My Dog Lucky
by Joan Wilcox
My dog Lucky was perhaps the only dog of his kind. He was ½ poodle, ¼ Bichon and ¼ German Wire-haired pointer. There is not another dog in the world like him.
Everybody thinks their dog is the best looking dog, and I am no exception. Lucky had the absolute most perfect face. He had a broad face with beautiful eyes, wonderful ears and an ever changing nose; sometimes black, sometimes spotty. I loved to run my finger from the tip of his nose onto the top of his head following the gentle curve of his nose. He had legs that were too short or perhaps a body that was a little too long and just a nub of a tail. I always wonder if he had a tail that someone lopped off. The hair on his head was as soft as chenille and down his back a little coarser due to the wire haired pointer. The bottom of his feet were jet black like a polar bear. His skin was white or pink except for the intermittent black spots that you could only see when he was wet. His hair was wavy and curly depending on its length. When it was wet, it was like wet toilet paper. He was rather chesty. I hugged him relentlessly because I just couldn’t get enough of him.
When my son Jonathan moved out of our house he took Jake with him. I thought for sure he would grow tired of taking care of him and bring him back, but he didn’t. After about a year I decided we needed to get a dog of our own because we missed him so much. I called Happy Tails, our local groomer, to see if they knew of a Poodle breeder I could contact and Dawn, the owner, told me that the local rescue agency just received a poodle mix that had become available for adoption. He was going to be at Petco tonight! My youngest son, Davey and I wolfed down our dinner to get up there so we would be first in line to see this dog that Dawn thought would be just right for us.
When the foster mother brought “Pierré” into the store, Davey and I tried to figure out if that was the dog that we had come to see. The dog seemed a little nervous and would not take his eyes off the woman who was taking care of him. Eventually we spoke to her and started to meet this little dog. I remember him as being a little dirty, cute but distracted. He was happy to have us pet him and we talked to him but he was intent on keeping his eye on the foster Mom. I wasn’t totally taken with him although he was cute. After a short while I asked Davey “What do you think? Should we get him?” Davey did not miss a beat with his reply. “Yes.” I don’t know how many times since that day I think “Thank God Davey said yes” because if he hadn’t, I may have missed out on the sweetest, dearest little dog I have ever or will ever know. I think about that night frequently because I have always been so consciously aware of how important Lucky is to me. I must have told him 100,000 times how much I love him. My husband David says I love Lucky more than him….perhaps….no, probably not more than. It could have gone so much differently. My life would have been so different without him and if Davey had hesitated we may not have gotten him. Thank God for Davey.
So we didn’t get Lucky that day. We had to be approved first and there was some paperwork involved. On July 4, 2005 they brought him to our house. We were having a Wilcox family picnic. The woman brought lucky/Pierré to do her last review of our home; checking for a yard with a fence and to make sure the whole family was on board with getting a dog. We passed with flying colors. When she left, Lucky was kind of panicked but my daughter Amanda and I took him into the house to show him around and he settled down. He was a little dirty and Amanda and I wanted to give him a bath but we were concerned about overwhelming him. After just a few minutes though, we took him up and washed him in the tub. I can’t remember exactly how he reacted but he didn’t fight it and that was the first of many baths – an activity we both came to love – I ever gave him. The last one was on Friday, November 4th. I knew it was the last bath I would ever give him and I was aware of every moment of it. He could not even stand up for it but he still found comfort in having me soap him up and gently rub him from head to toe. He lifted his head so I could pour water over his face and clean his eyes. He looked at me in thanks and we connected through that glance. I feel like he was thanking me for all the baths I had given him and I was so very grateful to be giving him one last one. I blew him dry as I had done so many times. He laid on the towels and patiently let me brush his hair until it was almost dry. Then I carried him downstairs and he slept next to me on the couch. I will never forget that night as long as I live.
Back on that first day when all the family came over he fit right in playing and investigating his new surroundings and when Jake arrived, the two started their very special friendship. Lucky loved everyone bar none.
So that’s how we came to have Lucky in our family, although he came to us as Pierré. He was a stray so we don’t know who his original owner was or exactly how old he was. We only know his breed because of DNA testing. I’m so happy that we know his true ancestry so that I don’t have to wonder for the rest of my life.
We all had different ideas about what to name him. In exasperation Davey said you probably want a dog name like Spot or Lucky. I knew right away that Lucky was the perfect name and I was right! He was lucky to have us and we were lucky to have him.
That is how we got our sweet little dog. I love everything about him. I will always remember:
His big brown eyes that look like he was wearing eye liner. They have an almond shape and with the surrounding white hair are strikingly beautiful. When he laid on our bed in the morning I would sit on the floor and stroke his head and stare into those eyes.
His beautiful big ears with the curly hair – so fun to stroke. His ears were clearly from his ‘Pointer’ lineage.
How good he smelled. I love to inhale deeply with my nose buried in the soft hair on his head.
The sound of his feet going up or down the stairs two legs at a time
How he would watch out the front door for the cat. He hated the cat. He had a special bark that indicated the cat was out. He would run to wherever you were and bark and then run back to the door and bark some more. It was his job.
How when we would leave the house David would say “You’re in charge Lucky”.
Seeing his face looking out the bedroom window when I came home. I would get out of the car and I could see the happiness on his face. If it was warm outside and the window was open I would call “Hi honey” and he would wiggle and smile and give me a ‘woof’ then jump off the bed and run down to greet me at the front door. He was so happy to see me and I to see him. I loved coming home at the end of the day to him.
How he laid on the floor in front of the treat cupboard when he wanted a treat. He would lay on his side on the floor moaning for sometimes 30 minutes until we would finally give in and get him one or more likely two. He could shake hands, do ‘down’ and roll over. Amanda taught him to roll over.
Early on he slept in our beds. He slept with Amanda or Davey and after they left he slept on the foot of our bed. Eventually we got a bed for him that fit under our bed when not in use. We would pull it out for him each night. In the morning when he sensed I was awake, he would jump up on the bed to snuggle for a while before I took my bath. If he wasn’t awake I would go into the bathroom and before I was off the toilet he would come trotting down the hall, push open the door with his nose and give me a wonderful Good Morning! He was always so happy to see me. Then he would go back in the bedroom and crawl into bed until I came back into the room.
When we would go swimming and Lucky would climb up the steps and crawl under the gate. If it was hot enough he would want to for a swim but couldn’t quite admit it. I would call him over and he would slowly slink over to the edge of the pool almost embarrassed, and I would gently lift him in. He could swim quite well but would head right for the edge to get out every time but we would redirect him several times until he had a good swim. When he got out he would shake vigorously, run down off the deck and roll in the grass in joy. Then he would run around the yard.
When I was cooking he would wait patiently and sometimes not so patiently, for his fair share. He loved everything except pickles and celery. He especially loved meat of all kinds, red peppers, carrots and popcorn. David and Lucky had a game they played with popcorn at night. David would throw popcorn one at a time in every direction and Lucky would run and jump in all directions catching each bite. He liked the popcorn, but he loved the game. I ALWAYS gave Lucky a bite or two of what I was eating and he ALWAYS got my last bite. That included the last bite of my Popsicle, last scoop of ice cream, last corner of my sandwich or last piece of pizza. He was an accomplished beggar. He had the diligence to wait through the meal, employ the sad eyes and whining, which I really never minded. He always kept me company when no one else was home or up yet and that meant a lot to me. Towards the end of his life we were trying different medicines and he had to have food in his stomach so as not to upset it. Since he wasn’t a fan of dogfood, I made him his own egg and turkey sausage in the morning – it was the least I could do for the friend who had kept me company for so many breakfasts. I added a little salt too because I know they taste better that way. I think there were some days he didn’t really want to eat but with just a little gentle coaxing he would oblige. He was really good about taking his pills. While some people have to shove them down their pet’s throat, I just handed them to him including his Pepcid AC –he just chewed it up. He wasn’t a big drinker so we had started to give him a small bowl of milk to augment his fluid intake. David discovered that he preferred to drink milk from his blue bowl rather than a white one, so we did that. Washing his dishes was kind gross because they were so slimy with saliva. When I washed his last dish this week, I cried doing so. I felt as though I was washing him away forever. I did it though, part of the grieving process, just one more thing I’m going to miss. He always liked having clean dishes. I’m not sure how I know that, but he did. I’d wash the water bowl and food bowl and pit them down and say “Your bowls are all clean Lucky”. And he would go have a few crunches of food and a slurp of water happily.
When the kids were in high school Lucky would always ride along with us when picking them up. He never liked being left behind. He also went to numerous cross country meets. He loved being outside and with his family.
He loved to have you pet him, but only to a degree. He really preferred to sit next to me on the couch. Pet him yes, but then he just wanted to be near me. He preferred to be between me and the arm of the couch.
Lucky loved to wear clothes. He had sweaters, jackets, a warm-up suit, t-shirts, costumes and sweatshirts. He even had a football jersey. He was quite at home with clothes on.
Lucky had a lot of dog friends but his favorites were Jake, Charlie and Harvey probably because he spent so much time with each of them. He generously shared his yard, food, toys and people with them as well as Libby and Bailey. He did not like it when Libby would put her big foot on his back – he would bark and bark at her. She never quite understood that he didn’t like that – silly Libby. He didn’t have a jealous bone in his body. Well, that’s not entirely true. When my son Tim brought Charlie home as a puppy, we were excited to see them interact. He got along so well with Jake, we just assumed it would be the same with Charlie. He did not want anything to do with her. When we put her near him he walked away. When she approached him he would walk away. She tried really hard to make friends but he wanted no part of her and it was clear he didn’t want me to hold or play with her either. I remember feeling really bad that I had agreed to this new dog because clearly Lucky was jealous so I didn’t pay Charlie attention – just the kids did and that was hard because she is so darn cute. And then on the 7th day as we were sitting in the family room, Charlie approached Lucky one more time to play and this time Lucky gave in and the two started to wrestle. David actually caught some of it on video. They rolled around with Charlie batting his paws at Lucky but Lucky didn’t use his paws, he only mouthed Charlie and stayed close to the ground. He was so gentle with her. It’s as if he knew she was a baby and needed to be careful with her. That was the start of their sweet friendship. Over the years when Charlie would come over, Tim would put her in the backyard before coming to the front door. When we would open the door to see Tim, Lucky would run to the back door to see if Charlie was here, so excited to see her. Or, sometimes before Tim could get to the front door, Charlie would just appear at the sliding glass door and jump up as if to say “Hi.” It was as if the wind had splattered her whole body against the window. Lucky would run right over so happy to see his friend. Charlie loved to have Lucky chase her and she was so fast no one could ever catch her so Lucky would lose interest pretty quickly. Bur Charlie had two techniques she employed to keep Lucky interested a little longer. As they would run around the pool since Charlie was so fast she would be at least ½ a lap ahead so she would slow down or hesitate just long enough for Lucky to catch up and just when he was within reach she’d sprint around another lap…he never knew…so humiliating. And then when he tired of that and would walk away, she would start this mad dash around the yard and run up on Lucky and do kind of a jump in the air and karate kick him in his backside with her hind legs to agitate him until he would chase after her again. She was relentless, but Lucky never really got mad and he also never caught her.
His first dog friend though was Jake. They met the first day we got Lucky at the picnic and spent a lot of time together because we dog-sat Jake frequently. I don’t remember how they played but I do remember how they snuggled together because I had never seen dogs do that before. Their black and white coats were like yin/yen. They were good companions and went camping together several times. I have a picture of Jonathan in the green recliner with Lucky on one side and Jake on the other.
The snuggling continued with little Harvey. When he came to live here he was still a puppy and as with Charlie, Lucky was gentle. Harvey sometimes sat right on top of Lucky on the couch – literally right on top of him and he never complained. Harvey would be out and about somewhere in the house and Lucky would be laying on the couch when Harvey would decide to join him and walk over, assess the situation and decide “ Well, there isn’t a good spot next to him so I’ll just maneuver myself in here” and would wiggle till he got where he wanted to be. Then they would snuggle for hours. Their white hair was so similar that sometimes you couldn’t tell where one left off and the other began.
Lucky loved to go for walks, which we did frequently in the good weather. He did like to pee on things which was kind of annoying so we really had two types of walks; one for sniffing and peeing, and one was for walking. This summer I took July 4th week off but we didn’t go anywhere because David had knee surgery. Every day Lucky and I did a 3 mile walk first thing in the morning and it was for walking, not peeing or sniffing although I did let him off lead at Paddy Hill School each day. Our last walk together was on Monday before he died. It was after work and it was definitely a sniff walk, just around our block. He smelled everything and I didn’t complain. In fact, he wandered farther into people’s yards than he typically did – actually I did have to coax him back to the sidewalk several times. Maybe he knew it was his last walk and wanted to get enough sniffs in to hold him for the rest of eternity. He really wasn’t feeling very well but he did muster up some enthusiasm if only for my benefit. Nothing unusual happened, just a walk as we had done so many times before, but our last one together.
I’ll always remember his ferociously loud bark – so much deeper and louder than should have come from such a little dog. I was never comfortable staying at home when David was away after the kids were gone, but with Lucky by my side I could manage.
Lucky was a good sport at Halloween allowing us to dress him up in several silly outfits including a jockey, school bus and Elvis to name a few. We took the glass out of the front door to hand out candy which was ideal for Lucky to see everything. The children loved to see him dressed up and loved to pet him. With all the excitement of the night, their costumes, the candy and our over-the-top decorations, Lucky was still the highlight for a lot of the kids and he ate up the attention. Every time the bell rang, he barked and ran to the front hall looking back at us as if to say “C’mon, there’s someone at the door.”
Lucky was happy to see every person that came to the house. He barked at the knock or bell and ran to see who it was. If you were a particular favorite you got the Lucky dance. This was pretty much him wiggling back & forth and rapidly stepping in place which caused a tap dancing sound. I will miss hearing that so much.
We lost Lucky on November 9, 2016. We estimate that he was about 13 years old. The night before had been a difficult one for him. He woke up several times with a little whimper or cry. Each time I asked him if he was okay, would pat his head and he would try to resettle himself to get comfortable. One time he took a good long drink of water from the bowl David had brought up for him. The last time he woke just before dawn and I got out of bed again. He looked at me and this time I asked him if he had had enough. He seemed to be trying to figure out what I meant or what I wanted or what he should be doing as dogs do. But I didn’t want anything from him other than to know what to do for him. And then it suddenly became clear, he had had enough. As he laid back down I got into bed and stroked his side for a long time. I got up while it was still dark, planning in my mind what I needed to do. When David woke up he asked how Lucky was and I said I think it’s time to take him to the Vet and he said “Do you mean….?” “Yes, I said and we cried for the first, but not the last time that day. I called Jon who agreed to come over and prepare a resting place for him. We both called into work and with those tasks done, began our last morning with Lucky.
I made him his scrambled egg and sausage and a bowl of milk so that he could take his pills. I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible. After that he just laid on the comforter in front of the couch where he has spent so much time these past 4 weeks. We took turns sitting next to him because we didn’t want him to be alone and he didn’t seem to want to be either. At 9:45 we were ready to head to the Vet. I called him and said “Come on Lucky. Want to go for a ride?” He didn’t really want to get up, but he did. He stopped at the step into the kitchen like he couldn’t make it. I said “One last time Lucky. You can do it” and slowly he lifted one leg at a time, painstakingly, but he did it. In the front yard he sniffed the air a little and spent far too long trying to pee, confirming our decision. I lifted him into the car for his last car ride. We opened the window and he stuck his head out for a short while and I could see his beautiful face in the side mirror like I had a hundred times before, but there wasn’t any joy in his face this time. He whimpered a few times on the short ride there, again telling us we were doing the right thing.
When we got there a family was just walking out and all four of them were sobbing – clearly they had just lost their pet. My heart ached for them. We went right into an exam room – the same one where we had lost Jake so many years before. We made a comfy bed on the table of a comforter and my soft, white blanket. They put an IV in his leg and we spent a few minutes with him, stroking and talking to him. The doctor explained that she would give him something to relax him and make him a little drowsy and that he might start to sniff like he smells something, which he did. Then we helped him to lay down and get comfy. I bent over the table so I was looking him right in the eyes and I stoked his head with one hand and had the other wrapped around him. The doc gave him the last medication and I told him how much I loved him and that it would be okay and I looked right into his eyes so I would be the last thing he saw in his life. And then his body totally relaxed and I knew he was gone. The doc listened for his heart which stopped all together within a minute.
We carried him home wrapped in that beautiful white blanket and sat with him on the couch for a couple hours until his grave was ready. Jon did a top notch job making a place for Lucky. I touched every part of his body committing it all to memory. I was able to caress his cute feet, something he didn’t allow. I touched the super soft part just under his nose but above his lips. David wanted a piece of his fur, but I didn’t. We cut a small tuft of hair from his ears, where it was longer. I’m so glad now that we have it. I brushed his ear until it was silky smooth. It was finally time so we kissed him one last time and then wrapped the blanket securely around him. I carried him to the backyard. It was a bit chilly, with a little breeze. I handed Lucky to Jon and he placed him in the hole. He carefully, so carefully, filled the dirt in around him until I couldn’t see him anymore. And that was that.
I have a lot of nicknames for Lucky including Luckydog, smoochie poochie and sweet baboo to name a few. He really was a sweetheart. I feel so much better for having written this all down and I plan to add to it as time goes by and I remember something about him. I just don’t want to forget him…ever. When a family member dies we typically have a little guilt. I know with my Mom I wish I had made more time for her in my busy family life. I know she wanted more time with me, but would never have said so and it just always seems like there is all the time in the world, or you think after I’m done with this, there’ll be more time. But there is always something else that comes up and takes your time. But with Lucky, I always knew I had limited time with him – dogs don’t live that long. I thought about it a lot, thinking “what will I do without my sweet baboo someday?” What a blessing that I was aware of that because it caused me to engage completely with him. I find solace in knowing I loved him completely, that he knew I did and that he loved me too. I believe in heaven but don’t know if dogs will be there. They don’t have a soul like humans but do have a capacity to love that is greater than many humans so who knows? Perhaps there is a doggie heaven. If so, Jake and Lucky are playing or snuggling right now like Jon said. I hope I will see Lucky again someday but for now, he rests in our backyard where I can see him from the family room as well as the kitchen window. I can say goodnight to him from our bedroom window too. I will think of him often, but especially when we are outside by the fire or in the pool knowing he is nearby and I will remember him with great love as the best dog there ever was.
Joan is a mother of four and grandmother of two, and is a novice painter and now writer.