Two Years Ago, I Sent My Pretty Lil Hound to the Rainbow Bridge
Editor's note: Lori, our Community Manager, wrote this to memorialize Lucy, her beloved Basset, on Oct. 15, 2011. Today is two years to that day, and we are running it in Lucy's honor. We miss her like mad here at Dogster HQ. If you knew our Pretty Lil Hound, please share your favorite memory in the comments below.
I was walking back from the store yesterday and across the street I saw a man with a Basset Hound puppy. I yelled to him, “Hey can I pet your puppy?” He stopped, and I ran over to them. I knelt down and was smothered with puppy kisses. She was four months old.
“I got her from the San Francisco SPCA," he said. "Someone had received her as a gift and wasn’t able to take care of her.” I loved on her some more, and then I asked her name. “Her name is Lucy,” he said.
The dog reminded me of my own Pretty Lil' Hound, Lucy, who I lived with for four years. I’d known her since she was a puppy, when after 10 years, she wasn’t able to stay with the family she’d grown up with, so she came to me. She was the sweetest dog: I would often look at her and say, “Lucy, you are soooooooooooooo SWEET!”
Lucy was always so easygoing. She loved to be anywhere I was. We went everywhere together. No matter where we were or what we were doing, she would go along joyfully. Even after losing her sight to glaucoma three years before, she had kept her endearing spirit and made her way through life with a trot in her step and an enthusiastic wag of her tail. She showed me that it was possible to flourish and live happily under the most challenging circumstances. She was my hero.
A few weeks ago, we were packed up to spend the weekend away for a friend’s 40th birthday. When we returned from our walk that morning, I noticed that she was having trouble getting up the stairs to the house. Nonetheless, when our ride arrived, she got right into the car, excited for the journey.
A few of the ladies traveling with us that weekend had made appointments for spa services, and since dogs weren’t allowed at the spa, Lucy and I spent the afternoon at a small park. We had a picnic under the shade of a big tree; I fed her chicken while I ate a sandwich. Lucy got up occasionally and sniffed her way slowly around the park. We napped. It was a day I will always treasure.
The house on the river was beautiful and for three unforgettable days, Lucy never left my side. The six other ladies showered her with love and attention. She slept most of the time, only waking up for a few short walks, or to drink some water. I could tell that she wasn’t feeling well.
On Saturday morning, I grilled some chicken for her but she wouldn’t eat it. I immediately called the vet and made an appointment for Monday afternoon. She drank water all day and later that evening, she ate the chicken. I was so relieved. The next day she had some more of the chicken, but threw it up a few minutes later.
On the way back from the river, we stopped and had a picnic. Lucy was having trouble walking up the hill, so I picked her up and carried her. She lay on the blanket next to us while we ate and drank a bottle of wine. At one point, I looked at her and started to cry.
When we got back to San Francisco, her cat, Cow, was waiting inside the house for her. He rubbed up against her, purring loudly, as they made their way around the house. A few minutes later she went to lie down in her bed. I grilled a steak for her that evening, which she devoured enthusiastically. She slept curled up next to me in my bed that night. I woke up several times to give her water and kiss her furry little face.
The next morning, I tried to feed Lucy the rest of the steak, but she wouldn’t eat. I sent a text to my friends at Dogster HQ to let them know that I wouldn’t be coming into the office. I had a sinking feeling that this appointment wasn’t going to be about how to get Lucy well again. She had no desire to get up and move around.
It became clearer as each hour passed that morning that Lucy was letting go.
I needed to talk with someone. I needed comfort and reassurance. I didn’t call my family, or one of my close friends in the area. I called a friend I had met on Dogster. Right after speaking with her, two more of my friends from Dogster called. Later that morning, a thread was started for Lucy and I in the Plus Power of the Paw Forum. I stayed in bed with Lucy, reading everything. I have an abundance of gratitude for the Dogster Community and the Catster Community for the caring kindness they showed to Lucy and I.
In the afternoon, I asked Lucy to please let me know if it was time for me to let her go. She licked my hand and nuzzled closer to me. I decided to take her to the park. When I put on her leash, she wagged her tail. I carried her down the stairs to the sidewalk and took a couple of steps, but she wouldn’t budge.
I picked her up and carried her halfway down the block into Golden Gate Park and sat her down in the meadow. She walked a few steps, sniffed around a bit, and then came and sat down next to me. We sat in the park for close to an hour; I petted her and told her over and over again how much I loved her.
My mom arrived to take us to the vet. I was sitting on the couch with Lucy on my lap. “We have to go, babycakes, it's almost 5:30,” she said. “NO," I cried, tears streaming down my face, “SHE IS FINE. Look at her. She doesn't want to go! We are going to stay RIGHT HERE FOREVER!”
My mom sat next to me and said, “You are giving her a gift. I just wish that someday, when I am too old and sick to go on, you could do the same for me.”
I got up, put Lucy down, and put on her leash for the last time. She wagged her tail.
Dr. Fong at Irving Pet Hospital in San Francisco has been Lucy’s vet since she came to live with me. He took care of her when she got glaucoma. At Lucy’s senior wellness exam a few months earlier, he marveled at her endurance. She was doing really well, her appetite was healthy, and she was still enjoying her life. We agreed that at close to 14 years old, what mattered most was Lucy’s quality of life.
The vet staff took us to an exam room. I sat down, holding Lucy in my arms like a baby. She always loved that.
When Dr. Fong came in, I said, “I think it's time to let Lucy go," and started to cry. He looked at me knowingly and asked me to tell him what was going on. I explained how she wouldn't eat, she didn't want to go for a walk, she didn’t want to do anything.
Dr. Fong said, “The last time you were here we talked about the importance of Lucy’s quality of life and that what really mattered was that she was still able to enjoy the things she loved: eating, walking on the beach and in the park, going places with you. It seems she is not able to do those things anymore.”
"No, she’s not," I said. “I am ready to let her go.” He carefully explained what he would be doing to help Lucy on her journey.
The veterinarian's assistant came in and I gave Lucy to her. She carried Lucy like a baby to another room to put in the catheter. She came back and laid Lucy, now wrapped in a blanket, gently onto the exam table. I wrapped my arms around her and put my face to hers. My mom put her arms around me.
Lucy lay there quietly. I told her again and again how much I loved her. I thanked her for blessing me with her company.
Dr. Fong gave Lucy an injection that put her into a deep sleep. She grunted a couple of times, as she often did before falling asleep. He gave her a second injection and put his stethoscope to her heart. Moments later, he lifted the stethoscope.
I picked up Lucy’s cremated remains today. They came in a small wooden box, engraved with the words “Pretty Lil’ Hound.” There is a place at the front of the box for a photo, where I will put a picture of me holding Lucy in my arms like a baby.
I had also requested her paw print in ceramic, which came with an envelope containing a copy of the Rainbow Bridge Poem. I walked home carrying these mementos of Lucy held tightly to my chest.
When I got home I placed them on the table next to my bed, along with a white gardenia in a heart-shaped bowl. I lit a candle in memory of the Pretty Lil’ Hound. Lucy wagged her tail and the flame flickered.
With love always,
The Lady Who Fed You and Who Will ALWAYS Love You Most
Lucy McGruff 10/28/97-09/26/11