My dog Lucy is a traffic-stopper.Almost every day, when I walk her, someone stops to exclaim just how beautiful she is. Of course, most say it from a distance. Lucy, a German Shepherd, inspires awe and admiration but also more than a little fear in people not used to her because she looks, like all dogs of that breed, quite ferocious.She is anything but.
Sweet and shy but immensely intelligent, Lucy is our first-born. Meaning, of course, that she's the first dog we adopted, from the Washington Humane Society. But I saved Lucy's story for the last because she is, to both Desi and me, immensely special. In many ways, she is a life-changer.
Some of you might already be familiar with the stories of my other rescues, Freddie, Opie, Pubm and Pie, who I've blogged about before. In Lucy's case, there isn't much to tell in terms of her history except that she was a year old when we adopted her. The shelter didn't know anything about her past, and that was that.
When we went to the shelter that first time in 2002, we didn't expect to adopt a German Shepherd. We wanted a smaller dog, someone we could take long, peaceful walks with. We put in an application for a cocker spaniel mix, Sheba, who looked perfect.
But the shelter asked us to state a second, third and fourth preference as well, in case someone had already put in an application for Sheba, and Lucy (then named Goldie) made it to our fourth preference.
When we first saw Lucy, she was sitting, quiet and dignified, in a corner of the run. She didn't look terribly happy or interested in us. When we asked a volunteer to bring her out, she ran gorgeously and elegantly all the way to the fence, happy just to be outside her small run. She didn't so much as acknowledge the two people who were desperately trying to get her attention.
But there was something special about her, and we put her on our shortlist.
A couple of days later the shelter called us to say Sheba had been adopted by another family, and did we want one of our other choices?
Desi, in an inspired moment, asked her if the other dogs had applications on them. All of them did, the shelter staffer informed him, except Goldie.
So we brought Goldie home and renamed her Lucy after our favorite sitcom star, because Lucy, uncharacteristic of regular German Shepherds, had the most gorgeous golden-brown coat and a red head.
That first day, this dog who had refused to acknowledge us at the shelter followed us everywhere we went. She slept a lot, happy, perhaps, to finally be home.
But when we went to work, she was riddled with separation anxiety. She chewed up anything in sight, and once even ripped apart a cushion from our brand new couch.
It was a phase, though, and it passed. As the days went by Lucy grew more and more settled in her new house and fixed herself to Desi who was, clearly, her favorite person. When we brought home Opie, she was so happy, she wouldn't leave him alone for a moment.
I wanted to tell the exact story of how Lucy came to be adopted by us because she laid to rest many myths people have about adopting dogs. Some believe the dog has to form an instant connection with them, or it is not for them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Of all the dogs I have adopted and fostered, maybe just one or two showed any real interest in us the first time we met them. But each one invariably was deeply in love with us- and we with them- within hours of coming home. In the unnatural and even impersonal atmosphere of a shelter, it is not easy for a dog to form loving connections with each and every person that peers at them through the bars of the run. But give them a chance, and they'll give you their whole heart.
Lucy also changed my life in other ways. She opened our eyes to the cruel fate that millions of homeless dogs and cats suffer - more than 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized each year in shelters for lack of homes. While dog and cat breeders had never been our favorite people, we realized even more after becoming the parents of our shelter dogs and cats, just how cruel a practice it is to create more and more puppies and kittens when so many others have to die homeless in shelters.
This realization would lead to our adopting more dogs and cats, and fostering several others, most of whom we placed in loving homes.
Lucy is also, ultimately, the reason why this blog exists. I had been a meat-eater all my life, but loving her made me realize that in the end, there really is not much of a difference between a dog and a cat and a lamb and a cow or even a chicken. They care for their lives just as we do, and protect it as fiercely. We really have no right to take it away from them when we don't need to.
Lucy has now been with us more than five years, and she's as happy as a dog can be. Her self-assigned job - every Shepherd needs a job or they give themselves one - is to keep the other dogs safe and in check. She protects her canine siblings fiercely if they get into trouble with other dogs, and bullies them around the house where she is, clearly, the alpha dog.
When I look at Lucy now I cannot believe that she was not our first choice when we applied for a dog that first time. She has given us more love and inspiration than we ever could imagine. And because of that, she will always be our most special girl.
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Beautiful tribute to her. I instantly made all my dogs vegan when I adopted them and they love it.
Quick question - Is Lucy vegetarian?
I turned vegan a month or so ago and so far I am very happy and content with that choice. Our family has never had a dog, but we have also talked about having one.
I have been a vegetarian all my life and so is my family. We want our home to be a vegetarian home and to that end, we are conflicted about getting a dog. I believe that dogs are omnivores, however in their natural state they tend to be carnivores. How can I have a dog and make it right, if I turn him/her into a vegetarian?
Hi Santosh, Lucy passed away in 2012, but no, she did not eat a vegetarian diet. None of my dogs have been vegan or vegetarian, but I have friends who feed their dogs a vegan diet-- it's usually vegan kibble that has balanced nutrients. Their dogs seem quite healthy.
Don't take it the wrong way...but I'm so much in love wid u...I recently turned into a vegan from vegetarian...and just like ur story about Lucy, my dog also made me an animal lover...a true one ....I'm so glad I found ur blog ...one for the receipes...and secondly I feel a connect with u as a very good human being ...ur feelings for adopting shelter animals is so inspiring... please keep spreading the humanity...I wish u reach out to more people in all forms of media.. especially TV in India so that people can be aware to turn to veganism...
Hi Shilpa, those are very sweet words. Thanks for you message, and I am happy too to "meet" a fellow vegan and animal lover. The animals of India really need help and more voices to speak out for them, and I am happy there are folks like you out there who are thinking of them.
Vaishali thanks so much for sharing about Lucy! I thought I was the only one who gave up eating meat because of my dog! I was preparing our Thanksgiving turkey over 2 years ago and thought about what if someone where preparing to eat my dog! and that was it- I had to stop eating meat! it wasn't long before I gave up dairy as well. thanks again!
Hi Monica, So happy you read the Lucy post. It brings tears to my eyes now, more than a year after my darling girl passed away, but I always hold her memory close to my heart and she inspires me to continue on the vegan path. Kudos to you for making the compassionate choice.
Hershey and Candy
Wow..this is an amazing story. Thank you for that. It's so true that the life of a dog/cat is just as valuable as that of a cow/chicken.
I'm currently vegetarian and am trying to give up dairy - (i gave up purchasing leather a year or so ago) and this post just reinforced my attempts.
Your kids are so adorable! I love Lucy esp 🙂
Thanks for your kind words, Anke. I feel really lucky for having found Lucy, and all my other kids.
Vaishali, your story made ma almost cry. I love the fact that Lucy turned you vegan. This post proves it once more that you indeed deserve the Nice Matters Award 🙂
Vimmi- thanks. You are very kind.
Pooja- thanks. Dogs are typically very friendly creatures but also very good at reading body language. If you are afraid around them, they are more likely to be uneasy around you! If you've ever watched the Dog Whisperer on National Geographic, you would see that even aggressive dogs are less so around him because he is absolutely unafraid in their presence.
I rarely like dogs, somehow afraid of it always that it will bite me :)).
but yours looks so cute , i love its color too .
I enjoyed reading your article .
I dont have any pets but my H and son love them. Whenever we g on walks, we have to pet each and every dog we meet. Thanks for sharing Lucy's story and God bless you forthe great job u and ur Hubby are doing.
Thanks for reading, Susan. Older dogs and cats really do make wonderful pets.
At first I tried to adjust my eyes, then I realized that Lucy is a true redhead. (She must have some Irish in her somewhere. ; ))
Just read all about your happy brood, Vaishali. I love hearing success stories of adopting older pets. We've had some of our own.