Nadine Baker is an excellent writer who made us feel like we knew Lucie. It’s a lovely story and takes third place.
I sat her on the floor of my car’s back seat. She had just suffered a little bout of motion sickness and her big brown eyes regarded me sadly as if to say, “what did I do wrong?”. All I could see was Lucy Ball’s WAH! Face. You know the one. Lucy Ball would get upset about something and she would just put on a pathetic face and wail. Now how did I see any similarity between this 8-week-old black puppy’s sad look and the wackiest redhead on TV? I don’t know. But I swear it was there.
Five minutes earlier, I was heading into a department store when a child thrust the little pup up at me and inquired “Want a puppy?” To make a long story short, a dad with out-of-state plates on his spotless sports car had been driving down the highway with his kids and new puppy in the back seat. In all the excitement, the tiny pup didn’t feel well. Dad wasn’t pleased and decided she had to go. It took me two seconds to determine that doggie parenthood might not be his forte, so I took her into my arms. Now I looked back at her, saw that face and said “Hmmm…..I’m gonna call you Lucie and I’m gonna find you a home. Don’t worry”. Silly me. I had already found her a home – mine – I just didn’t know it then.
With one dog and one cat already in my cramped apartment, I started the search for Lucie’s new home. However, my efforts only lasted about a day and a half until it became apparent that I was smitten. That little black fur ball wasn’t going anywhere. She was so tiny, I was able to crate train her in a kitty carrier. And she was so cute and sweet with those big brown eyes, big doggie smile and her readily wagging tail. It wasn’t long before she figured out she had one big softie for a new mom.
When she was three months old, I took her to a doggie day care to help her learn some manners as she was already in dire need by that time. Among the other “kids” present that day was a full-grown Doberman Pincher and some other dogs, all of whom were bigger and older than her. The trainer and I placed Lucie on the floor where, without skipping a beat, she put her nose down and lead the entire pack around the room. “Oh…” the trainer stammered “I don’t know if she will be able to stay. She’s very alpha. Well, I’ll give her a try, but I may have to call you to come back and get her.” Stung by the shock and dismay of a parent whose just been told that her child does not play well with others, I drove home loudly defending my baby to myself. “Good grief, she’s just a puppy! Is it HER fault the other dogs followed her?” The afternoon passed, however and I was relieved that the dreaded phone call never came. Collecting my precious girl that evening, I was told that Lucie had only had “one little time out” and I was transformed into a beaming proud parent. Then, with a concerned look on her face, the trainer added “Lucie is very smart. Like border collie smart. She’s going to be a challenge until she gets a little older”. Still blinded by my little girl’s glowing report card, all this talk of alphas and border collie smart went completely over my head. I was blissfully ignorant about dog psychology and didn’t realize that I had just been told “You’ve got a wild one….good luck”. I was to learn quickly, however.
As the months passed, Lucie’s intelligence and willingness to push the envelope became more and more apparent. The meaning of “border collie smart” started to sink in with me. She drove me crazy. I could look at her face and knew that she was thinking of what she was going to get into next. She was easily bored and found numerous methods to entertain herself from chewing on my belongings to harassing my German Shepard for that dog’s much-loved tennis ball. Despite being only 30 pounds, she was the princess of the house and she made sure we knew it. She completely disregarded my rules about not sleeping in bed with me. I had to hide everything plastic as for some reason, that was her favorite chewing material. The upper half of my kitchen storm door was glass and when she wanted to come in, she would bounce up and down, each time incredulously looking at me on the up bounce as if to say, “Are you going let me in or what?” She became an over-indulged, willful, escapading, fun-loving “wild woman” (my pet name for her) of a dog who constantly challenged me, but who I adored. She never missed the opportunity to fly out of the door when I was foolishly careless. Most of the time, she had no real objective other than to be the leader. She would run out of my house and into the open door of the woman across the street calling her kids in. One time she ran off and promptly ran into the open car door of a policeman who had seen me frantically running after her. She had nowhere in particular to go and she didn’t really want to leave me and her comfy living arrangement. She simply loved the chase -as long as it was me doing the chasing of course. The neighborhood became accustomed to watching me running and screaming “L – U – C – I – E!!! GET BACK HERE’’ on a regular basis.
When she was two years old, I bought a house out of town with a half-acre back yard thinking Lucie would finally be happy and less likely to roam. I kept her tied however as I didn’t want her racing around the 40 acres of woods down the road from my house. But what especially frightened me was the main street just one tenth of a mile up my road. The half-acre wasn’t enough for the “wild woman” however and whenever she got the chance, she would dash off toward the woods, with me and my German Shepherd, Charlie in hot pursuit. She would look back at me from time to time with those expressive eyes and open-mouthed happy face and I just knew she was laughing at me. She LOVED it! She was in the lead and loving life! Eventually, she would let me catch up where she would once again ignore my admonishments and let me guide her back to water bowl and supper dish. I was convinced that on every trip back to the house, she was inwardly giggling and planning her next adventure.
I had made the mistake of taking Charlie and Lucie to the park across the busy street shortly after I bought the house. Mistake I say because once Lucie knew it was there, it became an attraction. Each time Lucie took off, I would tell Charlie “Find Lucie!” and then pray he wouldn’t go in the direction of the park. So it was on a very hot and sticky morning in July that Lucie decided it was time for an adventure. I was dressed for work and distracted in my rush to get there. Lucie watched closely, and when I failed to close the door tightly enough, WHOOSH!!! Off went a blur of little black feet and tail held high. Charlie and I were immediately in hot pursuit – or as hot pursuit as I could get in my dressed-for-the-office clothing. To my horror, Charlie headed for the park. Panting hard, I caught up with him at the corner and much to my relief, did not find Lucie lying in the middle of the road. But still -… where was she? “Find her Charlie! Find her!” I hollered. We crossed the street and headed into the park, but still no Lucie. Charlie then must have caught her scent, and into the adjoining neighborhood backyards we went. By this time, the July humidity was oppressive, and my clothing was drenched with perspiration. This was the 90’s, after all, and the emancipation from hose had not yet begun for us women. With them on, half of my body was covered in unbreathable nylon. The heels of my shoes had been sinking into the ground, so I had already cast those off. I was, for all intents and purposes, a shoeless, dripping hot mess screaming “L – U – C – I – E!!!!!” through people’s backyards at 7 o’clock in the morning. It was at this point that I decided that at any moment, I was going to pass out if I did not get those plastic bags called hose off me. And so, there I was in my prim little office dress, hiding behind a bush in someone’s yard and climbing out of my mangled pantyhose. I prayed that I would find my dog AND that no one had seen me. Charlie was only going very short distances ahead of me now, coming back each time I sent him looking for her. That was his signal for “I can’t find her Mom”. With both of our heads hanging low, we started back for the house where I would grab my car and start looking for Lucie with the assistance of wheels – and air conditioning.
But there was no need for the car. There was no need for panic or running through people’s yards or disrobing in public. No. Because there she sat. At the corner of the busy street and my street, indignantly looking at both of us as if to say “Where have you two been? I’ve been waiting for you!”. She must have had her fun, circled back and was now ready to go home. It was hot after all! I grabbed my now useless hose and wrapped them around her collar to use as a leash for the walk home. On the walk back, I cussed at her while she completely ignored me and happily strutted ahead of Charlie and me.
After that day, I learned that Lucie’s biggest enjoyment was in having Charlie and me chase her, so we pretty much stopped doing that. It was hard to remain calm when she would take off, but without us chasing, she didn’t venture too far. She was also smart enough not to go near the busy street without us, so I stopped worrying about that too. She did, however, find the neighbor’s pool and I would occasionally hear a loud “GET OUTTA HERE!!! “. I would call her and within minutes, she would return dripping wet and covered with mud. After all, what could be more fun than sneaking a dip into the neighbor’s pool? Well, rolling in dirt immediately after of course! As for the pool owner, I suspect that he really wasn’t that bothered. He knew where she lived but never said anything to me. Lucie charmed everyone. She was a she-devil who drove everyone crazy, but who everyone loved.
I lost my girl to illness when she was 13 and I can’t think of her today without smiling. I miss her and her antics terribly, but I know she is up there over the rainbow bridge running around and looking back waiting for me to catch up. The “wild woman” will always hold a very, very special place in my heart.
|Charlie (foreground) and Lucie (back)|
Happily wagging her tail post pool dip