To be honest, I am not sure where to start with this post ... it has been over 4 months since Lucky died and I still don't know what to say. When his brother Chance went to the Rainbow Bridge last summer, it was easy to write his "eulogy" (Love Letter to Viva's Second Chance) ... the words poured out (something like 2500 of them!). Yet I have been thinking about what to say for months now, and I am still at a loss. I have even started writing this post many times, yet it never seems right ... let's see if this time it gets "finished" and published now that the year is drawing to a close ...
Lucky came into my life in the summer of 1997, at about 4 months old. Known as "Brown Boy" in his litter, I re-named him to "Viva's Another Chance for Love" - he looked so much like his older "brother" Chance (who was already Viva's Second Chance so that didn't work!). Lucky even had a random white spot on the back of his next just like Chance ... so he was definitely "Another Chance". His call name, Lucky, was a natural outcome of his name - for I believe if you do get another chance for love, that is pretty lucky. Wasn't he a cute baby?
Lucky was mostly supposed to be a companion for Chance - he was alone during the day while we (myself and my husband at the time) were at work all day. IGs (Italian Greyhounds) are very social and like to be with their pack (human or canine). Little did I know when I picked Lucky out that he would steal my heart and I would become his forever. How could he not, with his adorable mannerisms and cute smile?
Lucky was a joyful dog, right from the start. Always "happy-go-lucky" (pun intended) and such a little optimist! He firmly believed everyone he met would greet him with food or a treat (a belief he never let go of, and that actually grew stronger as he grew older!) ... no matter what, he was forever hopeful. :)
When he was younger, he liked to run and play with his brother - he was super fast! I actually wanted to lure course him - he had such joy running - but I never could get him to come reliably. Not that he didn't understand the command ... it was all a matter of if he wanted to do in the moment.
Lucky was much more independent than Chance - where Chance didn't like to be out of my sight, Lucky would do things like put himself to bed at night (yes, including tucking himself in under the covers) if he thought I was staying up too late. While he would be a "lap dog", it was always when he wanted to be and under his terms. And he was VERY particular about sleeping arrangements - his preferred spot was between my legs down near my feet and he didn't care if it was not the most comfortable position for me ... I became a "back sleeper" to accommodate him. I am sure there are animal experts who will say I wasn't asserting myself as pack leader, etc ... but Lucky was never wanted to be the alpha dog, so I don't think it mattered.
But you are probably wondering why I call Lucky my miracle dog ... so here is the story.
Lucky was injured by a teenager when he was 7 years old - the boy was eating on the couch and Lucky was inching closer, sniffing the air because the food smelled good. The boy waited until Lucky was next to him, then grabbed around his nose and slammed his mouth shut, in the process puncturing Lucky's tongue. [Needless to say, the boy was not allowed near my dogs after that.] The puncture wound got severely infected, and dispite major dosages of antibiotics and steriods, wouldn't heal. At one point the infection was so bad, he could barely eat.
A biopsy taken by my vet (during a scheduled dental so that I didn't have to put him under twice) revealed what appeared to be lymphoma cells but it wasn't conclusive. I was referred out to Cornell for further testing and evaluation in late December, 2004. After many tests and drives back-and-forth to Cornell (and a vet "resident" there who had NO beside manner and said maybe they could amputate part of his tongue!), a rare form of lymphoma was the diagnosis. Lucky was given 6-8 weeks to live - he might not make it to his 8th birthday. They gave me the option to put him through radiation - and yes, it is normally chemo that is prescribed for lymphoma since it is a systemic disease but since this was "localized" on his tongue they wanted to try a different protocol. This would entail leaving him alone at Cornell for 5 days a week for radiation on his tongue (too far for me to drive daily so he would be boarded there during the week) and feeding him through a tube (since the radiation would damage his mouth short term) .... all for an additional 6-12 months (the vets couldn't agree on how long).
I still remember getting the call with the diagnosis - it was the end of my work day and I was chatting with a collegue in his office. I felt like the life had drained out of me ... and I went into shock I think. That night all I did was cry ...
But I said no to the treatment - it was too much to put Lucky through even if it resulted in a few extra months with my little dog. I decided to make every day I had left with him count instead. We even took a Canine Good Citizen class at Lollypop Farm, just the two of us (Chance had to stay home). In case you are wondering, Lucky passed with flying colors (although he was bribed with the promise of McDonald's french fries - one of his favorite foods).
I worked with my wonderful "family" vet, Dr. Giles at Storybook Farm Veterinary Hospital, to see what options I had to help prolong his quality of life, for however long that was. We did a strong dose of steriods, made some adjustments to his diet and supplemented with high Omega fatty acids.
And I prayed. Lots. Every Day. I prayed for God to send His healing love ... to help Lucky not suffer when it was time ... to send His angels to watch over him each night.
I fought the sadness and sense of loss ... I tried to follow Lucky's example - he was still my ever optimistic, ever joyful dog. Always living in the moment ... and of course, always looking for food (he was ultra-food motivated with the steriods on top of his natural love of food).
And time went on ... 8 weeks came and went ... then 8 months ... and Lucky thrived. We reduced his steriod dosage ... and he remained stable. His mouth didn't fully heal, but it didn't get worse either! He started getting some issues with infections in his mouth ... but monthly "pulse" antibiotics took care of that. A year came and went ... and still Lucky was with me.
And I still prayed, daily. However, my prayers now were prayer of gratitude. I was thankful each and every day that I had with him (and Chance too - I don't want you to think I left him out!) ... and thankful for whatever remaining time I would have with him, no matter how long that was.
Lucky was a little daily miracle - especially since he defied all odds ... even his liver and kidneys (which should have been negatively impacted by the long-term steriod use) were fine.
In later years, he did develop some other medical issues associated with an aging pet. But he handled every obstacle with grace and joy ... oh and lots of food. ;)
In 2009, I lost my job and subsequently ended up starting my own business, which enabled me to be home and spend time with both Lucky and Chance. After Chance died in June of 2011, Lucky became my sole "supervisor" ... as you can see, he took the job very seriously.
Lucky and I became inseparable, and even with his health challenges, he attended Blog Paws with me in August 2011. I think he was in doggie mecca ... everywhere he looked there were pet people with treats! He enjoyed all of the networking pawties, but I must admit, he slept curled up next to me in most of the seminars (no offense to the speakers - but there weren't treats involved).
When I had to travel for one of my clients, Lucky would miss me terribly (as I did him), to the point of constantly asking to go outside to look for me ... so last Christmas, I got Lucky a very special gift ... a little brother! It took a little adjustment time, but Lucky appreciated having a buddy to curl up with, especially during the colder months or when I was away.
Lucky was spoiled constantly ... but as he had surpassed all expectations and prognosis for his longevity, it seemed only fitting .... and yes, after all these years, I still said thank you to God every day for his presense in my life. This last year, he went camping (for the second year), ate steaks cooked just for him (not left-overs from meals, but actually bought for him), got first pick of this year's Blog Paws spoils (Duff actually went with me since it was a plane trip this time so too hard for Lucky to go) ... and even got personalized acupuncture and water therapy treatments (which involved LOTS of treats as the team at TheraVet Acres will attest too!). He was well cared for and loved beyond belief ...
Sadly, shockingly, on August 25th, Lucky had a major seizure during his water treadmill session. He was stablized and I put him in the car to take him to the vet to check things out, but he died on the way there. I didn't even get to say goodbye to my little miracle dog ... he took his last breath on the passenger seat of my car ...
I am not ungrateful for each and every day I had with Lucky, especially since I had 7 1/2 years longer than the doctors at Cornell gave me with him. I am truly grateful ... but I didn't get to say goodbye and tell him one last time how much he meant to me ... how much I loved him ... that he was my heart dog and without him, my heart just doesn't beat quite as strong.
I still dream of Lucky ... and miss him daily. He will always be a part of me .... and I commit to living up to his example in 2013 and beyond.He was the most optimistic, happy, and joyful being I have ever met, and I only hope to honor him by trying to live up to the standard he set.
I love you Lucky ... and I always will! Enjoy running and playing with your brother Chance at the Rainbow Bridge ... I look forward to the day I will see you both again!
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