Lucy’s doctor cautioned us repeatedly that such dogs often have adaptability issues, from chewing to fearfulness to housetraining problems.
Let me just say that the veterinarian undersold the concept.
When my children were growing up — let’s be honest — they were destructive. My mantra was, “I’m raising children, not plates.” Or tablecloths, or pool filters, or vases, or whatever item had just entered the wreck-of-the-month club. This perspective saved my sanity and simultaneously quelled my recurring compulsion to just throw the kids out the window.
Lucy is another matter. She makes my children look like meticulous fusspots. Lucy has destroyed furniture, tablecloths, baseboards, window sills, down pillows and 200-year-old carpets. Due to previous neglect and abuse, she suffers from stress incontinence and will lose control if anything is out of place, meaning she must be out of the house before I rearrange the throw pillows.
To recap, the dog is destructive, disobedient and partially incontinent. A bad-dog trifecta.
Within weeks, every leg of our furniture had been chewed, every lamp knocked over and every carpet peed on, pooped on and pulled apart — seriously, you pull one loop in a nice berber and zppppt! — the whole thing unravels. Our house looked like downtown Beirut. Never settling for a cheap chew toy, Lucy prefers Persian carpets and fine furniture. I have the only dog whose taste is better than mine.
Studies show that people who own dogs live longer. That’s good, because they need the extra time to pay off the damage to their homes.
I called the rescue agency in hopes of finding out more about Lucy’s background. Now that our “test drive” period was over, they were much more forthcoming. They confessed that another family had adopted her before us, returning her after only three days because she was, well, being Lucy. Let me just say, those folks really dodged a bullet.
By that time, though, she was ours and we were hers. Looking into her soft brown eyes, we made a vow at that moment that this dog would never want for another home.
It took 10 months to housetrain her. The carpets have been replaced by hardwood and the furniture legs sanded and re-stained. We had a guy pick up the area rugs for cleaning with the agreement that he would keep them until she was housebroken. Several months later, on their very first day back, she welcomed them in her own style. Apparently, one is for chewing and one is for peeing, so neither feels left out.
Her favorite food is, of course, our other dog’s poop. Because I adore her, I used to let her kiss me, until I caught her in the act of dung dining one day. I watched Lucy bolt out the door every morning, delighted in how much she loves the snow — when, in reality, she was probably just thinking, “I know there’s a poopsicle out there and I’m gonna beat the other dogs to it.”
She does have some standards: For example, Lucy dines only on our older dog’s poop. She doesn’t eat her own because that would apparently be unladylike.
Having Lucy has turned us into babbling idiots. Isn’t it crazy how we talk to our dogs? “Who’s a good girl? Who’s a good girl?”
Don’t you wonder what dogs think? Probably, “What if I die and never find out who’s a good girl?”
I was awakened this morning at zero-dark-30 by a chirping phone that refused to desist without manual intervention. In the dark, my husband grabbed the phone and turned it off. At daylight, we again awoke to the sound of Lucy crunching — a sure-fire sign that all is not right with the world. After showering, Mr. Smokin’ Hot couldn’t find his hearing aids. Obviously, they had been on top of the phone. Now they were in the dog.
He called the Veterans Administration to report the vandalism. It took a bit of time for the guy on the other end to stop laughing. The phone call was like an old Bob Newhart telephone comedy bit.
“I’m sorry sir. I thought you said your dog ate your hearing aids.”
“That’s what I said.”
Silence. “And where are the hearing aids now, sir?”
“I’m assuming they’re somewhere in the dog.”
“We did find a few small, tiny pieces of plastic, a couple of wires and two batteries. I’m sure she’ll poop out the rest in a few days.”
Again, silence. “Um — we don’t want that back, sir.”
My husband will soon be able to hear me again, although he seems disconcertingly accepting of having to ignore me in the meantime.
Ah, but what price love?
When she nuzzles her head into my hand, which is often, I sense her anxiety — her need to belong and be wanted. Not to over-romanticize it, but in Lucy I see myself; and in loving her unconditionally, I embrace my inner self.
Although I personally know plenty of folks who talk out of their rear ends, I may have the only dog that can hear out of hers. In the meantime, we’ll live by the old adage, “This too shall pass.”
— By Shari Savage, Tribune community columnist