Earlier this week, after nearly 12 years of unconditional love, we had to put our dog, Lucy, to sleep. For any person who has lost a beloved pet, you know the feeling. It is awful—truly gut-wrenching. As someone who has not “sobbed” per se, in a little while, I was struck by the need to simply cry my eyes out as I gave Lucy one last hug. Somehow, the passing of my furry four-legged friend threatened to undo me in a way I had not fully anticipated.
In a way, Lucy became part of history—not only mine—but Colorado Academy’s, as well. We adopted her while living on campus in 2012, and she immediately became a regular presence. She was the ultimate CA host—relishing any school event stationed at our campus home—particularly if it involved food (and with bonus points if the food handlers weren’t entirely meticulous—such as during our Lower School picnics). As if she was destined for grade school life, Lucy had the temperament of a therapy dog; she would often be a calm, stoic presence when surrounded and inundated by the love and affection of CA’s younger students. And yet she also had the cheeky, spry energy of a wild animal or escape artist when she wanted to jump six-foot-plus fences to go exploring.
One year, at graduation, Lucy could hear my voice across campus, blasted over the microphone; she jumped the fence and captivated the entire commencement audience as she trotted up to the stage—ever my faithful companion and CA’s honorary mascot. Curious, kind, courageous, and adventurous in her own Lucy way.
It is no surprise that she was as amazing with our own children at home as she was with the CA children on campus. She was a source of cheer, of love, of silliness. And, of course, she was our fearless protector—transitioning her backyard patrols to fierce circles of protection that ensured there were no killer squirrels or rabbits around to threaten our abode. We would take her hiking, skiing, biking—she never shied from a challenge or outdoor adventure (once she puked in our sleeping bags in the middle of the night—a reminder that no one, not even the best dog ever, is perfect). We will miss her intensely.
I am always amazed by the unconditional love our pets can demonstrate and that we have the capacity to return. I feel fortunate that my kids grew up with Lucy and had her companionship when they were feeling down or just wanted to have fun. And, as we process her death this week, I am challenging myself to think about what else I can learn about life, love, myself, and the family we make and create along the way. I loved her, she’s gone, and it hurts a lot. However, in just a few short days, I’ve found such community in others who have lost their family pets. Others who, like me, knew they would outlive their loving companions and experience this excruciating loss and yet they folded them into their lives and hearts anyway. So, maybe the lesson is that it really is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. The loss of Lucy this week made me appreciate an important member of our family and do all that I can to care for and support those close to me.