Even while we dated, Tyler and I always knew we would have dogs.  We would talk about what kinds of dogs we liked, how we saw them fitting into our lives, and how great it would be once we finally had a dog of our own.  We also talked extensively about how we had no sensible reason to get a puppy.  Tyler and I both work full time, and while all dogs require time, love, and commitment – a puppy requires SO much more time and care initially that Tyler and I simply did not have to give.  This makes us ideal candidates for adopting dogs that are out of the puppy stage.

Lucy 3


In our first year of marriage we found our dog Lucy at the Hermiston Pet Rescue in eastern Oregon.  When we got her, they guessed she was about seven years old.   She lived on a farm before we got her, and her owners foolishly decided that because she was older, they would abandon her to get a younger dog.  Truly despicable, in my opinion.  Dogs are not a commodity that you upgrade to get the newer model.  To us, dogs are family.  Lucy was a wonderful dog for us.  We loved her warmth, her calm nature, and her constant cuddles. And we loved her every moment we had her, and we will keep loving her even though she is gone now.

Lucy sleeping

Many of you mourned with us when we lost our dog Lucy this winter.  We went a few weeks without a dog.  I anticipated spending a few months in mourning before we got another dog.  But here’s the thing – those few weeks were torture for me.  I woke up in the morning wanting to let someone out for their pee break.  I went to fill the dog bowl – but nobody was there.  The absence of Lucy stared me in the face every moment I was home.  It was agony.  I felt like a dog owner without a dog.  I decided to start looking at Petfinder to see if there was a right dog out there for us.  And I knew that if we found the right dog for us, it wouldn’t be a disservice to Lucy.  While she was alive, Lucy got all the love we had to give her.  And now that she was gone, it was time for us to give our puppy loving to another dog.  To me, there are just too many dogs out there that need homes for me to sit for months and wait until I feel ready.  Because I was ready the very next day.

The first week in January, I started actually visiting shelters.  We knew already that we were hoping to move to Seattle, so we were looking for a smaller dog (smaller than 25lbs), and hopefully a younger dog.  The year and a half we had with Lucy simply was not long enough, and we wanted our next dog to live long enough to meet our future children (which is still several years away, in case you were wondering).  We wanted younger, but still a dog out of the potty-training puppy stage.  We went to Out West Pet Rescue in Prosser, WA looking for a dog named  “Speckles” we had seen on Petfinder (Tyler actually re-named him before we ever met him.  We both hated the name Speckles.  The mask he sported reminded both of us of Two Face from Batman.  As soon as I showed Tyler a picture of him he said “If we get that dog, we have to name him Harvey”).  He was picked up as a stray in Sunnyside, WA.  They guessed he was a cross between a Papillion and a Springer spaniel, and weighed about 15lbs.  Out West started out as (and still is) a dog groomer, who kept having people drop off strays they had found, saying “You deal with dogs.  Think you can find a home for him?”  Their dogs live in foster homes (not cooped up in kennels), are up to date on shots, spayed/neutered, and healthy.  By the time we got to Out West, we had seen and met over a dozen dogs that morning at other shelters.  Some were nice enough, but just didn’t connect with us.  Many didn’t have the right energy level or weren’t the right size for what we are able to provide for a dog.  We were a bit worn out by the time we got all the way out to Prosser.  Then this little guy jumped into our laps.

Harvey Boy Face

We were done for.  That face!  He immediately started licking our faces.  He had the wiggliest little bottom and the happiest little face.  He was a bit younger than we were hoping for, but he was potty trained and crate trained.  And he was awesome.  We went to get some lunch so we could talk it over, but ultimately, we knew.  We were his and he was ours.  Just like Lucy before him, this dog had been without a home for several months just waiting for someone to scoop him up and love him.

Harvey Boy Sleepies

This little guy fits so well into our lives.  He is mostly very sleepy.  This is how he spends most of his days, curled up on the couch or in a bed.  Or asleep in the sun.

Harvey Sunbathe

Because he was so young (about a year old), we got him while he was still very much into chewing.  We definitely lost a few shoes at first (and underpants.  Why is that such a thing for puppies?).  Then we discovered rawhide.  Sweet, sweet rawhide.  Our shoes have been safe ever since.

Harvey Chews

Probably my favorite thing about our new little guy is how he loves being active.  He’s such an energetic little guy!  He is always up for a walk – or a run – any day of the week!  He LOVES playing with dogs at the dog park and chasing tennis balls (not so great at bringing them back, but we’re working on it).  He is SUCH a blast to take adventuring around Tri-Cities, and I know he will be the perfect adventure puppy in Seattle, too!

Harvey Running

We can even take him off leash and trust him to come back to us when we call – something we were never able to do with  Lucy girl (likely because we adopted Harvey boy at a much younger age).  He makes me happy every single day and I love him to pieces.  He is there to cuddle with when we miss Lucy.  He is there to go on an adventure when we want to.  He runs to the gate when we come home and jumps up and down like a maniac when he first sees us – no matter if it’s been five minutes or five hours.  He may be a totally different dog than Lucy was (seriously, night and day), but that doesn’t mean he is any less perfect for us.

Harvey Crazy

So here’s where we tie the title back in.  This is why we rescue dogs instead of buying from breeders.  If I could have this little man in my life from a shelter, why on earth would I buy a puppy?  Sure, there are breeds that Tyler and I know and love (he’s crazy about Beagles, I’m in love with Yorkies).  But a yorkie puppy is absolute minimum $1,000 (up to over $3,000) – and that’s probably from a puppy farm.  Both of our dogs cost less than $150, came potty trained, crate trained, spayed/neutered, and well cared for.  Neither of them have had emotional scars or abuse that makes them difficult dogs.  Both have been very sociable with both people and other dogs, no problems around children, and have been perfect companions for us.  If you are thinking about getting a dog, please, please, please, look at shelters first.  If you work full time, please consider adopting an older dog (there are so many and they are so great).  If you have your heart set on a puppy, please still look at shelters first.  Often when people have  litter of puppies that they can’t keep, they end up at shelters or on petfinder.com.  Buying from breeders only encourages breeders to keep producing more dogs, and there are so many wonderful dogs out there that need homes.  Dogs are awesome and everyone should get one – but please get one that really, desperately needs you from a shelter.  Pretty please.

This one has actually been a long time coming.   We haven’t talked about this publicly, because it’s hard to talk about.  How can you expect someone else to understand the bond you have with your dog?  Even if they do have a dog, can they really get where you’re coming from and understand the choices you’re making?  Regardless, the time has come to share the story of what we’ve been going through with our sweet dog, Lucy.  This is not a short story.  And it does not have a happy ending.

Lucy 9

This is Lucy when we first adopted her from the Hermiston Pet Rescue.  She was a happy dog, always wanted to be wherever we were. She followed  us from room to room.  If there was a spot next to  you on the couch, just try to stop her from finding it.

Lucy 3

Oh, you’re building a dresser from IKEA?  Let me help.

Lucy 7

Oh, your husband is stuck working on Valentine’s Day?  Let’s go on a walk and have fun.

Lucy 2

Sitting outside on a summer day eating breakfast?  Can I come, too?

Lucy 1

She was a major part of our everyday lives.  She was always ecstatic to come running inside when we got home from work.  We took her with us on every possible road trip.  She LOVED the car.

Lucy 5

She loved coming to the Oregon Coast with us.

Lucy 4We even brought her with to our first anniversary photo shoot.  She was such an important part of our little family, we both agreed that she just had to be there.

Lucy 6

She’s been a part of our friends’ lives, too.  In fact, some of our friends would argue that they looked forward to seeing Lucy more than they looked forward to seeing us.  And that was really fine by us, actually.  Who could blame them?  She was a great dog.

Lucy 0

She never had any behavior problems.   She loved people, loved cats, and no problems with other dogs.  She was always so mellow.  She even got body slammed by an 18 month old child and barely noticed.  We adopted Lucy after we’d only been married for 9 months, so you could say she was our honeymoon baby.  From March of 2012 until October of 2013, she was our girl.  We rolled down the window for her to sniff all the things as we drove.  We held her quivering body on scary 4th of July’s and thunderstorms.  We brought her to dog parks, the ocean, friend’s houses, visits to the grandparents.  We bought her fun collars, dog beds, name tags, corn-free food.  Whenever we couldn’t take her with us on a trip, we spent a good deal of time thinking about how “I’m sure she’s fine, she’s just playing with my parents’ dogs.  She’s happier there.  We’ll be back soon.”  Every day for a year and a half, she was been a big part of our lives, and our marriage.

Lucy 10

In October of 2013, something started to change with Lucy.  She stopped following us from room to room.  She stopped cuddling with us on the couch, and in bed.  She would go upstairs to curl up in her bed, even if we were downstairs watching TV.  She removed herself more and more.   We didn’t know whether it was that she was getting less exercise in this house, or maybe if she was just depressed.  But it didn’t seem dramatic at first.  We noticed she was walking laps in the back yard and had very specific tracks in the grass.  There were less cuddles.   We figured she was just adjusting to the new house, maybe a little anxious or depressed.  But she still seemed herself when we took her for walks. But she just needed some time and some more exercise – she’d get better.

But she never recovered.  She not only did laps in the yard, but also around our house.  Constantly.  By mid-November, she only two states:  pacing or sleeping.  And she didn’t sleep well.  Since October, she had not cuddled with us once.  Instead of actively seeking snuggles, she actively avoided human contact.  When you reach down to pet her, she ducks away and trots off on another lap.

My mom called us while we were out of town for Veteran’s Day weekend and told us, “Lucy is not well.  Her tail is always down, she seems very lethargic and she just paces in and out of the house.  She’ll walk up to us and just whine, and we don’t know why.  I think you need to take her to a vet.”  We took her in, and she was a wreck.  She was always so great at the vet, but here she just couldn’t sit still.  I had to take her on  laps around the parking lot while Tyler waited for our name to be called, otherwise she would just whine and bark.  When the vet checked her out, he said he wanted to run some blood work to see whether or not it was something physiological going on.  If the blood work came back clean, it was either behavior or something possibly going on in her brain.  The blood work came back clean, but Tyler and I just weren’t convinced that it was just behavior.  We took her to a second vet and they said that it was very likely that she had a lesion in her brain.  The only way to diagnose that, though, was to take her to WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for an MRI, about a $2,000 cost.  If they did find a lesion, surgery would be another $3,000, minimum.

We went home and wept.  We wept over the fact that it was just so much money.  We grieved the fact that we had already lost our sweet, cuddly dog – the dog who lived in our house was a pacing, anxious, howling shell of who Lucy used to be.  Lucy was gone, and we never had the chance to say goodbye to her when she was still her.  We held each other and realized that we had no idea what to do here.   So we held each other.  And wept.

I made an appointment for WSU for a few weeks later – the soonest they could get us in.  We thought about it and talked about it a lot.  We ultimately decided to cancel the appointment.  Getting the MRI was a lose-lose situation.  If they did find a lesion, we knew we wouldn’t put her through surgery.  Lucy was so frail, we didn’t think she could withstand the anesthesia for surgery, much less the recovery from such intensive surgery.   If they didn’t find a lesion, then we were left with more questions than we would have dollars left in our bank account.

She did not gotten better.  She now howled  most nights, for up to 45 minutes at a time.  We used to be able to pet her while she was howling, the only time that we got to touch her.  She would stop for a minute and just breathe.  After a few weeks, she wouldn’t even let us do that.  She fought through the love we try to show her, and howls – even screams – through the night.  We gave her a sedative to help her sleep, but her body still fought through it and she stumbled through her laps, pacing through the sedation.  There were a few weeks in a row where we couldn’t get a full nights sleep.  During the day she seemed alright.  She wasn’t herself, but when she was pacing her ears were up.  She seemed to be okay.  Our job at this point was to watch her, love her from a distance, and keep her as comfortable as possible.  We even took her to a professional photographer to have a Christmas portrait taken, knowing that this is our last Christmas with her.

Lucy

There were so many times that I wanted to ask her what she was feeling, and what she needed from us – but with a dog, you just can’t.  We talked to some close friends who had been through a similar situation before about the fact that we didn’t know whether or not she was living a good life and if we should help end her suffering.  We just couldn’t tell how much she was hurting.  They said “If you’re not sure, then it’s not time.  Something will change, maybe a dramatic event will happen, or something will become drastically worse.  And then you’ll be sure.  And then it will be time.”  This week, something dramatic happened.

We were getting worried about our semi-annual trip up to the San Juans to spend with my extended family.  We were going to be gone for a week.  We couldn’t bring her with us – she absolutely panicked in the car, and the house doesn’t allow dogs.  So we had to leave her in my parents’ house with her dogs.  We brought her over to have a trial night-stay to see how she would do.  But in order to get her there, we had to put on her harness so we could tie her down and keep her (and us) safe in the car.  This was not a simple task.  Whenever you try to stop her from pacing, she freaked out.  At first she would flail and scratch with just her feet and nails.  But that day, she started using her teeth.  She bit me three times while we were trying to keep her safe.  Then, later this week when we tried to put her in the car again – this time only using her leash – she couldn’t even handle that.  Even holding her collar for one second made her immediately bare her teeth and lash out.  She struggled against her leash so hard that she easily slipped out of her collar.  Yesterday, when she started to slip out the door and my mom grabbed her collar to keep her safe in the house, she bit my mom.  It became clear that Lucy’s life had very little left.  She was scared all the time.  She doesn’t recognize the humans that have fed her, loved her, and walked her for the last year and a half of her life – and she attacks them.  The dramatic event we weren’t sure about had happened.

Lucy sleeping

So today, it was time for Lucy’s final vet visit.  We gave her a mild sedative so she wouldn’t hurt us when we took her to the car.  We spent about an hour and a half at home just sitting with her and crying – from a distance.  It killed me that I couldn’t hold her close in those final hours.  So we watched her fall asleep and cried.  We told her how much we loved her.  We talked about all the wonderful memories we had with her.  We apologized that there was nothing we could do to save her.  Tyler even went out to get her a burger from Zip’s for her last meal.

Lucy's final meal

When she was calm enough, we gently loaded her to the car (even on that last heavily sedated trip she tried to bite Tyler.  It reminded me that we were, in fact, doing the right thing).  The vet clinic was so wonderful to us.  The professional photographer who took her Christmas picture happened to be at the clinic today.  He recognized her and snapped a few shots of her before we went in for her appointment at no cost.  The vet tech and the doctor gave us lots of time to spend with her while she was heavily sedated so we could actually hold her close and breathe her in while she was still alive.  Then, all too soon, she was gone.  We apologized to her again that we couldn’t do more for her than bring her peace.  They will give us an ornament with her pawprint on it that they made as the piece of her that we keep forever.

Our house feels so empty now.  The dog bows, beds, doghouse in the back, all feel foreign without her here.  All I want is for my Lucy girl to come running in the room for cuddles, but the dog we said goodbye to today was not my Lucy girl – and we knew she never would be again.  Rest in peace, sweet girl.  Chase some birds in doggie heaven and think of us.  We love you so much.

Long before we ever got married, Tyler and I knew that we wanted a dog.  For years, we’ve talked about what kind of dog we would get (Yorkie, Beagle, Jack Russell Terrier and Blue Heelers were the main candidates), all the reasons that having a dog would be so awesome, but we had to wait until we were married and had a house with a yard in order to get one – and even after we got all that, we needed a landlord that would let us own a dog.  Right before my spring break, we got permission from our landlord to have a dog at our property, and it was all I could do to contain myself.  We had said to ourselves over and over again, “Let’s wait until summer when I’m not teaching so the dog can get accustomed to us before I go back to school in the fall” but the promise of a week of spring break was too tantalizing.

We’d gone to the Hermiston Pet Rescue a few times before, and had a couple dogs that had caught our eye, but nobody we just had to have.  Honestly, the most important trait I was looking for in a dog was sociability – a dog that was great with kids, great with other dogs, didn’t freak out about cats and was just overall a nice dog to be around.  When we talked to the owner of the pet rescue about what we were looking for in a dog, he recommended that we take a look at a Springer Spaniel/Border Collie mix.  She was six years old, spayed, and sounded like she met all of our criteria.  So we took her for a walk.  She honestly wasn’t that exciting.  She pulled hard on the leash, didn’t respond to her name, and didn’t really seem to care that there were people on the other end of her leash. But when we sat down on the grass, she just plopped down on our lap.  The more time we spent with her, the more she warmed up to us (the picture above is from that first walk we took with her).  She did admirably with every person and animal she interacted with, and I couldn’t believe that I had walked right past her at least three times without giving her a second thought.  I was ready to sign papers and take her home that day, but Tyler (being the sensible one in this marriage) said we should take the weekend to think about it and maybe get some supplies to make her feel welcome.  I reluctantly agreed, but we were back as soon as they opened up again to take her home for good.

Lucy isn’t who I always pictured we would have, but I have no doubt in my mind that she is the perfect dog for us.  She is the perfect running buddy, has been training beautifully, and is the cuddliest dog I have ever met.  I feel so incredibly fulfilled and rewarded now that we finally, finally have a dog to call our own.  Lucy is wonderful for my health and our marriage.  Now that school has started back up again, Lucy and I are in a great routine of waking up at 4:45am, going for a walk, eating breakfast, and getting me to work before Tyler even opens his eyes.  Poor Tyler was always being heckled by me for not hanging out with me enough, not waking up early enough, for being on the computer too much, pretty much anything that took his time away from spending time with me.  But now that I have Lucy, he and I are both much more calm and relaxed.

I found out last week that Lucy actually used to belong to one of my students.  They said that she was kind of old and hard of hearing (she’s not) and so they decided to get rid of her and their other dog so they could get a different one.  I was floored.  Lucy is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met, and she was abandoned at a shelter for almost three months.  I love her so much, and wouldn’t give her up for anything, but I am appalled that someone could leave her to fend for herself just so they could upgrade to a newer model.  But the fact is, Hermiston Pet Rescue has at least 30 dogs that are looking for homes.  If you or someone you know is looking to get a dog in the Eastern Washington/Oregon area, please go look at a shelter first.  I know it sounds preachy, but seriously – it’s the most rewarding decision we’ve made since the wedding.  It’s only been two weeks, but I honestly can’t imagine our life without her.

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