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  • When my parents got married they each had their own dog. (My dad also had a cat, but since my mom is allergic the cat had to be given away.) So their first pair of children were Mac and Missy. Mac, my mother's dog, was a pure bred Shetland Sheepdog. Missy, my father's dog, was a pure bred Collie that looked just like the infamous Lassie. Their first Christmas together as a married couple is remembered with pictures of Mac and Missy in front of a Christmas tree in the basement. The following December I would join the dogs in the photos.

    Missy passed when I was quite young and I don't really have a clear memory of her, besides photos of us together. From what I know, through retelling of the story, she died of complications from heatstroke. My dad had found her collapsed in the backyard with her tongue turning blue. He rushed her to the vet, but there was nothing they could do for her.

    Mac was really the first dog that myself, and my younger sister, became attached to. It was while we were away on vacation that we received a call that Mac wasn't doing well. He had been boarded at our vet's office and we left our neighbor's information as the emergency contact. She called to let us know that Mac had suffered seizures and they were doing everything they could to save him, but they needed our permission to put him down... if that is what we wanted to do. I don't remember any family discussion about what to do. After all my sister and I were only 6 and 8 years old at the time. Mac was 13 years old and had lived a good long life, so the decision was made to have him put down. All I really remember about that day was getting the phone call from our neighbor and then bursting into tears when my mom told us that Mac had died. It was especially hard on us because we couldn't be there for him and this just happened to occur in the middle of our vacation.

    We spent a few years as a dogless family after that.

    Eventually talk of getting a new dog started. My sister was about to turn 9 years old and her life's goal at the time was to become a veterinarian. Everyone in my family is very animal oriented, but at the time she was especially interested in helping/healing animals. So my parents told her that for her 9th birthday we would get a new dog. My mom, dad and sister went off to the pet store in search of a new dog. I stayed at home and waited for them to return. From what I heard later about their trip, my dad was the one to spot our new dog. He was in a cage with another dog and he looked like he needed love. Something about him spoke to my family and they decided to get him. He was 3 months old at the time. When my family returned home I rushed out to the backyard and our new dog came running towards me for pets and attention. I already loved him.

    I asked, "What's his name?"

    My dad replied, "We named him Lucky, because he's lucky that we got him."

    That's my dad's bleak sense of humor for you. I guess you just have to know him.

    Lucky was a Shetland Sheepdog mix and he had a very unique look... almost fox-like. Much later, when Lucky was 13, we would discover a dog DNA test which revealed he was in fact a Shetland Sheepdog/Australian Cattle dog mix. True to his breeds he was very smart and very energetic. He took to basic training very well, but we couldn't rid him of his herding behavior. If someone stood in the middle of the backyard then Lucky would herd you to where he wanted you to go. As kids we thought this was hilarious! He also loved to chase airplanes. As they flew overhead he would run across the yard after them. He rarely was not in motion, especially while in the backyard. Most notably, whenever he stopped to look up at me, I swear I could see him smiling! He would become a very important member of our family. My sister especially loved him and he even slept at the foot of her bed.

    I moved out of my parents house in 2009 and whenever I would come home to visit I would rush past my parents and give Lucky a great big hug. My parents grumbled about this, but I explained to them that I likely had much less time left with Lucky than I did with them. At the time I didn't know how true that was. By May 2012 Lucky had turned 13 and he showed no signs of slowing down. We would all joke that he would probably die in mid-run out in the backyard. Then suddenly in August he collapsed in the backyard. My dad found him on his side yelping and unable to stand. He rushed Lucky to the vet where they gave him pain medication and told my dad to take him home to rest. The vets speculated that it was Lucky's heart. They advised my dad that if he didn't return to normal in a few days, that it might be best to consider euthanasia. I came over to my parent's house that day to see Lucky and an uncomfortable talk about possibly having to put him down took place. With tears in her eyes my sister said she couldn't do that. I agreed. We had to do everything we could for Lucky.

    Miraculously the next day he was up and about again. He was eating like normal and running around in the yard. As instructed Lucky was taken in for a follow-up visit where he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The vet said he didn't have long to live and was surprised that Lucky had made it this far. After that it was almost as if we knew that our time with Lucky was running out. I cherished every moment with him. At the end of September he collapsed in the basement. This time there was no miraculous recovery and Lucky passed while he was at home with my mom, dad and sister. I was at work when I got the call and I immediately burst into tears. My best friend was gone.

    Why all this back story just to talk about a dog? Well I feel it's important to recognize our family as a dog family. My dad grew up with dogs, my mom grew up with dogs and consequently my sister and I grew up with dogs. We've all learned and witnessed that there is nothing like the love of an animal, particularly the love of a dog. Since I have moved out I have pets of my own now, a cat and a rabbit, but I still miss having a dog. I still think about Lucky fairly often and I think about his life and all the time we spent together. He was the first dog that I had from spry young pup to old grey dog. Lucky's life with us consisted of training, road trips out of state, plenty of walks, playing fetch in the backyard, trips on the boat (complete with doggy life vest), bones from the butcher, treats, pets, toys, his favorite blue ball, naps, running, jumping, big soft dog beds and lots of love. We squeezed so much into those 13 years and yet when he passed I felt like I wished I could pet him just one more time. I had to remind myself to look back at all of the good times and not to focus only on the fact that he was physically gone. Lucky is not completely gone though... he still exists in photos all throughout my parent's house. I even uncovered some old film photos of Lucky and I while I was cleaning a few days ago. He became a part of each member of my family and we will never forget him. I guess that is what's most important now... remembering Lucky.

    Rest in peace my sweet Lucky pup. May 1, 1999 - September 30, 2012
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