Regan’s Princess Lucy

IMG_4264IMG_4265IMG_4266On a cold, Christmas Eve night over 15 years ago, I jumped into my trusty 1995 GEO Prism and took a drive from our home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to a small town in the northeastern part of the state, Grove.  I was on a mission.  My mission was to find a puppy for my three year-old daughter, Regan, to surprise her on Christmas morning.  Who knew that Santa delivered puppies all the way from the North Pole?  After getting lost several times, I pulled up in front of a  house and told the nice lady I was here to look at her Bichon Frise puppies.

I sat on the couch and waited for her to bring in the puppies.  She soon returned with two small bundles that looked like cotton balls with two big brown eyes.  It suddenly occurred to me the magnitude of the decision I was about to make.   How do you pick between two furry white balls of puppy?  I knew that if things went well, we could very easily have this puppy for the next 10-12 years.  I played with both of them and  picked the one that seemed the most friendly. Several times, I wondered what ever happened to the other little puppy, but I have never questioned the fact that I picked the right one.  I  paid the nice woman and walked out of the house holding the tiny little puppy in one hand. I put her in a box on floorboard of my car and headed home.  It seems weird to say it, but the last time I felt that way was when we drove home from the hospital for the first time with our son, Kevin.

We arrived home, long after the kids had gone to sleep(or whatever you call what kids do the night before Christmas), and put the little white puppy in our newly acquired puppy crate.  I fed her a little bit and gave her some water and tried my best to get some sleep.

Isn’t Christmas morning with little kids one of the best things ever?  The look on their faces, the excitement in their voices.  The jumping up and down and shear fun of seeing them so excited and happy.  Those early Christmas Days with young kids end way too early.  That morning, we went through the usual routine.  We woke  up REALLY early, checked out what Santa put in the stockings and the packages left by the fireplace, and opened the presents that our family had given us.  After we were finished and the piles of wrapping paper were halfway to the ceiling, I said, “Regan”, “Santa has left you a very special present.”

With that said, I brought in the doggy crate with the little white ball of fur.  A lot of moments during the time the kids were  young seem to be just a blurr, but not that moment.  The look on Regan’s little face when she realized that Santa had brought her her very own puppy, is a look that I will never forget.  I guess you could say, it was love at first sight.  Regan and the puppy, who later became known as “Lucy”, were inseparable.  If Regan was in trouble, Lucy was right there to comfort her.  If Regan was sick, Lucy was right there to help her get better.  If Regan was having a bad day, Lucy was there to help her get through it.

Of all the presents we have given Regan over the years, none has ever come close the that little white puppy.  From the moment she held her  for the first time, she had the world’s best, best friend.   It was easy to see that Santa had brought the perfect friend for our little girl.

We had done our research on getting our daughter and our family our first family pet.  According to the experts, the Bichon is a great family pet.  They have a  great temperament with kids and friendly to people and other animals.  They are described as playful, curious, gentle, affectionate, and cheerful.   The main negatives mentioned were that they loved people so much that they often suffered from separation anxiety if their owners were away from them and a tendency to be difficult to housebreak.   The Bichons  were bred to be lap dogs or what they call companion dogs.   With Princess Lucy, they were right on the money.  Lucy was very seldom alone if someone was at home.  If you were home, she was with you.  Lucy would hop from bed to bed every night to “spread” her joy through the family, but by the morning, she always ended up in Regan’s bed.  She was a great little dog for all of our family, but it was always special for Regan and Lucy.

One of Regan’s favorite thing to do was to put Lucy in her little red wagon and walk up and down the sidewalk with Lucy standing proudly at attention.  They went miles and miles in that little red wagon, Regan pulling and Lucy riding.  Lucy became, as do many dogs, a part of our family.  If we were taking a family picture, Lucy was there.  If we went on vacation, so did Lucy.

Its been said many times in many different ways as to why we humans love our dogs.  It’s easy to understand when you are around a dog like Lucy.  Lucy was a loyal friend.  She didn’t care if you were filthy and stinky, she was right there on your lap.  If you were in a bad mood, she was there to provide good cheer and comfort.  While some dogs might have a mean streak in them, I can say with no exaggeration that Lucy never hurt another living thing.  She was gentle and kind to everyone, even though one of our cats deserved retribution from time to time.

I have heard that dogs have no sense of time.  I don’t know if that is a scientific fact, but I do know this.  I could walk outside to get the paper or go on a two week trip and on my return home, I was always treated the same by Lucy.  She would jump, and squeal, and wag her tail like it was going to fly off of her back.  While the kids and the wife might completely ignore my arrival home, Lucy never did.

For about 7 or 8 years, she played a game with me.  When I would return home late at night, she would jump and yelp and act like she needed to go outside to relieve herself.  I would take her outside, she would fake relieve herself, and I would give her a treat for being such a good doggy. After eating her treat, she would march right into the living room and REALLY relieve herself.  I’m sure she thought that was great fun.

Since the Christmas morning that Santa left Lucy at our house, she has been Regan’s special friend.  While it was great for Regan, it was not always great for the rest of us.  As Regan and Allyson got older and spent more time away from the house, Lucy would lay in front of the door and groan, and sniff, and pace back and forth until Regan got home.  She would make such much noise that it was at times difficult to get to sleep or watch TV because she was so loud.  What they say about the Bichon’s separation anxiety is 100% accurate.

The last several years were tough on Lucy.  As she got “up in age”, it was more difficult for her to jump from bed to bed and run up the stairs and do some of the things she was always able to do.  A lot of things change when kids get older, but one thing that didn’t change was the love between my little girl and that little white puppy.

This morning, I buried Lucy under an oak tree in our backyard.

The last week had been really hard for “the old girl” and for Regan.  The normal life span for a Bichon is 12-15 years.  You can do the math.  It all started about a week ago when Lucy began to have trouble walking.  She would just sort of go sideways.  Regan took a video of her and sent it  to a friend of ours who is a vet here in Greenwood.

His diagnosis was not good.

Lucy was 15 years old and she had a neurological issue.  Our vet did not believe that she would be getting better.  Over the last week, she had some good times and some really bad times.  We knew that if she began suffering, we would have to make the tough decision.  I don’t believe that she did suffer.  She never whimpered or cried.  She just looked really sad that she couldn’t jump and play and do the things she loved to do.   Over the last few days, we would have to take her out and hold her up to go potty.  On Monday night, Regan made a pallet on  the floor of her bedroom and slept  with her puppy.

Mona and I  both knew that it would be their last night together.

Regan got up Tuesday, kissed Lucy and went to school.  About 10 o’clock that morning, Mona decided to take Lucy into the backyard and just sit with her in the outdoors for a while.  After a few minutes, Lucy struggled to take a couple deep breaths and went to sleep for the last time, in Mona’s arms.

It was fitting that a little dog bred to be a companion dog and a lap dog, died in Mona’s lap.  I’m so grateful  that Lucy did not leave us while she was alone.

It’s late Saturday night  in my office as I type this. In a few minutes, I’ll  make the short drive home.  I guess I never thought about how much I would miss that little white dog, welcoming me home.

That little white ball  of fur taught me some things during her long(she was a 105 in dog years) and happy life:

  1. Be nice to people.  If you want to be a friend, be friendly.  Lucy had a lot of friends.
  2. Don’t expect too much out of people.  We all know people who stay miserable because someone or a lot of “someones” let them down.  Lucy didn’t expect too much.  She was happy to receive a quick belly rub and a pat on the head.
  3. Be there when your friends need you.  It is easy to hang with someone during the good times.  A real friend is there when times aren’t so good.  Lucy seemed to have a real sense of when things were not going so well.  I can close my eyes and still see that little white dog licking the tears from Regan’s face.
  4. Our joy and our happiness is our choice.  I tell the football team at least a hundred times a year, “you control you attitude and your effort”.  “What happens to you doesn’t matter, how you react to it does matter.”  (Epectitus said it 2,000 years ago.)  Lucy never had a bad day.  I’m not sure if that is because of the breeding of Bichons or just the nature of Lucy, but she was a happy little dog every single day of her life.

I could say a lot of things more things  about that little white puppy, but the best thing I can tell you about that her is that she loved my little girl, and my little girl loved her back.  Rest in Peace, Lucy.  Rest in Peace.

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