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  • Rick Jones

REGAN’S PRINCESS LUCY

On a cold Christmas Eve night over 15 years ago, I jumped into my trusty 1995 GEO Prism and drove from our home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to Grove, a small town in the northeastern part of the state. I was on a mission 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 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 returned with two small bundles that looked like cotton balls with two big brown eyes. Suddenly I realized 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 happened to the other little puppy, but I have never questioned that I picked the right one. I paid her and walked out of the house holding the tiny puppy in my hand. When I got in my car, I put her in a box on floorboard and headed home. The last time I felt this 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, and I put our puppy in the new 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 the best? The look on their faces and the excitement in their voices. They jump up and down, and it is so fun seeing them so excited and happy. The days of Christmas’ with young kids end way too early. Christmas morning, we went through our routine. My family woke up REALLY early, checked out what Santa had left in the stockings and the packages left by the fireplace. Then we opened the presents that our family had given us. After we had finished opening gifts and the pile of wrapping paper was halfway to the ceiling, I said, “Regan, Santa has left you a very special present.”

I brought in the crate with the little white ball of fur. Many of the moments during the time the kids were young seem like a blur, but not this moment. The look on Regan’s little face when she realized that Santa had brought a puppy of her very own is a look that I will never forget. I guess you could say, it was love at first sight. Regan and the puppy, who she named Lucy were inseparable. If Regan was in trouble, Lucy was right there to comfort her.  When Regan was sick, Lucy was right there to help her get better. On bad days Lucy was there to help Regan get through them.

Of all the presents we have given Regan over the years, none have come close to Lucy. Since the moment she held Lucy for the first time, Regan got the world’s best friend. Santa had brought the perfect friend for our little girl.

We had done our research on getting our first family pet. According to the experts, a Bichon is a great family pet. They have a great temperament with kids and are friendly to people and other animals. Bichons are playful, curious, gentle, affectionate, and cheerful. Negatives mentioned were that they love people so much that they often suffer from separation anxiety when their owners are away from them. Also, they tend to be difficult to housebreak. The Bichons were bred to be lap dogs, or also known as companion dogs. Princess Lucy was the perfect Bichon. Lucy was rarely alone if someone was at home, she was always with us. She would hop from bed to bed every night to spread her joy, but by morning she always ended up in Regan’s bed. For our family, Lucy was a great dog. There was always a special bond for Regan and Lucy.

One of Regan’s favorite things to do with Lucy was to put her in a little red wagon and walk up and down the sidewalk. They walked miles in that little red wagon. Lucy became part of our family. If we were taking a family picture, Lucy was there. She would also come on vacation with us.

It’s been explained many different ways as to why humans love our dogs. It’s easy to understand when you know a dog like Lucy. She was a loyal friend and didn’t care if you were filthy or stinky, she was on your lap. It didn't matter if you were in a bad mood, she would be there to provide good cheer and comfort. Some dogs might have a mean temperament, I am confident that Lucy would never hurt another living thing. She was gentle and kind to everyone, even though one of our cats deserved retribution from time to time.

Apparently dogs have no sense of time. I’m not sure if that is a scientific fact, but I do know this. I whether I went on a two week trip or walked outside to get the paper, when I returned home, I was treated the same by Lucy. She would jump, squeal, and wag her tail like it was going to fly off of her back. While the kids and my wife may completely ignore my arrival home, Lucy never did.

For about eight years, she played a game with me. When I would return home late at night, she would jump, 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 actually relieve herself. I’m sure she thought that was great fun.

Since the Christmas morning that Santa brought Lucy to 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, sniff, and pace back and forth until Regan got home. She would make so much noise that it was difficult to get to sleep or watch TV because she was so loud. Bichon separation anxiety is 100% accurate.

The last several years were tough on Lucy. As she got older, it was difficult for her to jump from bed to bed and run up the stairs and do some of the things she used to do. When kids get older a lot of change happens, 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 was very hard for Lucy and for Regan. The normal lifespan for a Bichon is 12-15 years. 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 was diagnosed with 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. Lucy 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 and I am in my office as I type this. In a few minutes, I’ll make the short drive home. I’ve 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 and happy life:

Be nice to people. Be friendly. Lucy had a lot of friends.

Don’t expect too much out of people. We all know people who stay miserable because someone let them down. Lucy didn’t expect too much. She was happy to receive a quick belly rub and a pat on the head.

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 well. I can close my eyes and still see that little white dog licking the tears from Regan’s face.

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.” Lucy never had a bad day. I’m not sure if that is a character trait of the Bichon or specifically a character trait of Lucy, but she was a happy dog every day of her life.

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

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