If you know me at all, you know I have a bichon named Lucie. Lucie has had a busy month. She re-certified as a therapy dog and had a graduation party last week. The week before that, she was out peeing at 7 am in the backyard and a coyote stepped out from behind a bush and grabbed her. She screamed bloody murder, broke loose and ran in the house. I found her standing in the shower, growling and showing her teeth. She has a small gash at her neck, the coyote apparently had grabbed her name tag and light ripping them off her collar instead of ripping her flesh. Then this week, she was attacked and almost killed by a Golden Retriever who lives three houses down from us.
Lucie has been a therapy dog for 12 years now. She came from Bichon Fur Kids in California, a skinny sick baby that was afraid of everything. She left that behind and blossomed into a self-assured confident dog who loves everyone.
We have gone into the local hospital, Tucson Medical Center for over ten years now. In all these years, she has never refused to go to a person. She loves on everyone. They call her the “hugging dog” because I hold her and she leans over and “hugs” the person in front of me. The nurses and patients both love her. We also go into a locked ward mental hospital. No matter what is going on, Lucie is there for the patients. Some people will just hold her and cry for 10 minutes. Lucie lets them.
Lucie loves to walk. I have been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer this last year, and no matter how bad I felt, Lucie nudged me into walking. Through Covid19, walking has kept us sane. I am amazed at how joyful and happy she becomes on a simple walk, going over the same route that we have walked for a decade. She has to smell every smell and each moment contains a new discovery. It really helped me keep my sanity during Covid lock-down, chemotherapy, surgery and job issues.
Two nights ago, Lucie and I took off for our nightly walk. I had taken a nap, and Lucie woke me up with barking because it was time to walk: she wanted to go before it got dark. It’s been getting dark earlier, and she knew if it was too late, we wouldn’t go. She was excited and running to the door then looking back at me. I got her on the flex leash, and we took off. Where I live, it is one house per acre, so the houses are not that close together.
We had made it to the third house down on the same side as ours. The guy who lived there had his garage door open, and was out on the driveway with his truck. Lucie and I were on the pavement, and when we a few feet away from in front of the driveway, a Golden Retriever ran out, faster than I am used to seeing Golden Retrievers run.
The dog went for Lucie’s belly, it grabbed her from underneath, getting a hold by puncturing her belly and the front of the back leg. Lucie screamed in pain, and kept screaming. The Retriever latched on hard, and the dogs rolled in a whirlwind of dirt. Lucie struggled violently to get free.
I was stunned. I have a citronella spray that is supposed to be used for dog attacks sitting at home on the shelf. The thought fleeted through my head that Lucie was too old to survive this.
I thought I was watching my dog die in front of me. My dog who had just re-certified as a pet therapy team five days ago. I felt utterly helpless. Finally, the owner got the retriever off my dog. He said, “oh, it doesn’t look that bad”. Meanwhile, Lucie was howling, standing with one leg dangling down and shaking. You couldn’t really see the real damage. The Retriever had dug in deep and tried to gut her.
I heard two other neighbors. They ran to Lucie, and offered to help. I wasn’t sure how to pick her up, because I knew she was hurt The other dog owner said again, “it doesn’t look that bad.” Meanwhile the neighbor who said she would be my witness said, “No, she is hurt. There is a big tear here under her belly”.
I asked the man who owned the dog if he would pay for the Vet bills, and he said “yeah”. I got the feeling that he thought it was going to be under $500. My helpful neighbor said: “You pick her up, she will only trust you. Under her chest, she isn’t hurt in the front. I will help you get her into the car.”
I got lost twice on the way to the vet hospital, even though I knew where it was and have driven past it thousands of times. The emergency Vet hospital where I brought Lucie’s sister Gracie when she had seizures and quit breathing multiple times. The place where I took Gracie and we found out the reason she was bleeding was that she had a cancerous tumor that had burst. Gracie died that day. This place was not a happy memory place.
I left the car running and ran in the hospital. I said I had a dog bite victim, and that I needed help. Thankfully a Vet Tech came out with me and helped me get Lucie inside. She told the staff that it looked like Lucie had a broken leg. They whisked her back into the clinic. They asked me if they could do pain med, and stabilize her, and I signed that they could do that. I was a wreck. Two other couples were there and one of the women started crying too. She said that her dog had been attacked two years ago by a dog and had almost died. She said she still cried about it, even though her dog had lived. It had been that traumatic. They all consoled me.
The Vet came out and told me that Lucie had a heart murmur, which I knew. He said that on a scale of 1-6, her heart murmur would be a 5. This I didn’t know. He said that General Anesthesia would be better for her heart with surgery. He didn’t think that she had any broken bones, but they had to check if she had any bowel or internal perforations. The initial cost was $2500. I approved it, and waited for several hours. They told me to go home. I didn’t get much sleep, and cried more than I should have for the good news that there were no broken bones. When I woke at 7 am, there was a message to pick Lucie up.
That was two days ago. I have Lucie at home now. I called Animal Control yesterday, after I tried to talk to the GR owner and he wasn’t home. I realized that if I was him, I would have asked about Lucie by now, and that I shouldn’t have to chase him down to get him to make right what his dog had done.
Lucie ate for the first time in two days tonight. I realize this is going to be weeks of recovery. I am extremely thankful I still have my dog, and that she made it through surgery, and should fully recover. I’m going to find that citronella spray. This can’t happen again. After all, Lucie still has more love to share with people.
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