I lost a good friend yesterday. Actually, he was more than a friend, he was a member of the family. Things around my house just won’t be the same without him.
I fist met him in 1993. My wife’s aunt owned a female Husky that had just had a litter of puppies. She had decided to give the puppies away and asked if we wanted one. We had been thinking of getting a dog, so we said yes.
We picked out a male with a little white tip on his tail. He was friendly, good-natured and playful. In late November we brought him home with us. We named him Lucky. I picked the name, but I don’t recall what my reasoning was, it just seemed to fit. I can still remember his first night with us. I sat on the floor playing with him while I was watching NYPD Blue.
Throughout his life, he remained friendly, good-natured and playful. Even in his early teens, he would run and bounce around like a puppy. He was great with both of our kids. I never once worried he would turn on them when they were little. And when they got older, we had fewer reservations about leaving them home without a babysitter because Lucky would be there to protect them. He was no attack dog, but I never doubted that he would fight to protect his family. And it didn’t hurt that he had a loud baritone bark that made him sound like a one hundred pound Rottweiler.
Like any dog, Lucky wasn’t a perfect. He got into things he shouldn’t have, usually food, or anything that smelled like food. It was a challenge to stay ahead of him, as there seemed to be no limit to his capacity to circumvent any measure we took to keep him at bay. It didn’t help that we consistently underestimated him. As much as I loved him, he tried my patience on a regular basis. And patience is not my strong point. I could never stay mad at him for long, though. He had a way of cheering me up, no matter how bad my mood.
While Lucky stayed healthy and active well into old age, I knew he wouldn’t last forever. The last couple of years were particularly tough on the little guy. He lost most of his hearing, he was developing cataracts, and he suffered from nystagmus. On top of all that, there was the inevitable arthritis in his hindquarters. While all those things slowed him down, they didn’t stop him. Lucky was relentless. Quitting was not in his repertoire.
Last week I noticed that Lucky’s condition was deteriorating at a faster rate. I suspected that he might not be with us by Christmas. When I brought him out yesterday morning, he had a tough time walking and standing. When my cell phone rang at work later that morning, I feared that it was my daughter calling to tell me something was wrong with Lucky. I was relieved to see that it wasn’t he. My relief was short-lived. A couple hours later, my phone rang again. It was my daughter. Something was wrong with Lucky.
I went home to see what the problem was. When I walked in, my daughter said, “I called Mom, she’s on her way.” Lucky was in bad shape. When my wife got home, we discussed it and made the painful decision to have him put to sleep. Hardest decision I have ever made in my life. I didn’t want to let him go, but I didn’t want him to suffer. My wife felt the same way.
I called the vet to set things up. We decided to wait until my younger daughter got home so she could say goodbye to Lucky. My wife went and picked her up at school. Then we all rode to the vet’s together. We all went in with Lucky and stayed with him until the end. It was hard, but I think we owed it to him after the loyalty he had shown us over the last eighteen years.
I’ve been second-guessing the decision to put him down. In my head, I know it was the right thing to do. But my heart is still broken. I’m going to miss him terribly.
I often wonder whether there is a purpose to the things that happen. Is there some kind of grand design at play, or is it all just random chance? I honestly don’t know the answer. But as I thought about it last night, it occurred to me that maybe there was a purpose to Lucky’s life with us. Maybe he was there to teach me something. Like wag more, and bark less. Enjoy life, stay active as long as you’re able. And above all, be patient and don’t sweat the small stuff.
One thing I know for sure is that my family was fortunate to have him for the time we did. Goodbye, Lucky. And thank you for always being there for us.