rule no. 1: don’t kill the dog

There’s an unspoken rule that floats around about storytelling. It goes like this: kill as many people as you like, but don’t you dare touch that dog.

You probably know why this exists, too. Maybe you grew up reading Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows. Maybe you cried your way through Marley & Me or wept when you watched I Am Legend.


Today was a lot more Marley and Me and a lot less Homeward Bound. 

Poor Luce–she was holding it together last week, but this weekend she just sort of… crashed. By the time we took her to the vet this afternoon, she couldn’t even stand up anymore. Tucker had to carry her. I honestly can’t remember the last time we all sobbed together like that–all five of us, squashed into this small room at the vet’s, crowded around our old, dying dog.


We were okay at first. A little bleary-eyed, sure, but mostly holding it together. But then the nurse came in, and the vet, and they were so nice and so sad, too, all “She isn’t doing so well, is she,” and “I’m so, so sorry” and soft smiles and comforting tones of voice. And we just–we lost it. We sobbed. A lot. 

There’s something about a dog–Lucy, in particular–that just worms its way into your heart and refuses to budge. We’ve spent a good chunk of time thinking of old memories, old stories about our pup. Tonight, we looked at old photos. Mom found this one lying around from right after we got her back in 2000.


She climbed right into my arms. We’ve laughed about that a lot over the years–how Lucy climbed up a fence and tumbled into my scrawny eight-year-old arms and ran us all over the breeder’s farm. How Lucy chose us, not the other way around.

We talked about the trip to get her (and how we got so lost on our way to the breeder’s) and about how we lost her (she would insist on running away every time the door was open or the gate was unlocked).

We talked about how she’d eat anything. Tucker said she once stole food right out of his mouth when he was sitting next to her. Dad reminded us of the time she ate ten chicken legs that had been left on the counter to thaw. That’s right. She forced her way through plastic bags and wrapping to get to the raw chicken. Emalyn said she forgave Luce for vomiting all over her favorite sweatshirt, and Mom talked about taking her out for midnight walks and the time Dad had tried grooming her himself (and inadvertently making her look ridiculously ill, as her fur was subsequently clumpy and looked like it was falling out all over the place).

Me, I reminded us of how Mom took Lucy to the dog park and met our new pediatrician–who worked at the practice that is now frequented by every single friend of ours in New York– and of that one particular time she ran away… and we found her on Craigslist.


That was Lucy for you. She was the gentlest dog in the world–not once did she ever snap at anyone. She let babies sit in her crate (when she had one) and toddlers yank on her tail. We used to joke that the most dangerous part about her was her tail simply because she was always so happy. That thing was strong–we learned pretty quickly not to keep glasses on the coffee table any more.

She thought every dog she met was her friend. She barked whenever we left her at a kennel, or the vet, or the PetSmart to get her hair cut. She would chase tennis balls for hours, and she never got tired of staring out the window. She wasn’t much trouble, as dogs go–she only really chewed on things if we left her alone–remind me to tell you about when we leaned to start hiding the bike helmets when we went on daytrips–and she never got overly sick (except that one time she and her puppy friend, Jack, ate rat poison, but that was only once!).

She thumped her tail whenever I came home, freaked out if she saw packed bags because it meant we were leaving her, and had a hearty retirement at the hands of Grandmother, who took her out multiple times a day and fed her a treat whenever they got back inside. So here’s to you, Luce–thank you for never biting us, thank you for running around with us, for being endlessly curious and endlessly sweet.

Thank you for climbing up a chickenwire fence when you were just two months old and deciding you were coming with us. Let’s go, you told us.


It’ll be an adventure.



2 thoughts on “rule no. 1: don’t kill the dog

  1. Just saw this…and I’m crying. I remember when y’all got Lucy, and Mama brought us over to your place after (pre)school (ha!) so we could meet her. 🙂 This a beautiful tribute to such a sweet pup – happy trails, Lucy! ❤

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