Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adopting Lucy from the Animal Shelter

When the British Columbia SPCA chose LITTLE JOE as its book pick last year, I went and gave Lucy a great big hug.
Lucy is our eleven-year-old shelter dog who, in the 10 years that she's been part of our family, has given me a daily joy that can't be measured.

Writing can be a lonely business and I spend about 8 hours a day on it.(Right now I'm faced with more blank pages since finishing my final draft of novel number two).

Lucy is there with me every step of the way. She's curled up like a fox eyeballing my progress, or jumping up and putting her paws on my desk to remind me it's time for play. And chasing her around the house with that tennis ball has been known to cure my writer's block. But what I love most about Lucy is that each morning she awakes like she'd just been born-- as if it's the first day of her life-- and she can't wait to get started.
Nothing seems repetitive to Lucy; no event too arduous, difficult or meaningless.I try to remember that during the day, or when I'm working on revisions and my story is way past fresh. Can I see it like Lucy? As if I'm not familiar with it? Can I approach life like Lucy?

Lucy came into our lives shortly after I married Rich and became the step-mom of two tween boys. We all thought it would be a good idea-- a bonding moment-- if we adopted a dog. I was also feeling terribly guilty about having to send their two cats away (I'm really allergic to cats), even though their new home was with a close friend.

Jeremy, in particular, was disgruntled with me and had been sulking for quite a while, so we all agreed that he could choose the dog, and that he and Rich would go up to our local shelter and look around, since it could take a few months until he'd find, "the perfect lap dog." And hopefully, one that didn't shed.

Now I would strongly suggest that unless you go to an animal shelter strictly to volunteer,if you go looking for a pet to bring home and love-- know that you will most certainly find one. One that keeps you up at night needling your brain, sniffing at your heart and causing your children to beg, nag, and make the most outlandish promises, until the 24 hours you've dedicated to thinking it over becomes so excruciating, you're forced to call the shelter number after hours, hoping that the answering machine will say they open before nine.

Jeremy had come home smiling the day before saying that he'd found Lucy. Sounded like a good name for a little lap dog, right? Only she wasn't so tiny. "I know I went in looking for a lap dog," Jeremy admitted, "but then I fell in love with Lucy."

Within 24-hours all I'd heard about was Lucy, so by the time 9 AM came around the next day, all that was left was for me to do was to get in the car.

Lucy had the run of the place. She promptly jumped up and put her paws on the desk when I walked in, sending pens and doggie treats airborne. She wasn't anything like the toy poodles I'd grown up with. Lucy was a rough and tumble dog. A mixture of all sorts of hounds and looking like Petey from the Little Rascals, minus the dark patch on the eye.

So that's how it was going to be.

How long had she'd been there?...
Two months. Maybe more.
How come?...
Because of her boundless energy and her need to roam. "But she's kind behind the eyes."
Kind behind the eyes... where had I heard that before? In an E.B. White story, perhaps? And what of her family history?...
Silence... looking up paperwork.... Lucy licking the paperwork, tail wagging. "All it says is that when the staff opened up one morning she was there... tied to the doorknob."

So you know she's going home with us at this very moment, right? Even though I hadn't even touched her, walked her, or let her lick my face.

I went out to the back field of the shelter, which was a sheet of ice, and let Lucy walk me.

That's how it was going to be.

"She'll need to be fixed before you take her home," the receptionist said.
How soon?
"She'll be ready on Valentine's Day."

On the phone that night my mother asked,"Did you find a lap dog?"
"We found the perfect dog."
"Well, at least she doesn't shed, right?"
"You know, I went into the shelter planning on finding one that didn't," I told my mother, "but then I fell in love with Lucy."

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