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The Story of Lucille

Today, March the 14th, marks exactly 8 years since I rescued my furry soul mate, Lucille – The namesake of this blog. We count today as her birthday so she’s estimated to be 11 years old now. I originally wrote her adoption story back in 2015 but I wanted to re-share it for any new readers who don’t know her story. Lucille is a massive part of my life. She IS my life. Any dog owners out there who equate their dogs with children know what Lucille means to me and how much light she’s brought to my life over the past 8 years. This story is a long one and it’s emotional for me to share, but here goes…

It was a little over eight years ago now, in 2009, 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, 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 her. 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.

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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 clichΓ© 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.

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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.

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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 shelter. Left out to starve to death during 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.

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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 but we promised we’d be back for her the next day.

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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 scrolled right over it when I was initially searching. I’m glad I saved the photo. She doesn’t even look like the same dog.

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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 Bubs, or Bae or any of the one million nicknames she has haha!

Rescuing a dog isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be challenging. Lucille came with some baggage and my neighbors honestly feared her because of the stigma associated with Pit Bulls. 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 initiates play with some dogs now and is always a model citizen at the Vet even on very busy days. She still prefers the company of humans above all things 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 so my house is an elaborate patchwork of methodically placed area rugs and runners.

She was the pickiest eater I’d ever encountered and would frequently make herself sick from refusing food (Fresh Pet has been the consistent winner). 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 Lucille has always been worth it. Always.

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I’ve spent the last eight 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’ve even had some readers email me saying they rescued a Pit Bull because of Lucille and I don’t even have words to describe how much that warms my heart. I know not everyone will change their minds about Bully Breeds and I’m not asking for everyone to go out and rescue one. You have to find the right dog for you. Just know that Lucille is not a fluke. There are so many amazing, wonderful dogs out there just like her and they deserve to have homes and families like mine.

This little furry soul mate of mine is the love of my life and the center of my family and I can’t believe how lucky we were to find her. She’s estimated to be eleven years old now and I start to tear up when I think about the life span of a dog, even though she passed her senior check-up with flying colors last month. I want her to be with me forever and ever and ever. She is my everything and I love her more than there are words to explain.

Thanks for reading our rescue story.
Please feel free to share yours with us if you’d like <3

xo,
Rochelle & Lucille

  • Melissa

    I know THAT kind of love. I had my Samson (Chihuahua) from birth, and lost him suddenly 4 months shy of his 12th birthday. I have yet to find it again. I always tell people Samson took my heart when he left. It’s been 4 years and I miss him so badly. He was my soulmate, if ever there was one.

  • Boomdeeadda

    I loved reading Lucille’s story. The love of a dog is such a gift. I’m really happy to know she’ll have a forever and ever home with you and you’ll show her all the love she deserves. I’ve had two dogs in my life, both were loved so deeply, I’m now in tears. But they’re good tears, cause we had each other. xo Boomdeeadda

  • Kim A.

    Awww, this is such a wonderful story. I am so glad that you were able to rescue Lucille (and I bet your kitties were rescues too). I have a beautiful, big, fluffy black rescue cat named Xavier. He was found around age 5 as a stray by and older couple, who took him in and didn’t know what to do for him, so they kept him for a while in their basement and fed him. Eventually, they realized that they could not provide the care and home he needed, so they got in touch with a local animal rescue, who took him to their shelter. He was very sick when he arrived – he had bald patches, and was thin and couldn’t open his eyes due to chronic eye infections. He is also FIV-positive. The shelter provided him with the care he needed including extensive eye surgery to help him see. He was neutered and nursed back to health, at which point he came to live with me and my ex. He was shy at first but quickly became comfortable and started sleeping with us every night. He lives with me now, three years later, and is the friendliest, happiest, most relaxed kitty. My ex still comes to visit him now and then as well, because he loves Xavier just as much as I do. I am so happy to have been able to bring Xavier into my home because he is such a loving companion and wonderful cat – it makes me wish I could give this kind of life to all companion animals.

  • Mademoiselle Mansell

    This story brightened my day. My parents pit bull mix, Snuffy, was the most loving boy you could ever hope to meet. He had a long and happy life after being rescued. My husband and I have two teeny chihuahua mix rescues and uncle Snuffy loved those little pups. Our dogs daycare with their Grama and Grampa and every morning they would run straight to their Uncle Snuffy and put their little paws around his neck to kiss him. Dangerous breed my eye! We all miss that lovely boy but find peace in knowing what a happy life he had with my family. I’m so happy to hear that Lucille found such a loving home too.

  • DIY Wardrobe

    It’s so heartening to hear about a rescue dog whose life has been turned around by a caring, responsible new owner. My partner and I adopted a chocolate Labrador Retriever from a breed-specific rescue charity here in the UK 8 years ago, and it’s been once of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done. Wispa (named after a chocolate bar, yes) is so much fun to be around and such a great way to get talking to new people that I can forgive her for all the dog hair that bungs up the vacuum cleaner, the occasional morning spent cleaning up vomit and all those times we’ve nearly frozen to death eating outside the cafe/pub/restaurant because dogs aren’t allowed inside. As I write this, I can hear Wispa snoring in her basket, and somehow that reassures me that all is right with the world.

    • I love that you found a breed-specific rescue and went that route! I wish more people would do that, or knew that was even an option for those wanting pure bred dogs. Wispa is such a great, unique name and I completely agree that the snore of a warm happy dog = reassurance that all is well. In fact I’m smiling watching Lucille snooze right now πŸ™‚

  • EES

    Hi
    Oh your story is fantastic. I’m so in love with pit bulls, but I know in the wrong hands, they are deadly. In my country I would rather lobby for the breed to be banned than to see how they suffer in dogfights.
    Lucille has the softest eyes, I can see why you picked her. And your kitty cat is adorable. Love the furry stomach.
    I rescued 2 of my dogs. The one was a puppy from a mother like Lucille. No shelter, no food. After the poor mother left to find food, 3 puppies died and the neighbour stole 2 puppies. He kept 1 and gave 1 to his friend, who gave it to her boyfriend, who kept it wrapped up in his jacket in his office. He was my client and I walked in. He told me to turn around and have a look inside his jacket, as he knew me well and knows how mad I am for dogs. And there was this little scruffy, beige thingy. I phoned my boyfriend and ask him if I could have a dog and he was busy working and said ‘Yes, I’m busy’. Lilly is 7 years old now in April. 1 year ago, she jumped off the couch and had a slipped disc in her back. After the 3rd visit to the vet, 3 days in a row, and after she had no movement in her legs the vet realised that she had a slipped disc. I was beside myself. After a spinal fusion and a long stay in hospital, she started to walk again with a lot of difficulty, but with a very happy face. We are planning on getting her wheels this year, to maker her walks easier. She still have her walk every afternoon.
    December last year a rescue, called Luck Lucy, advertised that they picked up an 11 year old Maltese poodle as a stray, found his owner, he got remarried, and didn’t want him back. I thought I will give this poor dog a home for his last 4-5 years. hahahaha, was I mistaken!!! this doggy, Choochy, I canned his previous name, is not an 11 year old, he is way younger according to the vet, has got the energy of a 2 year old Lab. He was abused badly as he has no clue what cuddles are, he growls and bites. Unfortunately and fortunately due to his abuse, he has almost no teeth left, so his bites are sore, but I do not need stitches. He has no idea what it is to sit on a lap and get kisses and hugs. He just gets stiff, starts to shake and bites. Since January, we have made progress, and he comes and asks to get onto my lap and he comes and asks me to come to the kitchen and give him food at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. He knows when it is walk time. He still cannot understand that humans talk to animals, but he will get there. My other 2 understand a lot of words and parts of sentences as I talk to them the whole day. He does know a lot about ‘gardening’, if I go and scratch around in my flowerbeds and smell the flowers, he eats them. If I pull out a weed, he wants to dig out plants too. Oh and he is a beekeeper, he loves to catch bees. He is a handful, but it is so wonderful to see him getting used to being part of a real, loving family that looks past his past and loves him doesn’t matter what. Time will heal.
    thanks for giving a Pit bull a chance, they are one of the most amazing breeds.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your rescue story. It sounds like you have a wonderful loving home and your dogs are very lucky to have you. I appreciate you for reading Lucille’s story and leaving a comment.

      I have to urge you to reconsider your thoughts on breed bans, even though your heart is in the right place. It is a common mistake to assume that banning something will solve the problem, especially when animals are involved. It is not the dogs that are dangerous by themselves, it is the types of people who are seeking these dogs out for unforgivable, inhumane reasons that makes a dog dangerous. Banning Pit Bulls does very little to stop or prevent dog fighting and in many cases makes these types of dogs even more desirable to humans who would abuse them. When has something illegal ever deterred a criminal from doing it anyway? We used to have many breed bans in the United States but we’re starting to learn and understand that Breed Specific Legislation mostly hurts dog owners like myself, not dog fighters. Imagine if I was forced to give Lucille up simply because someone decided ALL dogs that looked like her were too dangerous to keep? That is also inhumane. If you ever have the opportunity to lobby about dog fighting, please speak up in support of public education, responsible ownership, and criminalizing the act of dog fighting, not the act of owning a Pit Bull <3

      • EES

        You are right, it will be inhumane to take away a pit bull from a loving owner. Seeing these animals coming into the rescue centre, I often volunteer at, breaks my heart. At that moment one wants to do anything possible to just make the suffering stop. We have a few areas in my country that are ruled by gangs and not even the police can enter those places. This is where all these fights happen. The people are so poor in those areas that they over breed pit bulls to make a living and that is where these beautiful animals end up, in the fighting ring. Crime in my country is high and every house have at least 2-3 dogs. Most of them will be a Staffordhire terrier, Pit bull, German Shepard, Rottweiler or Labrador for the people that have small kids. Every house have 6 foot walls all around, electric fencing all around, burglar bars on all windows, gates on all doors, and an alarm linked to an alarm linked to an armed response company they pay every month to patrol the streets 24hrs. The police force are too slow. A pit bull here is not only a fighting ‘object’ in the poorer areas, but mostly a guard dog, a dog that WILL bite you if you get into the yard. It is also a ‘macho’ dog for young boys to deter their bullies in the street of good neighbourhoods. And yes, there are people that have them as normal pets, that shower them with hugs and kisses and let them sleep inside and on beds and couches. Can you understand why I would rather want a ban on the breed sometimes than to see them suffer here in Africa? I understand your side perfectly, and yes, we do have the laws in place and the fighting is a crime, but how do you educate a gangster and professional criminal about responsible ownership if they didn’t even finished school?

        • That truly is a heartbreaking situation. I hope Africa, and other areas of the world who face similar situations, can come up with a solution that cracks down on dog fighting and backyard breeding all while keeping good dogs and good owners protected. Change will come slowly but it can happen! It’s happening in the US and other areas as well. You’re right, criminals can’t easily be swayed but education for the general public remains the most important way to bring about positive change. Thank you for sharing your side of the story. It’s important to hear all perspectives.

  • olivia villarreal

    thanks for sharing such a sweet story. I have two rescue dogs myself and love them to bits.

    • Thank you for reading <3 Rescue dogs are the best dogs!

  • Sunny Stamps

    Thank you for saving this beauty. It broke my heart because her face looks just like my Satey, (the world’s best dog), who died in 1993 at the age of 12, congestive heart failure. I had her since she was born, as her mother was an abandoned pregnant pit. I cry still over her and know she waits for me over the rainbow bridge. At this time, I’m involved with the bully rescue org in town, fostering until they can find a permanent home. Please share that if you can’t donate to a rescue org or spend time walking and playing with the dogs, you can FOSTER. No commitment, although of course I could not give up my current, very damaged and “unadoptable” Lizzie. My experience with Pits has been that they just want to please their person. If their person wants them to be mean, they will, the legislation and prejudice needs to be against they people, not the breed. Being involved in rescue, the stories of these beautiful souls are so heartbreaking. They suffer so tragically at the hands of truly bad people, so I attempt to educate good people who are just ignorant every chance I get. Thank you for your story.

    • Fostering is such an incredible thing to do and I commend you for it. I would certainly consider fostering in the future and I’ll absolutely rescue again, forever and always! I’m so sorry to hear about Satey but I know she’d want you to open your heart and home to dogs like Lizzy who truly need you. *sigh* I have some friends waiting for me over the rainbow bridge, too (I lost two senior kitties last year, ages 16 and 20) and I miss them dearly.

  • Tisha

    I love Lucille’s story. Every year I read it and appreciate it. I have a rescue, too, but he’s a lab, which makes it *almost* harder, since people assume he’s friendly to all. Like Lucille, he was poorly socialized, so he’s friendly to all, except other dogs. In fact, he matches your description of Lucille, except for his behavior with other dogs. I’m wondering if you’d share your training techniques/method? He’s clicker trained and amazingly well behaved, except around other dogs. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much for reading Tisha <3 It's tricky sometimes when dogs are uncomfortable around other dogs until you can understand exactly why, then you can come up with a training plan from there. For example with Lucille, I knew she wasn't dog aggressive because she could pass dogs on the other side of the street and see them and not react, and she could be sitting in the car at the park and see other dogs and not react. It was only when other dogs tried to meet her and got into her personal space that she'd show signs of being a bit too defensive about a simple greeting. So that meant I just had to teach her the polite way to greet other dogs, and give her time to figure out that not all dogs who got close to her were up to no good. I contacted any family members and close friends of mine who had dogs and would let me set up very controlled play dates. I started by walking Lucille with people and dogs I knew and trusted. I made her walk for a long time side by side with the other dogs before I ever let them actually stop and meet face to face, and even then we took the close range sniffing very slowly and always on leash. It's the face to face greeting that can come off as very confrontational for dogs who haven't been socialized. Eventually she learned through slow, calm interaction and from watching other dogs, the proper way to sniff and be sniffed lol. I highly recommend finding a trusted friend or family member with a calm, well mannered dog to sort of partner up with. Large training classes can be totally overwhelming for dogs who are sensitive, especially at first, and you never know how a stranger will react if the dogs get into a small harmless scuffle (which are totally normal and even appropriate when dogs are trying to communicate their tolerance levels and limits). Have you considered a behaviorist or a personal trainer to help you work through socialization? There are also some great links on the Bad Rap site you might find helpful (especially the links Dog/Dog Tolerance and Smart Socializing) – http://www.badrap.org/training-resources. Best of luck! xo

  • Jessica Hanson Barton

    Such a great story! We adopted a Rottweiler from the shelter. She was the best answer sweetest dog ever. People would see us coming and cross the street even though she was leash trained and better behaved than most. Unfortunately she had diabetes and we lost her last year. I still get emotional thinking about her and wouldn’t hesitate to get another Rottweiler.

    • My aunt rescued a Rottie who was basically a 90lb lap dog. She was so sweet! Good owners make good dogs πŸ™‚ I’m so sorry to hear you lost yours recently. Hugs to you xo

  • Caroline

    I sometimes think of visiting the cold north to just meet you and give Lucille about 1,000,000 kisses. Of all the dogs I’ve met at the shelter, pitties are my favorite.

    • Someday I think we could make that happen! Lucille would certainly love that πŸ™‚

  • I still love this story! We have 2 pibble crosses now, and they are both too sweet!

    In “good” news, a local PD has started a “get to know our K-9 officers” program….where the K-9s are all pibbles or crosses. πŸ˜† I hope the positive PR helps this breed – the dog isn’t the problem. It’s the bad owners that are.

    • That’s wonderful!! I’m sure your Pibs are indeed the sweetest. Tell them I said hi πŸ™‚ There was a rescue who made news here in New York a few years ago for being the first official Pit Bull Police Dog. She’s a drug dog I think and very good at her job. It was definitely a heartwarming story to read, especially because she didn’t have a very good start in life.

  • Elizabeth

    Pibble smiles are the best! Pits get such a bad rap, when in reality they’re not the problem at all; instead it’s the people who should never care for another living thing who get them and breed them and fight them. Ugh. Don’t get me started. I’ve honestly never met an aggressive Pit. Ever. And I wish people could move beyond the stigma. Our younger dog is a Lab/Pit mix, and I still remember my dad asking me if I was SURE I was comfortable getting a dog that was part Pittie. Yes. Yes, I was, and I still am. I’d love to have a rescue Pibble for our next dog (may it be many years in the future), but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to convince my husband. Lucille is such a lucky girl, to be rescued from a horrible situation so she could end up living with and being spoiled by someone like you. She’s absolutely gorgeous. And that upside down picture is priceless.

    • I completely agree with you, wholeheartedly. I used to work at a grooming salon and our most aggressive client was a Jack Russel Terrier! He had a note in his chart in big red letters that said “LAND SHARK!” Lol! I laugh about it now but seriously that dog was scary! Just goes to show that all dogs, no matter what breed, are individuals and should be treated as such!

      • Elizabeth

        I don’t trust Jack Russels as far as I can throw them, as a rule. If you put me in a room with a Jack Russel and a Pibble I don’t know and told me I had to kiss one of them on the nose, it’s the Pibble all the way. And probably any other breed, too…:-)

  • Kathy

    I love this story. So sweet. Lucille is precious. I’m so glad you found her.

  • Anniebeadoe

    What a wonderful story. I can see why you love her so much. Her face emanates pure sweetness. You both are so lucky.

    • Thank you for reading. I definitely feel lucky πŸ™‚