- Robert Louis Stevenson
Dear Reader, my Heart is broken.
The past Friday, I had to say good-bye to one of the dearest friends I have ever had. Lucy, my beloved border collie, has been my constant companion for the past 14 years. And now, she is gone.
I did the math(s) yesterday, and realized that apart from my family, many of whom with which I am not very close, Lucy has held the place as the most consistent, long-term, loving presence in my life.
The fact is a bit staggering, but far from sad or pathetic. Clearly, I choose wisely and well when I invited her into my life, the same cannot be said of a few of the choices I’ve made in the past of the human variety.
Writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) wrote of the great loyalty and unconditional love she felt from her canine companions. Another writer extolled their virtues by declaring: “I pray to God that one day I may truly become the person my dog believes I am.”
Perhaps one day I’ll write a book called “Lessons from Lucy”. It would be a volume full of inspiring tales of grace and gentleness; of taking risks and having adventures (have passport, will travel!); a diet section extolling the virtues of fresh veg (carrots, celery, and broccoli - top favourites), popcorn and chicken, and a firm warning against the over-consumption of miso soup; an activities section recommending sea breezes, three walks a day and rides in the car with the windows down.
There would be advice on etiquette and social interactions, with candid tidbit, such as: “Respect yourself girls! Bottom sniffing on the first date is utterly out of the question”; and, “Try a little tolerance. Cats are okay, once you get to know them. One of my best friends is a feline...”
And of course, all important relationship advice - summing up the measure of a man in one sniff – a skill every modern girl should have! Lucy was a great social barometer and judge of character.
I remember once in New York, a chap who lived in our building, who used to happen upon us during our walks in Washington Square Park. Nice looking, friendly, all smiles. However, at his approach, Lucy would become very quiet and still, ears down, tail tucked, shy. Not herself at all. He often asked me out for coffee – and I always refused.
Lucy fell in love with the DEB as swiftly as I did, and accepted him as pack leader without hesitation.
“There are seasons in every life, and this chapter of your life, Lucy’s life, and your lives together, has ended,” my friend, a serene Methodist minister, spoke softly down the phone, calling from America.
She and her family had loved and cared for Lucy, and had allowed Lucy to recuperate from her first leg surgery in the comfort and fresh air of their big, Southern farm. The task of Lucy’s rehabilitation would have been a virtual impossibility in the rutted landscape of New York City.
I wept as she recalled the time Lucy had spent with them: “Lucy was a such blessing, and in so many ways, a touch of the divine in our lives.” During that time, an elderly relative of hers had suffered a stroke, and was in need of physiotherapy. The relative had refused the treatment, and sunk into a depression.
Then, in walked Lucy.
Her daily visits brightened and cheered his spirits. They bonded in their recovery, and Lucy’s presence encouraged him to become more active, and he regained the use of his hands so that he could pet and stroke her.
This dear old man is no longer with us, and I’m sure, he was there, waiting for Lucy, and welcomed her on the other side.
Death, they say, is worse for those of us left behind, and that is true because the act of letting go is so very hard for us to do. And so, we are left feeling torn asunder, our home, our hearts and lives feeling very empty, indeed.
Lucy had two extraordinary years living here in England. And, I think she enjoyed every minute of it. I'm just thankful that we had this time together.