Friday, March 23, 2018

Lucy, The Dog

We got Lucy unexpectedly, when the director of the mental health clinic where my wife worked went crazy, as they all seemed to do eventually. She (the director of the clinic) had to leave the island to go back where she came from, and one of the things she turned to my wife and I for was to take her dog, which was a year-old, and had been left alone in the house most of the time since birth. I was hesitant to take Lucy. We have a small apartment, and I'd never had a small-breed dog before. In my experience they were yappy little things, high strung, not really worthy of the noble title "Dog."

Well, I was wrong. Lucy, who was with us for 12 years, turned out to be truly amazing! I know that it's trite, and perhaps even a touch unseemly, to go bragging on your own little dog. But if anything in life has buttressed my belief in some essential goodness in the cosmic scheme of things, it has been Lucy. Two things about her became immediately obvious. One, that like a lot of dogs she was absolutely loyal, and two, she had tremendous intelligence. Yet there was more to it than that. She was half Lasha Apso. These were the dogs that guarded the interiors of Tibetan monasteries, and according to Tibetan lore the souls of Buddhist monks reside in Lasha Apsos, awaiting their entrance into Nirvana, and coming to fully discover Lucy's temperament I found the thought a little disconcerting. It was simply too appropriate.

There's a spirit in some dogs that, lets face it, puts we human beings to shame. They are courageous, forbearing of our faults, and endlessly loving. Unless sick or wounded they are ever optimistic; their spirits never falter. I've heard people put this down to stupidity, but Lucy knew well the sadder aspects of life. She had been unwittingly abandoned for her first year, and had been desperately alone. No, her good nature wasn't due to stupidity. I'm convinced it was due to gratitude, and moreover, to wisdom.

I once heard the facetious prayer, "God, please help me to be the man that my dog thinks I am." That seems to be something towards which we all should aspire, to live up to our dog's good opinion of us. They never give up on us, no matter how far we fall short of their hopes and expectations. No matter how shabby our behavior, they always believe we can do better!

Lucy was a beautiful dog. Her hair was of gold, copper, and platinum - the platinum mostly on top of her head. Several people ask me if we dyed it that color. This caught me off guard. I'm not the type of person to dye my dog's hair. When we walked her downtown people would stop and say, "Oh my God, what a beautiful dog!" Kids would beg us to let them pet her, and after awhile total strangers called out with great enthusiasm as she passed, "Hey, there's Lucy!" This also caught me off guard. As far as I recall nobody's ever made such a fuss over me, personally. I can't remember anyone calling out as I passed by, Hey, there's that Hightower Guy!" It was an experience to which I'm not accustomed.

But all of that was, at least to me, not very important - though it did serve to make me aware of how very important external beauty is to some people, and I don't even mean that as criticism, really. The darned dog was just that adorable.

In 2005, I came down with a serious and mysterious illness, and lucy took it upon herself to became my nurse. She always knew which of the sores (that are one of the worst aspects of this illness) needed treatment most, and she whined at me until I did it. She chose to spend countless hours cheering me up, even though she really just wanted to go to the park.

She never barked without a good reason, and had an instinct to seek out high places from which she could view everything going on, and report back to us if anything was amiss. She was an omnivorous food critic, with very selective tastes. Thai red curry was one of her favorite dishes, but we couldn't let her eat it because dogs aren't supposed to eat Thai red curry. She didn't know that.

There was a time she was with my wife at the park and a woman was walking two rotweillers that slipped the leash, so lucy (all ten pounds of her) ran right at them and stood them off until the woman got control of them again. She didn't hesitated for an instant, and it was lucky she wasn't bitten in two.

In the days when I occasionally drank hard liquor she once took a sip from my glass of scotch on the rocks. She savored it a moment, looked at me a little patronizingly and never touched it again. That was just one of many ways in which she was smarter than I am.

When she got older, and sick herself, she couldn't jump up on our bed anymore, so I had to lift her up. I called this the advent of Pooh, because one of her many nicknames was Luscious Pooh. (Her most official nickname being Luscious P. Codwagon, I don't know why.) She felt awkward, and touchingly, a little embarrassed about needing help to get up on the bed. So often, before I picked her up, she'd stick her head over the top of the mattress, judging the distance, to decide if she could jump, then her head would go down again. Then up again, then down again. I never saw anything as cute as that little head going up and down, like a little periscope.

Whenever I decided to leave the house, just as I would make the decision, even before I stirred from my chair, Lucy would come running and stand by the door, boyant, expectant. "Can I come too dad?" her whole being seemed to say. She knew, almost before I did. How is that even possible? They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. What do we see in Lucy's eyes? Gentleness, patience, loyalty, love, hope and a very keen awareness. I wish that's what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Goodbye Lucy.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

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