The first time I saw Lucy was in the spring of 1998. She was on a sliver of shoulder on a twisty road. One wrong step would have sent her down a sheer cliff to the frigid waters of Discovery Bay on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
I slowed down to get a better look at this sleek, quick mutt, a cross between a beagle and a hound. Pretty. Redheaded. But there was no place to pull over for about a mile and when I finally did, I couldn’t find any trace of her.
I’d had it in my mind I needed a dog, being an Annie Oakley type all alone in my cabin off the grid in the woods. I wanted a dog who would bark at strangers, retrieve endless tennis balls thrown on the beach, and warm the bed when the small cast-iron stove burned up all its wood.
A month later I went to the pound and lo, there was that same dog from the road. She’d been picked up a couple miles from where I’d seen her. They gave her a name — Popcorn. For a really good reason. She was super spazzy and just wouldn’t be still, jumping around the pen, trying to lift off and take flight when she was on a leash.
Nobody wanted her, she was cute but just too hyper. The pound folks kept her alive much longer than they were supposed to, hoping that someone in need of an uncouth, unschooled 9-month-old puppy with the deepest brown eyes you’d ever seen would need her. They’d waited for me.
I brought her home to my little cabin in the woods, and introduced her to the other residents, cats called Puck and Ajax. The first night we settled down by the fire with Cabernet and rawhide, and she happily drifted to sleep. In the morning I came down from my loft bed and woke her up. She jumped with a slight start, furiously wagged her tail, broke out into a huge doggie smile, and peed a little with excitement. It was, truly, the first day of the rest of our lives together.
I rastled with her wilddog stubborn mind, and we finally came to a compromise on obedience training. That anything she did at my command had to appear as if it were her own idea. She’d hear “come” or “sit” or whatever, look up into the air as if she were contemplating her next move, and then act in her own time. Eventually.
She never fetched one thing her whole life and greeted all strangers (even a burglar) as if she were running for mayor and could she please have their vote. She has always been the best spooner I know, however.
These past couple weeks Lucy’s had it rough. She has a tumor growing in her abdomen. It makes it hard for her to pee at her own will, which is humiliating to this dog who had been known to hold it for up to 10 hours on a sailing trip through the San Juan Islands. She has gloppy masses on her body that break open and ooze. Tonight she was on the leash and fell over on her side as her hind legs seized up.
I called the vet and asked what we should be doing, and she suggested a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that might help her swelling and curb the pain.
“One month’s worth?” she asked.
“Make it two.”