Ichabod did not know what to make of us leaving the vet’s office with this new dog. He made a pest of himself the entire ride home, circling the cage, sniffing inside, and howling intermittently. At one point, I glanced over my shoulder to see him standing on top of the cage, trying to bite his way through the plastic. From the inside of the cage, Lucy barked constantly, with a shockingly deep, booming bark. It was a loooong ride!
An eternity later we arrived home, and the first order of business was to take Lucy straight to the backyard. To my relief, she seemed to understand, quickly finding a spot to do her business. She must be housebroken after all. With that out of the way, we opened the door, and allowed her to explore her new home. She ran around, sniffing everything, with Ichabod hot on her heels. After a short time, she leapt onto the armchair, cozying herself in for a nap. Before falling asleep, she raised her head, and her eyes seemed to warn us: “This is my chair, now!”
Steve and I both laughed at her antics. It was just unreal that she’d been a stray. She’d obviously had a home; she was familiar with the way everything worked. Again we wondered to each other…. What happened?
After a brief nap, Lucy was ready to explore, once again. While searching through Ichabod’s toy box she seemed delighted to find an assortment of rawhides buried in the depths. Though I’d gotten him many different bones through the years, he’d never shown much interest.
Chuckling as Lucy methodically removed the rawhides from the box before hiding them in some pretty obvious places, I briefly touched on Nanci’s warning; but quickly brushed it aside. “Lucy isn’t a bassety-basset,” I told myself. Actually, it was doubtful that she was even full-basset hound. Reasoning, it must be because of the thick, trunk-y necks of the basset hounds that they weren’t allowed to have rawhides, and gazing at Lucy with her slender, long neck, I discounted the warning. I hated to spoil her fun, so I told myself all was well.
As the day wore on, Lucy became my shadow. During the afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the mild temperatures and scoop some dog poop from the backyard. She walked every step with me as I combed through the grass in quadrants so as to not miss anything. It was like I’d predicted: This was a Mama’s girl.
I finished up and we headed back inside, where Lucy continued to hide rawhides. Eventually, Ichabod got close to one of her hiding places, and she bared her teeth and growled at him. Caught off-guard by her reaction, and suddenly sensing the danger, Steve and I walked around the house, gathering up all the rawhides and getting rid of them.
Because of all the fun and excitement with our new girl, I’d put off a necessary errand. Though I’d thought we already had everything we needed, there were a few things I wanted from the pet store. Gathering up an unopened bag of dog food I wished to exchange, I left Steve in charge of the two content dogs The last sight I saw before shutting the door leading to the garage was Lucy, trying to follow me and wagging her tail.
I felt very happy as I drove to Petsmart. We’d saved a life! Lucy was wonderful! It was a great day.
When I arrived at the store, I parked, walked to the back of my SUV, and hefted out the large bag of dog food. As I prepared to walk through the door, still precariously balancing the bulky bag, my phone began to ring. Awkwardly, I retrieved it from my pocket and saw that Steve was calling. In light of the burden I held, I was a bit annoyed as I snapped the phone open. (This was back in the days when phones still snapped open.) Steve sounded panicky. “This dog… I don’t know what we’re going to do about this dog….” He said, trailing off.
I felt the first stabs of panic in my gut. “What happened?” I asked.
“That dog” (he wasn’t calling her Lucy, he’d demoted her to ‘that dog’) bit Ichabod! When we threw away the rawhides, we must have missed one. Ichabod got too close to it, and she ran over and grabbed his ear in her teeth. Blood sprayed out and got all over the wall. And Ichabod cried. He didn’t do anything!”
My heart sank, and all the happy pleasure I’d felt only moments before evaporated. I’d thought we’d done a good thing here, and now this! “I’ll be right home,” I promised, snapping the phone shut.
Already inside the store, I hefted the bag of food to the counter. Not wanting to take the time to make the exchange, I just asked for my money back. As I waited, I thought of Ichabod’s bite. I decided to see if there was some sort of doggie-antibiotic cream I could get. I found the first aid section, spotted what I was looking for, paid for it and headed towards the car.
Feeling helpless, I called Nanci. As basset hounds sang their usual songs in the background, I explained the little bit I knew about what happened, and, very upset, she said, “I TOLD YOU THAT BASSETS WEREN’T ALLOWED TO HAVE RAWHIDES.”
I gave her my weak justification; how I’d thought that since Lucy wasn’t a bassety-basset that there wouldn’t be any danger. She cut me off: “That’s not why they can’t have rawhides. It’s because they can get mean defending them!” I suddenly remembered the rumbling freight-train noises from the morning I’d talked to her while she fried bacon. Things were starting to make sense.
With an edge in her voice she said, “Call me when you get home and have seen for yourself what is going on.” Feeling defeated, I snapped the phone closed.
I arrived home expecting mayhem. I parked the car, and took a deep breath as I opened the door leading from the garage to the house. Instead of mayhem, I walked into a brightly lit kitchen. Lucy, who’d been standing at the food bowl, ambled towards me, tail wagging, with a “Mommy’s home!” swagger to her steps. Ichabod was also in the kitchen, and he wagged his tail as well, making his way towards me. All appeared normal. There was no visible animosity between the dogs. “Steve?” I called out.
Steve appeared in the doorway. I couldn’t even form my question. I suppose my face contorted as though I was asking a question, and perhaps there were some questioning hand gestures, but I couldn’t find the words. What in the world was going on here? ‘Cause it seemed that the answer was “nothing”.
“Look at Ichabod’s right ear,” he instructed.
I sat down on the floor in front of Ichabod and began examining his ear. I saw nothing. I squinted and looked very close. Under intense scrutiny, I saw a slight, pink puncture. “You mean this?” I asked, indicating the miniscule abrasion.
“Yeah,” Steve said, and also pointed at a loose flap of skin running along the edge of the ear. I took Ichabod’s left ear in my hand; indicating an identical flap, showing Steve that this was not a cut… it was the way a beagle’s ears are formed.
“Seriously?” I asked. My facial expressions continued to ask silent questions.
Steve became agitated. “You weren’t here. It bled! Blood sprayed out all over the wall,” he added, pointing at the wall.
No blood spatter was present on the wall.
“I wiped it up,” he said.
“It doesn’t seem like this was that big of a deal. She shouldn’t have nipped him, but I don’t think she was really trying to get him. She must have hit a vein,” I surmised.
Suddenly, I remembered with embarrassment that I’d called Nanci. I really didn’t want to call her back now that I’d assessed the situation. Opting for the cop-out, I told Steve that I’d called Nanci, that we were supposed to call back, and that I was going to have him explain all of this to her. He tried to argue, but I was already dialing, and shoving the phone into his hands.
As he awkwardly explained what happened, I could hear Nanci haranguing him in the background, bassets growling in apparent agreement. After allowing him to flail for a few minutes, I took the phone back from him. “It doesn’t sound like it’s that bad…. Why don’t you see how it goes for the rest of the night… try to keep them separated, and then call me in the morning to let me know how it went?” she asked.
This entire time, Lucy had been watching me carefully, her tail slowly waving back and forth. I bent down to pet her. “What are we going to do with you, Lucy?” I asked. She head-butted my hand; her method of asking for more petting.
Steve and I headed upstairs, discussing the sleeping arrangements. As we talked, Lucy jumped onto the bed, made herself at home, and was quickly snoring. Loudly. I couldn’t help but be charmed. Despite the hiccup with Ichabod, she was taking to her new life with gusto. Steve was a bit more reserved, but I reasoned with him. “Look at her, I don’t think she’s really much of a danger.”
And she wasn’t.
The next morning I called Nanci, letting her know that all was well. She wheezed out relief as bassets snarled out their endless arguments on her end. “Oh, thank God! Last night, I was afraid you were going to give her back.”
Were we thinking of that? I wondered. I recalled Lucy, laying in the bed, peacefully snoring, seeming very secure for a dog who’d been through what she’d just endured. I supposed that for a moment… just a moment, I’d thought of that. But it had been wrong of me, so very wrong. This dog needed my love. “No, we’re not giving her back,” I said, finally.
And that was the end of my contact with Nanci and her wacky basset entourage. I wish them the best.
And so our new life as a family of four began. It wasn’t entirely smooth, there were actually many problems and frustrations as we moved forward. But also, there was love, and learning. As we would soon discover, Lucy was action-packed with issues. I believe God sent her into our lives with a purpose. I have no doubt I am the one meant to love and care for her, but in her brokenness, she’s also been a mirror to my own. She’s taught me that love = patience. In that, she’s been one of my greatest teachers. I’ll never know what happened in Lucy’s life leading up to her stint of homelessness, and my heart breaks for that poor, abandoned dog. But I’ll forever be grateful that she came to us. I hope the feeling is mutual.
(In time, there will be more of Lucy’s story to share. I promise, it’s a good one.)