I got Lucy when I was a sophomore in college and I can remember that day so clearly. It was about an hour drive away from my school, my roommate and I went together. The family selling the puppies was a nice young family who bred their two pets, and when we walked in the first thing we saw was a big cardboard box full of adorable little Labrador puppies. There were two yellows, two chocolates, and two blacks. I wanted a black one, and I wanted a girl. The two black ones were both girls, and I instantly knew the smaller of the two was the one I wanted. I brought her back to my off campus apartment and for the first couple of weeks she slept in a little cardboard box next to my bed, with one of my blankets as a cushion so she could get used to my scent and a watch tucked underneath to mimic the sound of her mom's heartbeat so she could be comfortable and calm. Her little personality was bright from the beginning and I fell head over heels in love with her. When I wasn't in class she became my constant companion. I brought her to the store to buy dog food, for long walks up in the bird sanctuary and around town, to rugby games where she would occasionally get loose and run onto the field (that only happened once though, or maybe three times, tops). I used to take her for hour long walks twice a day, and to people on campus who didn't know my name I became "the girl with the black lab".
She loved to swim, and I remember the first time she swam at my father's house. We walked her down by the edge of the lake and sort of nudged her in. At first she had a look of panic, but once my dad threw that first stick out into the water she was hooked. She would swim so long sometimes I would worry she would drown out of sheer exhaustion, but she loved it so much I would let her go until it got dark.
She was a very sensitive little dog. She was small for a lab, the vet called her a "mini-lab" and she had huge dark eyes and a sweet face. She was always looking for a hand to pet her head, and she would snuggle in with anyone, curling up her little body and snoozing. The first word everyone used to describe her was "sweet", and she was just that. Having her through college was such a fun experience, I cried with her, I laughed with her when she would snatch my roommates sandwiches, we did everything together. She was also really funny, sticking her head out of the window on car trips to make her lips blow out in the wind. It would crack me up so much I almost wet my pants, it absolutely never got old.
As Lucy got older we would joke about "old Luce" and her little salt and pepper beard. We would tease her saying they should come out with a dog version of "Just for Men" called "Just for Dogs" so we could restore her coat to its full shining sleek blackness. When she lost her sight we stopped taking her on walks in the woods, and it killed me that she could no longer go swimming. But she was just as happy as ever, hopping up on the couch to snuggle and wagging her tail when she was tossed a little pizza crust, her favorite. She got to meet my kids, and they loved her just as much as I did. She was part of our family, and she was so incredibly gentle and loving and sweet, even when she had to play pony or got her ears pulled.
In the last few months she developed a condition where she grew tumors in her mouth that would bleed excessively. We tried one treatment with no success, and the only other option was to operate, but at her age the vet wouldn't recommend it since she probably wouldn't come out of the anesthesia. And even if she did survive, the tumor would grow back within a month. Eventually it would have grown so big she wouldn't have been able to eat. It was my decision alone to put her down, and, in the end, it wasn't much of a choice. It simply had to be done. I put it off for as long as I could, hoping that she wasn't in any pain, but it became clear that she was. I called the vet and they explained the procedure. The vet was so sweet on the phone, hearing my tears she gave me a minute and said how sorry she was.
Saying goodbye to Lucy is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I feel like I have let her down, that I couldn't save her. In the last week of her life she would go sit outside in the yard, basking in the sunshine, looking up to the clouds with blind eyes. She seemed very peaceful, but maybe that is just me projecting what I hope she was feeling.
I am well and truly heart broken that Lucy is gone. I wish I could tell myself that she is in a better place, that she is at peace, that she is okay, but I just can't. I just miss her. I miss her little warm face nuzzling in my lap, I miss her little wet tail after swimming splashing water around like a tiny sprinkler. I miss throwing that stick out just one more time, watching her take off, soar, and splash. I love you, Lucy, I always will.