Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Lucky in Love

I wanted a puppy, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. My three-year marriage was crumbling and the last thing I needed was a new responsibility. Trying to escape the inevitable, my husband and I decided to go on a vacation to Big Sur on the California coast. The last day of our trip, we had stopped for lunch at a restaurant. As we returned to the car, we noticed a cage by a staircase at the edge of the parking lot. I moved closer to investigate and saw a little, irresistible black ball of fluff gazing longingly out of the bars, begging me to let her out. Someone had simply left her there and put a sign on top of the cage: “Puppy for Free. Name is Lucky. Take her.”

I looked at my husband, and he shook his head no, but I persisted. I needed someone to love. I took the puppy out of the cage, and happy to be free, she dove into our car. We started to drive the windy Pacific Coast Highway home. A wide, grassy meadow came into view, and we stopped so she could run. As we lay on our blanket on the grass, she trampled field daisies, sniffed for gophers and jumped in circles. Her joy at liberation was my elixir.

We renamed her Bosco, and she turned out to be a Belgian sheepdog. My loyal friend, she stayed by my side through a difficult divorce and was my guardian angel through the many years of single life that followed.

One morning, when she was nine years old, I awoke to find her panting heavily, her black curls damp and matted. With trembling fingers, I grabbed for the phone to call my veterinarian. Bosco tiredly snuggled on my lap, her labored breathing ragged on my chest, and I kissed the top of her head over and over again, waiting for the receptionist to answer.

“I’m sorry, Jennifer. The doctor’s out of town.” My right hand kept stroking the side of Bosco’s long, smooth nose, the left hand gripping the receiver even more fiercely as I held back tears. She directed me to another veterinary clinic. How could I trust someone else with my baby? But I had no choice.

I tenderly placed my limp dog on the passenger seat of the car. With one hand I turned the key in the ignition, and with the other I gently stroked the quiet body underneath the faded green and blue stadiumblanket that I used for picnics—the one I’d used the day we found Bosco.

I pulled into the clinic parking lot. I took a deep breath, said a prayer and slowly took my bundle through the doors. A matronly receptionist recognized my name and immediately summoned the doctor on call. As I waited for this unknown person to take my dog’s life in his hands, I looked around the cozy, wood-paneled waiting room. A pit bull sat meekly at the feet of the woman next to me; Bosco didn’t even seem to notice. A man called out my name.

Dr. Summers wore an air of urgency, his blue eyes filled with compassion and concern. As I followed him to the exam room, I noticed broad, strong shoulders and a confident stride. I laid Bosco softly on the narrow steel table and then slowly took her blanket off, clutching it in my arms. Her sweet smell still lingered on the wool. Dr. Summers listened intently as I explained the symptoms, his gentle hands resting on Bosco’s side. He thought it was gastroenteritis and wanted to keep her in the clinic for observation. But he stressed that I was welcome to come by and visit. I kissed Bosco’s nose and whispered good-bye. Dr. Summers smiled. “Go home. Get some rest. I promise I’ll take care of her.” And somehow I knew that he would, that there was no better place to leave my best friend than in his arms.

The next day after work, I went directly to the clinic to see Bosco. The receptionist waved me into the back, and I made a beeline for the cages, trying not to run. I sat on the cold, cement floor and put my hand through the cage, stroking Bosco’s fur, watching her tail give me a faint wag. When Dr. Summers discovered I was there, he came back and opened Bosco’s cage. I held her tightly on my lap, happy to feel her warmth. Dr. Summers knelt on the floor near us. Talking softly so Bosco could sleep, we shared stories about our families, our careers, our dreams, our lives.

During the next few weeks, I came in every day to see Bosco and my new friend, Dr. Summers. A biopsy later confirmed bad news: lymphocytic plasmacytic enteritis (LPE). I couldn’t pronounce it, let alone understand the nature of the disease. Because of the vomiting and diarrhea associated with LPE, Dr. Summers kept her in the clinic on an IV for fluids. Then, on top of LPE, Bosco developed pancreatitis, which complicated treatment.

The day came when the medicines were failing, Bosco wasn’t getting any better—and I had to make a decision. Dr. Summers encouraged me to take her home, to be with her for a couple of days. He knew I needed to say goodbye. I wrapped her in her blanket and drove her home.

We snuggled on the couch, and I told her how much I had loved her, how grateful I was that a puppy named Lucky had come into my life to be my best friend. She listened, her weary brown eyes looking beyond me for peace. It was time for her to go.

Two weeks after I placed her in Dr. Summers’s arms for the last time, I made a call to the clinic. I wanted to talk to someone who understood—Dr. Summers, now my friend, had been the person who had helped me close the last door. He took me to lunch and we showed each other pictures of our families. We shared memories of Bosco and he gently wiped the tears off my cheek as tears welled in his own eyes. That day opened a new door for us and we moved through it.

On April 3, two years to the day Bosco passed away, I married Dr. Summers, the man who had so tenderly cared for her—and for me. My father gave a speech during the ceremony, pausing to look up to the heavens. He smiled and said, “I know Bosco is here with us today, blessing this marriage.” I smiled, too, through happy tears. Bosco had always, even in her passing, brought love into my life.

Jennifer Gay Summers

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