A couple of years ago we replaced our noisy garage door with one that was so silent, Paulette and I never knew when one another had come home. On the other hand, Lucy would usually jump up from wherever she was and mosey down the hall to the laundry room and await the person or persons who had just driven into the garage.
We knew, though, she wouldn't be there the night we returned from a photo trip to White Sands. We knew because we knew our dog sitter had taken her to our vet after finding her lying on the floor and unable to stand that afternoon. We cut short our trip, checked out of our hotel, and returned to Santa Fe on a four-hour trip made mostly in silence. For part of the trip a rainbow seemed to track with us, but I think we both knew better. We just didn't say anything.
We rescued Lucy when she was two years old. Our previous golden retriever, Bailey, had died a couple of months earlier and our vet had alerted us that someone had an adult golden who needed a home. We both agreed we'd check out the dog and decide within a week. No quick decisions.
Lucy came home with us the same day we met her.
My previous goldens had adapted quickly to their surroundings. Show them the property line and they would, for the most part, never cross it. Lucy was a block away within seconds, chasing a neighbor's cat.
It was the first of many times we realized that she had a mind of her own and that she loved to run as far away from us as she could. No command would bring her back. We learned that the best way to have her return to us when we took her for a run in a nearby Penn State cornfield was to do it with her boyfriend, Ed, a golden one year younger. When Ed, who obeyed all commands, would return to his master, Lucy usually followed. Usually.
She did show some signs of adaptability when we moved to Santa Fe. Unlike us, she quickly figured out that when not moving around, you found shade. If she wanted to rest while on an early morning walk, she plopped down in the shade. Sometimes that meant I had to stand in the sun waiting until she was ready to move on.
We had hoped that she would stay close to home but when we took her to a nearby field and let her run, she ran, just as she had in Pennsylvania. Older, but no wiser. Getting her to return was tricky and so we seldom took her on runs, but did walk her every day, usually for four miles.
Around the age of 10, she wasn't as big on long walks and so I would walk her for about two miles and then go back out on my own. Closer to 12, she didn't always want to walk two miles and that was fine. I let her decide.
We usually entered the trail system near our house and at the first right turn, if she wanted to go home, she'd take the turn. but if she didn't, she'd move as far to the left as she could and walk past the right turn looking straight ahead. I think she was afraid that if I saw her look right, I'd take her that way against her will.
Lucy figured in three books I wrote. In the first, The Cottontails and the Jackrabbits, a children's book, a golden retriever "steals" a baby jackrabbit. All ends well, of course, because golden retrievers retrieve, not hurt. In fact, for this book I need an illustration of a golden running through a field of wild flowers. We took Lucy to the nearby field and just to make sure she'd come back to us, we took a supply of dog biscuits, which in our house are called bones.
Unleashed, she did not move. We told her to run. She did not move. Finally, I threw a bone and she went after it and came right back. So we were now in reverse of the past. Rather than using a bone to lure her back, we used it to get her to run away. (See photo above)
In The Hunt for Domingo Roybal, Lucy's eye problems became problems for one of the minor characters who spent a lot of money on clothing and was always short of cash. Then there was The Bump on Lucy's Nose, a children's book based on another medical problem Lucy came through successfully.
A couple of nights before we left on our photo trip, we had a really violent storm. Lucy got in bed with us, something she did during storms only when she got older. The next day we had several errands to run and for some reason I invited Lucy to join us. She had a hard time jumping into the car, but I suggested that it was because she was so excited she didn't position herself correctly before leaping. Still, the three of us had a grand time together running errands.
The next day we left her in the care of her beloved dog sitter and never saw her again.
We will scatter her ashes among the wild flowers in the field where she liked to run when we let her.
I am a freelance writer and photographer and retired journalism professor. In my first newspaper job more than 50 years ago I wrote a sports column titled The Spectator (Caslon typeface). I thought I'd resurrect the title, which was and is in honor of Addison and Steele.
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