Lucky the dog
When I was 34 weeks pregnant Carlos and I adopted a huge, floppy, white shepard lab mix. At the time, it seemed like an okay idea, it allowed him time to get to know us and us to get to know him before Sylvia’s arrival. We fantasized about Sylvia having a dog that was hers, that would protect her and would be her companion. His name was ‘Lucky’ and we figured it was a name the shelter had given him. I couldn’t handle having a dog named ‘Lucky’…it was just too obnoxious of a name. We tried to change it but he was unresponsive to the new name. Great. The shelter told us he was two years old but as soon as we had him home and reviewed his adoption paperwork, we realized he was barely one. Awesome. Upon further review of the paper work we realized his name was Lucky since he had an initial puppy veterinarian visit at 10 weeks old. We couldn’t change his name now and, what do ya know, he responded to commands when we called him Lucky. Dear God. What have we done. I am pregnant and working nights full time while Carlos works days and we just adopted a 70 pound puppy named Lucky.
The first week and a half we had him were awful for me mostly because of my schedule. I cried several times because I was so frustrated and we almost took him back more than once. He listened well, didn’t ever bark, didn’t chew, didn’t jump on people or furniture and didn’t beg, really, he was great…but he was a 70 pound puppy and I was nearly full term pregnant. When he is stretched out, toe to toe, he is as tall as me. I was exhausted. I had no energy for a puppy that was pushing his limits and testing us, even as minimally as he was. Had I not been pregnant we would have been amazed at what a well behaved puppy we had just gotten, but being pregnant, he needed to be basically perfect. Carlos almost immediately fell in love with Lucky but I was hard on him, because I had to be with a baby coming. I was constantly on his case. We couldn’t have a dog that didn’t listen to every single thing we asked of him with a newborn due any day. He went to obedience classes and day care to work on his socialization. I’m telling you, I am a huge, obsessive dog lover but I was hard on Lucky. Something changed at about two weeks into his new life though, he settled down, realized that we were the alpha and suddenly developed a sense of respect and remorse. He turned, seemingly overnight, into the very good boy he was meant to be. It was like he suddenly realized we were his family now and this was his home. Do you have a dog? If you do, then you know. This dog suddenly became our dog. He was ours and we were his. Rougher and rowdy with Carlos, gentle and kind with me. An addition we didn’t even know we needed and yet it fit like he was always a part of us, like there was no previous life he had before his life with us. The name ‘Lucky’ as obnoxious as it (still) is, fits him. There could be no other name for this dog. He looks like a ‘Lucky’ somehow.
Carlos, Lucky, Sylvia and I were a family. Carlos and I laughed watching Lucky do his somersaults when he played, his obsession with anything that squeaks, his need to smash his huge body into tiny spaces, his love for having his paws massaged and his passion for sleeping on his back with his legs in the air. We talked constantly about how him and Sylvia would be best friends. Lucky doesn’t care at all what you do to him, complete gentle giant, doesn’t budge even if you grab his lips and open his mouth. We imagined Sylvia crawling all over him, tugging at his ears and tail. Lucky would have just licked her with his tongue that I am sure would have covered a one year olds face. His big white body and her tiny dark features. They would have been best friends.
When we came home from the hospital after Sylvia was born Lucky knew something was wrong. He tip toed around us for at least the first day. He held his head low, he approached us slowly and was quiet for much longer. He was hard to be around for a while too, because seeing him reminded us that he was supposed to be Sylvia’s puppy. We had told her all about him when I was pregnant and we had told him all about her. Them never getting to meet was heart breaking.
Since Sylvia died, Carlos and I look at Lucky and are amazed at what an impact this dog has had on us. What started as a truly bad idea has turned into a very important addition to our family. We love this guy. What would we even have been focusing on these last six weeks if not for him? He gives us so many laughs and smiles, comfort and love without even knowing this is our darkest time. He obviously could never fill the void our daughters physical existence has left, but he filled something. This happy, floppy, silly, nearly-always-on-good-behavior, young man has helped with our broken hearts. He has no idea what an important role he has played, and it doesn’t matter to him really, because a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.
My least favorite phrase of all time ‘everything happens for a reason’ could be a good catch all to the story of Lucky, but I have a strong distaste for that statement. It has always seemed more like an distraction, emotionally, from dealing with weird, unexpected obstacles or events. I believe in chance and accidents though. And I believe that terrible things sometimes happen, like Sylvia’s death, and I believe that wonderful things happen, like us adopting Lucky. The importance and meaning of both great tragedy and great happiness lies in our response, our ability to cope and our ability to move forward. And so, Carlos and I, always with Sylvia on our minds and in our hearts, continue to cope and grieve, and timidly move forward with our four legged (blissfully unaware) friend beside us. Sylvia and Lucky would have been best friends. We know that. But a tragedy happened and she isn’t here for them to have the beautiful friendship we anticipated and hoped for. And we are learning, painfully, to be okay with that.