Lucille

Guys, I got a dog! Ten of them actually, and all over the course of 12 months.

“God,” I’ll bet you are thinking, “she was serious about wanting a dog. Though ten seems a bit excessive . . .” Here I will tell you that I’m being a little misleading. Dramatic, actually, which I’m sure you never expected from me. The truth is, I fostered ten dogs during this upheaval of a pandemic, mostly because I knew that living alone and seeing no one would really, really suck, but also because I knew that working from home would give me ample time to devote to a pet I knew nothing about.

I started with Snoopy, the cutest Shih Tzu to ever live, and ended with Lucille, the best Shih Tzu in the whole world.  To say my experience was fantastic is a gross understatement.  To say it was gut-wrenching is also a gross understatement.  So many people have asked me how I do it, how I give up a really cute, really great dog. They tell me they could never do it, and for a while I felt like that was some sort of judgment about my cold heart, like they were looking at me critically and wondering what was wrong with me. I, too, wondered what was wrong with me, but now I see this as a really great, really crappy gift, that I can give my all to a person/creature who needs what I offer for a short time and then send them off to the right place to spend the rest of their days. (One could argue that I do this with men, too, and years ago I cried my guts out when someone made that argument, as if I was a benevolent man-changer who made men great for the next person but never for me.) 

My Christmas letter gave stories to six of my fosters, and after the holidays I fostered four more. Three of the four were fantastic and one was an absolute turd. It was around this time that I was feeling the regret of letting each dog go, so I asked the rescue organization to find a dog just for me.  I made quite a list of stringent qualifications a few years ago (found here), and only amended one bullet. I asked for a small dog, a Shih Tzu type, because of all the dogs I had, Snoopy was my favorite. The rescue org was “gifted” a Shih Tzu named Lucille (I use “gifted” with some sarcasm as some loser dropped her off at the organization in a cardboard box with no collar, no toy, and no blanket, but carrying a giant lemon-sized tumor on her chest.) She came to me, not because she met my list of requirements (how could we know anything about this stranger of a dog), but because I was dog-free and could take the next one on the list.

Lucille was scruffy but cute. She was a little bland. She came at the tail end of my foster journey with Luke, a tiny Havanese with an enormous personality. Luke wasn’t into her but he wasn’t not into her.  He would growl when she tried to cuddle in his favorite spot with him, so Lucille would wait until he tottered off to gallop to and fro on the stairs before making his bed her own. He’d come back, see here there, and sigh in resignation until he found another spot that made him happy. I realized then that Lucille was patient, crafty in her dealings with others, and that her kind of nothingburger personality was actually a great personality, albeit a quiet one.

Lucille and I got to know the vet’s office staff intimately. She had the lemon-sized tumor removed (benign) prior to her arrival to me, and they found during the staple removal an entire chain of mammary tumors that had been missed by the previous vet. They took that whole chain out (cancerous), cutting her from boob to girl part. The night she returned to me full of stitches and covered in bandages was a rough night. Luke sniffed at her and willingly gave up his bed to her, kind of nosing her in that direction with his snout. Lucille lay there listlessly, no interest in food or pats. She was restless throughout the night, but the next day she wiggled her tail. She ate some dog crunchies and took a mincing walk. Every day she wagged more and walked better until she was trotting like she was in a “Staying Alive” video, ears flapping and butt waggling, definitely to a peppy beat. She wore a t-shirt, adorably tied at the waist to show off her fireplug non-indented waist, and that t-shirt protected her stitches from her tongue. She got a cone once the bandages came off, a really cute lion’s mane with ears. She never fussed over it. She never fussed over the t-shirt. She let me wrangle her into an adorable puffy vest when we got snow and ice, stuff that she loved. She wore her harness and collar without complaint, so obviously she had at one point belonged to a person who used those things with her.

Lucille, too, was obviously used to other dogs. She would happily stand still while she got sniffed, and she never minded nosy dog behavior. When she’d had enough, she’d tell you. For example, I have a neighbor, Logan, who has his own scruffy dog named Amos. Amos is a Basenji which really, for our purposes, means that he’s at least twice the size of Lucille and he has enormous stand-up ears. (The ears part was just for me and not relevant in any way other than I think they are cute.) Basenjis possess an enormous amount of energy which in Amos manifested in his absolute joy in eating mulch and repeatedly pouncing on Lucille in an attempt to play. I’ll say as an aside here, that Lucille isn’t the smartest dog in the kennel.  She is sweet and adorable but no Nikola Tesla. Her attempts at play were short-lived so when she was pounced upon by Amos, she would sass directly into his face in this manner: “Ruff, roarff, ruff, bark, ruff, ruff!” And then she would wag off like the sassy pants she is while Amos cowered in the mulch. She was never afraid of him but he might have been slightly afraid of her. They never did play together because she didn’t know how to play, but it never stopped Amos from trying.

I’d had Lucille two months when she finally was healed enough to get a good fur scrubbing and a grooming. It was time to get her runway ready, time for me to decide if I was going to keep her or let her go.  She got her stitches out on a Friday; all of the snow had melted by Sunday; and on Monday, Lucille and I went for a jaunty walk knowing that later in the week she’d go for her salon appointment.  It felt like freedom. No sutures that pulled.  No puffy vest.  No snow drifts to slow us down. I kept stride with my cute little girl who was really feeling herself, trotting along like Barry Gibb, when we passed by a neighbor’s house.  He was opening his garage door, his were hands full, and his dog came barreling out of the garage. The leash fell out the man’s hand and over the dog galloped. Lucille and I looked at her expectantly for an Amos-type play (*TRIGGER WARNING*) when the dog grabbed Lucille by the neck and shook her. I’ll stop with the details there and tell you that the shaking lasted two seconds before Lucille fell out of her collar.  My screaming lasted a lot longer than that, and Lucille took off like a shot with me screaming and running after her.  It was the most horrific thing I have ever personally witnessed and I need to stop typing about that now.

Lucille ran down the street, around the corner, and straight up to Amos’s door. She never made a sound. She stood there in the doorway bleeding and waited for me or for Amos to come to her. Her friend, Amos, was the one she ran to. Her friend, Amos, made her feel safe. He pounced on her and trampled her, but always out of curiosity and like, and she knew he would never hurt her. I mean, I’m guessing. My door was three doors away so she could have easily made it home.

Before we continue on, I want to tell you that Lucille has made a full recovery. She prances now like she has Shakira-rhythm and her sassy tail still wags, like a corkscrew, so fast that it’s a blur. No triggering, no after effects. Lucille is great! The vets said she was lucky, and they repeated it every time we visited over the next three weeks.  (Her jugular was nicked but not punctured and so she survived.) We went for bandage changes every other day, so that was a lot of lucky.

So that I can erase any trauma I caused by sharing ugly things with you, here is the recovered, catwalk-ready Lucille. This is present day Lucille. Happy, healthy, adorable Lucille. She is fine!

Now, let’s talk about the other dog. More importantly, let’s talk about that other family.

I filed a vicious dog complaint that afternoon while I waited for Lucille to be released from the animal hospital. I cried and screeched while I Googled everything related to dog bites. I called our HOA and filed a report there. I cornered the man the next morning, when I knew that Lucille would live, and cried buckets in his driveway. I trampled up and down every emotion available to me while he just listened. I explained that I filed a complaint and explained that I worried that his dog would do this again, to another little dog or more scarily, to a little kid, of which we have many in our neighborhood. He was gentle with me, promised to make a decision with his wife about moving forward, and promised to call me to discuss it. He never called.

To be fair, I once saw him on his front porch where he was sitting with his daughter and said, “I texted you about Lucille, about us resolving this out of court,” and he asked how she was doing. Said again he’d call. But until last week when our court date was scheduled, I never heard from him again.

Also to be fair, that family never offered a single penny to help pay for Lucille’s care. That family avoided me at all costs by slinking into their garage when I walked by, or by turning their backs to me when they were walking their dog, even though I never once tried to interact with them. To be fair, in court that man and his wife accused me of stalking them (my mailbox is next to their house) à la Jerry Springer, and took great pains to question my decision to make this a legal matter. To be fair, the wife asked me why I never tried to resolve this with them outside of court immediately after she read my text message aloud where I offered to resolve it outside of court. Based on the amount of questions she asked me as I sat on the witness stand, it is fair to assume that she and her husband were highly offended that I implied their dog might hurt a child. To be fair, I owned that. Held up my right hand to swear by the truth and then said, “Yes, I did imply your dog might hurt a child, and yes, I made it a legal matter to hopefully prevent this from happening to another dog or, most importantly, a toddler, at your dog’s expense.”

I have a favorite court moment. Every time I think of it I want to shit myself with glee. The husband had to hold up his hand and swear to tell the truth, then clamber up to the witness stand just like I did. He told his story which corroborated mine, and all was well. But the man got heady with courtroom fever, I guess, and as he was finishing up his testimony, he threw up his hands like Joe Pesci and, in his first acknowledgment of me in five months, yelled directly at me, “I want to know what Miss Kidd’s end game is here! What is your end game?!”

His yelling startled me. Startled everyone else, too. As we all jumped in alarm, that judge whacked that gavel so hard the sound reverberated around the room, and the whole place went silent while it echoed. The judge pointed that gavel right into the man’s face and said, “We don’t talk like that in here. You don’t get to ask questions like that in here!”

I am in love with that judge.

All of that favorite moment leads to my first favorite moment, when my end game became my result. The judge ordered that the dog be labeled a “vicious dog” and ordered that she was to be muzzled outside of the house at all times. That was my end game. All I wanted was for the dog to have a muzzle. We could have done that outside of court had they ever called me back, without a “vicious dog” label, without the fine, and without the court costs.  Instead they got all four of those mandates and will likely spend months watching for me to walk to the mailbox so they can text each other endlessly about it. I hope they find some peace outside of that and move on, doing the right thing, but otherwise I do not care.

What I do care about is Lucille. Reader, I let her be adopted. Of all the dogs I fostered, I loved her the most and she most fit my criteria. It’s just that I had to take into account Lucille’s criteria. She wanted a person to love, and she loved me. When I left her for a while and then returned home, her tail would wag so fast I could barely see it. She wanted to learn how to play, and she played with me. She wanted to be spoiled and babied, and she was spoiled and babied with me. I could give her all of that, but not in all the ways she deserves. She deserves a family. She deserves a doggy playmate. She deserves sofas she can jump on and belly rubs from not one person but four. The guilt of leaving her, of being less than four, of not being with her all the time killed me. I hated that. While we were out walking one day, Lucille with all her bandages on, a woman stopped me to tell me how cute she was. She wanted to pet Lucille and love on her and hold her, and she asked for her story. I explained who Lucille was, what happened, and what she wanted. That woman applied for Lucille that day. Six weeks after she almost lost her life, Lucille went to her new home with her new doggy playmate, her new teenaged sisters, and a new mom and dad who say things, like, “We adore her!” and “She is so stinking sweet.” That’s a testimony to a highly spoiled lifestyle, a thing I think Lucille has earned.

I’ve told the rescue organization that I won’t foster anymore dogs. They’ve asked twice and so far I’ve said no.  Lucille gets to live in my thoughts and my heart as an only dog for a while longer. This is not a journey for the faint of heart and right now mine is a little faint. One day I will be ready for my own dog, just for me, but that day is not today.

If you have interest in adopting a really great dog, please visit Critter Cavalry Rescue. Ask for Vivienne.  She will get you whatever you want, and it will be a good one.   

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. marteejharris@gmail.com
    Jun 15, 2021 @ 16:39:54

    This is the sweetest story – and I am grateful Lucille is okay.

    You are enough for a dog. There are so many rescues who need homes, not all will get a fam of four. Keep that in mind when you are ready to love again.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  2. Anne
    Jun 15, 2021 @ 20:41:27

    You are such a sweetheart! Our cats. Dora and Lewis, named for explorers, were fostered by dear friends 8-9 years ago before they had to go home to London. We do love those cats and their foster mothers. 💕😻😻

    Reply

  3. Wendy
    Jun 21, 2021 @ 13:20:06

    Oh girl, you know I know your pain. Maybe not about giving up Lucille, or maybe I do, but definitely having the neighbors who don’t know squat about raising dogs that can be in the community safely. Court is no fun but as they say, “give them enough rope” and they’ll make really stupid remarks in front of the judge. HA! Been there done that, not the stupid remark, my neighbor did that. There’s a furry critter out there somewhere waiting on you, a lucky one I might add, and when you find them you will both know it.

    About the vet bills, I think I might still have a copy of the letter I sent my neighbors re the vet bills incurred when their dog viciously attached my Jane. They ended up paying half the bills, which is all I asked for, so as to not get sued in civil court. It was after all their responsibility. And since they wouldn’t be responsible pet owners it was necessary to hold them to something. They no longer let their pets run wild in packs, I guess they learned something through the experience. 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: