with advice to return to WSU.
Things were fine again until Wednesday morning. Lucy could not get up. I called the regular vet and got her in with them. Lucy’s regular vet was unavailable so we saw a different vet, whom we had seen before and I felt comfortable with. She examined Lucy’s shoulder, did x-rays and found no cause for the massive lump in her shoulder. They did not think it was internal bleeding and suspected that a mast cell tumor had formed inside the joint but were reluctant to do an aspirate. We went home again with pain medication and she went potty at the vet before we left. That was the last time we were able to get her to walk under her own power. That night, after I gave her the pain meds, she laid down in the kitchen tile and I knew something was wrong. I thought maybe it was the pain pills, even though I’d only given her half the amount prescribed. She also refused her dinner.
Wednesday night, I slept in the living room while Lucy laid in the dining room floor and slept. Bright and early at 5:30 she woke me up with a few barks. I got up and offered her some of her dinner, which she refused. I asked her if she wanted to go potty and she looked away, so I brought her a bowl of water and she drank it down. I had my husband help me get her up when he came downstairs and tried to get her outside, but something was wrong with her back legs and she fell down. He asked me if I needed him to stay and I told him to go to work and that I would figure something out. Lucy did not get up from that spot again that day.
By 11:30 that morning, I knew. I looked at Lucy and I said to myself, “This is not the life I want for her. This is not the life we have been fighting for.”
I hated that truth. I hated it so much, but I couldn’t ignore it. So I sat down in the floor with Lucy and we looked at each other and I saw her love for me there and I saw how tired she was and my heart sank.
It was time.
I called my husband and told him to come home.
By 3 pm on August 11, 2011, Lucy was safely at Rainbow Bridge with all of the other dogs that I have loved. She went peacefully, in my arms while we stood around her telling her how much we loved her. There was not a dry eye in that room and the wonderful staff at the vet’s office hugged us and took good care of us and even shed a few tears of their own for our sweet girl.
It gives me comfort to know that Reilly and Duchess are with her and that my grandparents are watching over her, probably loving her as much as I did and still do. I was numb as we left the vet’s office. I couldn’t believe that it was over. I had wanted so much more than 21 months spent fighting cancer and wrangling with vets and debating over how to give her the best quality of life, but ultimately, that is what it came down to. There was no quality in life left for Lucy. Her spirit would have carried her so much farther than her body could.
I hate that. I hate that I held her in my arms and kissed her good-bye and that I had to choose for her. I now completely understand what a gift it was that Reilly chose his own time and that I didn’t have to make that decision for him.
I was okay for the remainder of the day, but the next day, when I picked up her blanket and her ashes, it was like someone had taken all of the worth and the beauty out of my life. She was everything to me and I have struggled with moving on. I haven’t wanted to admit to myself that she’s gone and when I think about it, when I really think about the fact that she isn’t here and that I won’t see her smiling at me for cheese… well I have a hard time reaching into the drawer to grab that stick of string cheese now.
What keeps me going, is remembering that some things will never change.
She will always be our pretty yellow dog. We will always remember our last summer together as The Summer of Cheese. We only had 21 months together, but no one can take that time away from us and we do not regret a single moment. They were some of the most wonderful months of our lives and I believe that they were the best months of hers. She was so easy to love, but she is impossible to forget. We are very blessed to have had her in our lives at all. I said it every day that she was alive and I still believe it now. Lucy was a gift to us from heaven. I pray that everyone has the chance to have that kind of love in their lives because Lucy made our world a better place to be and made us better human beings. I will always be grateful for her love.
Run free my beautiful Miss Lucy Girl, until we meet again.