There are defining moments in a relationship that help foster an even deeper connection than before. These junctures are often heavy, damp, and impossible to fully comprehend unless you personally experience them. Some of ours include those horrible minutes leading up to the first deployment, me waking up from an emergency D&C to him crying by my side, and this morning when we laid on the floor of the vet office cradling our beloved dog as the sedative took effect.
We said goodbye to Lucy this morning. Through our tears, we told her how much we loved her, how much joy she brought to our lives, and how we’ll eventually see her on the other side. We nuzzled against her head as we stroked her back in hopes to comfort her. She’ll always be our first baby – we will miss her terribly.
Like a lot of military couples, Clay and I spent our engagement and first six months of marriage apart. But by the summer of 2005, we were living together in Fort Drum, New York and wanting to adopt a new member into our little family. From the moment we saw Lucy frolicking with her brothers and sisters, we knew we were meant to take her home.
During her puppy months, we’d run across the Madison Barracks parade field in Sackets Habor with Lucy nipping at our calves. She swam in Lake Ontario with the biggest grin and she’d accompany us on walks into town for coffee at Chrissy Beanz Bakery. That winter, we felt like the happiest family of three that ever did live. She was 7 months old when Clay deployed to Afghanistan.
It was just me and Lucy for the next 16 months. She’d lick my tears when I received bad news and she’d be waiting by the door wagging her tail when I’d return from a memorial service. She kept me company when I’d go weeks without word from Clay and slept next to me every single night because she knew I was scared. And when Clay returned home, we resumed our roles as the happiest family of three.
Over the years, she vacationed with us, moved with us, and saw us add more team members along the way. She sent Clay back to Afghanistan and whenever he’d walk through the door after yet another Army-induced separation, she’d run up to him with her whole body wagging with excitement. She loved our children and never showed jealousy when we brought them home. Her nightly checks included popping her head into their rooms to make sure that they were asleep and safe. And when I had my miscarriage, she laid next to me in bed with her head in my lap. For as much love as we showed her over the years – she gave us more.
Lucy managed to visit 30 states during her life. She absolute loved road trips to see our family – swimming in the Atlantic Ocean outside of Wilmington, North Carolina and being on the boat on Lake Lanier, Georgia. She seemed happiest when at the Great Lakes – she swam in both Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario countless times. And she broke through waves in the Gulf of Mexico and even hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail.
We took one last family picture this morning. It will take time for us to adjust to life without Lucy and work through our grief. Lucy was always more than just a pet – she was a full-fledged family member. And she just happened to be the best damn dog that ever did live.