This past Saturday, the 14th, we celebrated six years with this little furry soul mate of mine, Lucille. She’s a huge part of my life (my whole life pretty much revolves around her actually. Yeah, I’m that kind of dog lady!) so it’s only fitting that I share her story here. This story is a long one and it’s emotional for me to write, but here goes…
It was a little over six years ago that our previous dog passed away, and my mom swore up and down that we’d never get another dog. No dog could ever replace the void that Duke left. He was a goofy Greyhound/German Shepherd mix, and one of those dogs who was simply born good. He was the definition of a good dog and we loved him dearly. That being said, I was born into a home with a dog, I’ve never been without a dog, so I knew it was only a matter of time before my family couldn’t stand the lack of furry face that used to greet the door every day.
Sure enough, about a month later, we were all aching for a dog. We knew there would never be another Duke, but my mom and I set out to rescue another Greyhound all the same. The timing was right since I was entering the first weekend of Spring Break (my second time through college) so I had a solid week to stay home with our new found friend, if we found him. We started at the closest local animal shelter to see what they had. They didn’t have any Greyhounds, but in a far corner we caught a glimpse of a cute, stout looking dog with a big head and an utterly pathetic look. His kennel tag said “Spanky – Pit Bull” and he didn’t get up from his bed on the floor, but his little tail was wagging none the less. He even crawled towards us to try and lick our hands through his cage. Apparently he was recovering from Parvo and was very sick. My mom noted how calm and sweet he looked, not mentioning his breed, but sounding slightly surprised. I assured her that the Pit Bulls that came through the Spay/Neuter program at Vet Tech school were some of the nicest dogs we had. Seeing this “scary monster breed” in such a docile state, with such kind eyes (even though the poor guy was very sick), helped us leave the shelter with even more of an open mind. …but we still wanted another Greyhound!
We continued driving farther out of town, stopping at a second shelter, and then continuing on to a third. This third shelter would have to be the last stop of the day since closing time was approaching. As we pulled in the parking lot my mom made a joke about how she’d lose her nerve if we didn’t walk out with a dog this time! This shelter was at least twice the size of the last two and as we walked the isle of kennels looking for the words “Greyhound, Greyhound, Greyhound” we kept seeing “Pit Bull, Pit Bull, Pit Bull”. We learned that the shelter a few minutes across town would euthanize any Pit Bull type dog they got their hands on as an effort to prevent such a “dangerous breed” from …well, existing. As I looked at the faces of these dogs I saw some that looked overly hyper, some that looked anxious, some that clearly weren’t happy to be next to their neighbor, but I didn’t see a single one that looked so dangerous it deserved death with no second chance. I had a change of heart then. I was no longer on a mission to find a Greyhound or a Shepherd mix. I just wanted a dog who needed a loving home. Because I had one to give.
I asked my mom to walk the isle with me again, ignoring the breed tags this time. We both stopped at the cage of a little girl with the most striking markings I’d ever seen on a dog! She was jet black with a thick ring of white around her neck that was flecked with black spots like a Dalmatian. Her cage said “Tobia – Pit Bull”. We asked to take her out for a walk and she seemed very sweet. She was very happy to be outside and was more interested in sniffing around than getting to know us. There wasn’t that instant connection, but my mom and I were still pretty smitten. As the shelter was getting ready to close up we decided to put in an application for Tobia. At the counter, one of the ladies mentioned that if we liked Tobia we might want to see another dog she was housing at her smaller kennel just down the road.
We decided we had nothing to lose, and after confirming it would be no trouble to check out this other dog after hours, we followed Kelly to her kennel where she housed dogs the shelter didn’t have room for. After a drive that was juuuusttt long enough for my mom and I to question whether this would be worth the extra effort, we arrived and Kelly showed us in. My mom and I walked into her office as she called back to her kennel attendant to bring “Chopper” up to the front.
A few moments later a little white ball of wiggle burst through the door and immediately locked eyes with me. She was wagging her tail so hard and so fast that I swear her back feet never touched the floor. Here was a dog I was meeting for the first time, and against everything I was taught in Vet Tech school about how to greet an unknown dog, my instinct was to drop to my knees and open my arms as wide as they would reach. This dog, still coming straight at me, mouth wide open, moving as fast as she could considering her legs, body and tail were all wiggling in different directions, entered my wide open arms and showered me in a thousand exuberant, yet courteous kisses.
I will never forget that moment, for I don’t think I’ve ever felt a connection that instant and on that level, in my entire life. As cliché as it sounds, it was like meeting your oldest and dearest friend again. There was a trust between us.
After the shower of kisses calmed enough for me to turn my head, my mom and I shared a glance and a huge smile as we looked at each other and then back at this little dog. Without saying a word we both agreed she was the one.
Her name would eventually become Lucille.
After taking “Chopper” for a quick walk it was clear she had no idea how to be on a leash, but my mom and I assured each other she was probably just really excited to be out. REALLY excited. As this 50lb dog was sporadically jolting my arms from their sockets I said something along the lines of “You know mom, I’m l..UHhh-erning about dog training in school, so I could probably teach her to waAHhhllk better on a leash”. I think my mom just replied with a skeptical “Mmm”. When we got back inside, the crazy animal on the leash returned to wiggles and extreme gratitude, in the form of face licks, in between playing with a toy she had found in the corner of the office. It was then that Kelly started telling us the story of Chopper.
The abuse case was called in by a neighbor who reported an emaciated dog tied out in someone’s back yard. …an emaciated dog who was trying to nurse a litter of new born puppies. No food. No real shelter. Left out to starve to death at the start of the winter season. My heart sank when I learned this news, knowing how much love this dog had to give. I hadn’t known Chopper longer than an hour, yet I couldn’t even fathom how someone could allow her to have puppies alone in a yard, and then consciously not feed them or care for them in any way. She and the puppies were rescued in January (if I’m remembering the month correctly) and by the time I found her in March she was back up to a healthy weight and all of the puppies had survived and were adopted. I was told she made a most excellent mother, and she still had a bit of the saggy belly to prove she nursed pups.
Kelly tried to show us a picture from the day Chopper was rescued, but wasn’t able to find it. I’m glad she didn’t because I’ve seen that kind of cruelty and abuse in other dogs, and I don’t have the heart to picture it happening to my own. The rescue story only solidified the fact that this little white and brindle dog was indeed The One. After filling out an adoption application, my mom and I reluctantly left. I could have cried leaving her that night but we promised we’d be back for her the next day.
My mom and I spent the rest of that night on our laptops researching breed characteristics, temperament, Breed Specific Legislation, and positive training methods for Bully Breeds. We bookmarked websites like BadRap.org, literally taking notes about monster myths, and absorbing both the good and bad potentials of rescuing Pit Bulls. My brothers were skeptical, and finding Chopper’s PetFinder mugshot was no help. In fact, her PetFinder listing was so lacking in personality and description that I didn’t even see it when I was initially searching. I’m glad I saved the photo. She doesn’t even look like the same dog.
Long story short, we did indeed go back for her the next day and she’s been the very heart and soul of my entire family ever since. It didn’t take long for everyone to fall in love after meeting her. Oddly enough, we called her Chopper for nearly two years before I couldn’t stand how unfitting that name was for her. She needed a name as sweet as she is, and now I can’t imagine her ever being called something besides Lucille! …besides Lou Goose, or Goober, or Hamlette, or Gubby, or Bubs, or any of the one million nicknames she has haha!
Rescuing a dog isn’t all sunshine and roses. Lucille came with baggage and my neighbors honestly feared her. I spent nearly a year teaching Lucille to walk well on a leash. The “who’s walking who?” jokes got old REAL fast. She was very poorly socialized with other dogs so I worked hard to turn her from dog awkward/dog suspicious to dog courteous (she even initiates play with some dogs now!), but she was always a friend to my small pack of cats. She’s still afraid of the vacuum and won’t walk on hard wood floors. She was the pickiest eater I’d ever encountered and up until a year ago she would frequently make herself ill from refusing food (this stuff has been the consistent winner lately! …knock on wood). Her lack of food motivation made her challenging to train, but her extreme eagerness to please made her willing to learn. She has a lot of dental issues from her previous life, and I’m not even going to start with the extra step we have to include with her bath routine (Eww). But she’s always been worth it. Always.
I’ve spent the last six years being a silent advocate for her, slowly proving to neighbors that I’m a responsible owner who walks my dog on a leash and supervises her in our yard. They realize now she’s a good dog. Plain and simple. I know my actions and my photos of her speak louder than words (or arguments), and over the years many people have changed their minds when it comes to “scary blocky headed dogs” because of Lucille. I know not everyone will, and I’m not asking for everyone to change their minds, because I know, no matter what, this little furry soul mate of mine is the love of my life and the center of my family. She’s estimated to be nine years old now and I start to cry when I think about the life span of a dog. I want her to be with me forever. She is my everything and I love her more than words can describe.
Thanks for reading our rescue story.