When Sylvie got sick earlier this year, we put a nightlight in the bedroom room to make it easier for her to see at night. After she passed in March, we kept the nightlight in place because Lucy had gone mostly blind and the light helped her get around too.
Last night we slept without the nightlight. The room was so dark, so quiet, so still. Empty.
That’s how this story ends and I just wanted to get that out of the way. On Monday, we said goodbye to Lucy after months of illness took their inevitable toll. Cara and I are both broken-hearted. Living in a house with no sound of little claws tippy-tapping across the wood floor was unimaginable.
When we bought this house, the first “improvement” we made to the thing we’d just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on was to install the least-ugly baby gate we could find at the top of the stairs leading down to the basement. Like the nightlight, this was done mostly for Sylvie’s benefit. While she could make her way up and down carpeted stairs, she did not have a 100% success rate and we didn’t want one of her failures to happen while we were around.
Having installed the gate, we went down to Denver the next weekend to buy furniture and supplies for our lovely new house. When we returned home, Sylvie was the only dog greeting us noisily at the door. Lucy was greeting us noisily as well, but she was doing so from the stairs to the basement. On the wrong side of the gate. Apparently she’d jumped – or knowing Lucy, fallen – through the banister onto the stairs. So the second improvement we made to the house we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on was the installation of this ugly-ass netting to prevent Lucy from plummeting to her death.
When we replaced the deck on this house, we were happy to be getting new railing that would be up to code and impossible for the dogs to slip through. Within the first three minutes of being introduced to the new deck, guess who walked right through the railing.
Lucy had many nicknames, but “little turd” (said affectionately, of course) was a prominent one, deployed frequently when she was doing something that seemed designed to bring about her own demise. Like launching herself off of stairs and couches or wherever she happened to be perched. I often said there was something catlike about Lucy, but unlike a cat, she almost never stuck a landing. She preferred bellyflop, face-plant, and head-first neck-cruncher to boring old feet-first. Earlier this year, after her eyesight started going, I opened the door to let her into the garage and instead of running down the steps like she always did, she jumped – right into the door of Cara’s car.
Lucy also liked climbing under things. Like the couch. Or the bed. Or the bar. Or a car. Or a wooden stove that had a fire blazing in it. She also liked getting stuck in things and places. Like between the mattress and the headboard. Or inside the TV stand. This was before my time, but according to Cara, Lucy once got her head stuck in the hubcap of a car.
How? Who knows? But that was a question Lucy often prompted. “How did you even do that?” As in: “How did you even open up that box of chocolates and eat so much that you ended up spending a night at the emergency vet? You crazy little turd.”
Lucy’s philosophy in life seemed to be “Fuck around and find out.”
Things Lucy did not like after finding out about them: baths, snow, wearing clothes, wearing shoes, animals walking in her yard, people walking in front of her house, people walking into her house. Me. At first.
When I first visited Cara’s home years ago, both dogs loudly made their displeasure known. Sylvie calmed down soon enough. But Lucy, I think, barked the entire time I was there. And if I left a room, she’d follow me into the next one to bark at me there.
She was a barker and I’d have put her in the Little Yappy Dog Championships if there were such a thing. Granted, Sylvie usually started the barking, but Lucy would continue the barking. She would not be outbarked. She was five pound of fury.
When they first moved to New York, they barked at people walking in front of the apartment. Which is an issue when you live in New York because there are always people walking in front of the apartment. So we hired someone to help us train them. If you had any interaction with Sylvie and Lucy during their New York days, you realize that this did not work at all. One thing the trainer recommended was walking them twice a day and taking them to the dog park to wear them out a little. On the way to said dog park, the trainer noted that Lucy seemed super smart and somewhat bossy and was likely going to take over the joint. And she did. Or she tried too. She was fearless at first. Yipping and yapping at all the other dogs. Until one day she was rolled onto her back by an overeager puppy half her age and three times her size. But still we went. Well, the three of us did. Cara couldn’t handle the stress. And we only went to dog parks that had a dedicated section for the little guys. There, Lucy could pick on dogs her own size. Or yell at them. Though the weirdest dog park memory I have of her is becoming obsessed with a Chihuahua-Yorkie puppy that was about the size of a bird and licking the poor thing until it was soaked to the skin.
Lucy could be a challenge. And I think that’s why people liked her. Oh, sure, they SAID they’d take Sylvie over Lucy because Sylvie was easier to deal with. But everyone feels flattered when the crazy chick picks them.
Lucy eventually came around to liking me, of course. In fact, she went through a phase after we moved into this house where slept between my legs or curled up in the curve of my stomach or tucked tight under my armpit every night. I’m a restless sleeper, but I tried not to be, suffering through an aching back or contorting myself ever so slowly so as not to wake her.
Because it meant she loved me as much as I loved her, which was a lot.
Things Lucy loved: Me. Cara. Cara’s mom. Cara’s dad. My mom. Aunt Julie. Chris, her dog sitter. And, probably above all else, Sylvie. Which was fitting, since Cara originally got Lucy to keep Sylvie company, much to Sylvie’s initial annoyance. But Sylvie came around. How could she not?
This has been a hard year for us on the dog front. They say when you have two dogs you have twice the love. This is very true. But you’re also in for twice the pain. And we lost both of them this year. Sylvie got sick at the end of January and died at the beginning of March. Lucy got sick in June and slowly declined for the remainder of the year. I have a lot to say about all this, but I can’t trust myself to write about it without sounding mad or crazy or depressed, all of which I am.
All I will say for now is, man did we love that little dog. She had a great life. We spoiled her rotten. Up until the very end. We became better (definitely more patient) people because of her. And now the house is so quiet, so still. Empty.