by Naomi Hersh Clackum.
Summer 1989: We’d gone for almost two years without a dog in our home when we made the decision to visit the local humane society. Having been forced to make that heartbreaking decision to send Bambi, our seven year old Belgian Shepherd/Collie to her final rest, we vowed never again to become attached to a dog.
Losing Bambi was nearly unbearable, and our vet had been so kind and understanding during the preceding months. Bambi had suffered from hip problems as well as debilitating arthritis in her spine and hind legs, making it difficult and eventually impossible, to walk.
Our vet had run a number of tests and informed us that there was no remedy to Bambi’s pain. He recommended euthanasia. But I refused to give up on her as she still had a hearty appetite and a lot of energy and she still loved to roll around in the thick grass under the warm sun. Though her mobility was often limited, there were still times she would manage to get around on her own.
As the months passed and her mobility slowed, my husband built a wooden ramp over the back steps leading into the house. This made it easier for Bambi to get in and out. In addition, I found that if I picked up her hind legs she could make the trip down the steps much easier. I’ll admit, we were quite a sight, but she didn’t seem to mind the help. In fact, she came to rely on me for it.
I’d been giving Bambi nightly injections to ease the arthritis to help her sleep more comfortably, but I knew in my heart that soon we would have to make that dreaded last call to the vet. My husband loved her as much as I did, and he wanted to ease her suffering, but he waited until I was able to make the decision because he knew how much she meant to me. I’d lost my dad just a year earlier and the thought of losing Bambi so soon after was too painful for me.
It was July 1987, exactly two years after my dad passed away, when I realized that I was only prolonging Bambi’s suffering and discomfort. My husband called the vet and made the arrangements. I did not go with them; I just couldn’t do it. I’d spent the previous night and that morning crying as I said goodbye to Bambi in my own way. I’ll never be sure if she knew what was happening. Some people say that animals can sense what humans can’t. I honestly feel that Bambi knew we would never do anything to hurt her. As I looked into those big brown eyes for the last time, I saw the trust and love she had for us. I tried consoling myself, thinking she would be out of pain at last, just as I did when my dad passed away. I have never been a very religious person, but I have always believed in God and I also believe that the spirit of a loving and innocent creature would surely find itself in a better place.
When my husband brought Bambi back from the vet, we decided her final resting place would be out back in our woods where she loved to run and play. To this day when I look out there, I can picture her running through the woods, her eyes wild with excitement, dead leaves crunching beneath her feet, that lustrous black and gold coat flowing in the breeze. That is the way I will always remember her.
As I mentioned earlier, it had been two years had since we lost Bambi. Our home was quieter, cleaner, and emptier without a dog. Whenever I mentioned getting another one, my husband declined. I wasn’t the only one who had been attached to Bambi. He was just trying to avoid the inevitable pain that comes with the loss of a beloved pet.
Every now and then, I still caught myself holding that last bit of food from dinner to hand to the dog. And every once in awhile when I was vacuuming the carpets, I would find a long gold strand of Bambi’s hair still on the carpet.
One Monday in June, I decided to bring up the subject once again with my husband. This time I must have looked exceptionally pitiful because he actually agreed. And so we took a ride over to the Lake City Humane Society just to have a “look”. I had my mind set on another German Shepherd; there’s something so lovable about those big dogs. (When I was fourteen, my parents had given me a black and tan ball of fluff for Christmas. He was a German Shepherd/Doberman mix. I’d named him Yogi after Yogi Bear, because he looked just like a little bear. We had him fourteen unforgettable years.)
Anyway, as we drove up to the shelter that day, we talked about what type of dog we wanted. My husband didn’t want a puppy because we both worked full time and a puppy required constant attention. I shared with him my desire for another shepherd, but I agreed to be flexible as there were always so many good dogs in need of loving homes.
Once we arrived, we walked up and down the aisles filled with dog pens. We spotted an old shepherd lying in a pen; the shelter workers had made up a special pen that was dry and warm because he was so sick with arthritis, they didn’t think he had much time left. There were other dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds, and I was overwhelmed because they all needed homes.
My husband suggested we leave and return in a few weeks, but when we turned to leave, that’s when I saw him. He was sitting calmly between two excited dobermans. His coat was auburn and white and he had big, brown eyes. It was the first time I’d ever seen an English Springer Spaniel. He was calm, but seemed sad as he looked up at us, as if he knew we would not take him. My husband suggested we put a leash on him and take him outside for some fresh air and see how he would behave with us. I took the leash and eagerly, the little fellow followed me outside. He didn’t try to pull or get away; he simply turned around and faced me and jumped up very gently and affectionately.
Something happened between us in those few seconds that would change the course of our lives. My husband was quite taken with him immediately, as was I. We looked at one another and we knew. This was the one. We went back inside and got all his adoption papers and fees taken care of. And as we made our way to the door to take our newest member of the family to his new home, the girl behind the counter told us how lucky he was because it was to be the last day for most of the dogs in the shelter. Their waiting period had elapsed and they were scheduled to be put to sleep that afternoon.
My husband and I looked at one another with disbelief. All those beautiful animals would be euthanized for no other reason than no one loved them enough to take care of them. If things had been different financially, we would have taken every one of those dogs home, but that was not possible. I’ll never forget how I felt as we walked out of there that day, so happy we had found the newest member of our family and so incredibly sad for all those left behind. It was because of that we named him “Lucky”.
When we arrived home, we opened the doors to the van and let Lucky out to see his new home. Not knowing how he would behave in a new location, my husband held on to his leash as they went inside the house. Lucky was quiet and a little timid as he sniffed his way from room to room.
He was a beautiful dog, though slightly thin, but I knew that the right food and a lot of love would do wonders for him. We had no idea where he had come from or exactly how old he was, but the girl at the Humane Society estimated about 2 1/2 to 3 years old. As it turns out, our vet estimated him slightly younger. It really didn’t matter, though. It was just wonderful having a dog in our home again. Within a few months, he and I became inseparable. It’s been four years and while he loves the entire family, but his one true allegiance is to me. He follows me everywhere. When I am in the bath, he is either right on the other side of the door or on the bed nearby. He has become a prince and our home is his castle. He sleeps on the bed, lives indoors, has his own stuffed “socky”, a stuffed pink hippo, and a little white bunny that he takes outside with him. He likes to lay on the couch with me when we watch television and he even puts up with our pet cockatiel “B” who will occasionally fall asleep next to him on the couch. Lucky enjoys when I sing to him, mostly before bedtime. He’ll lay on the bed while sing and when I’m finished, he’ll climb off the bed and into his own and drift off to sleep.
Lucky is known as the “food police” because he will sneak into our daughters’ rooms to find any crumbs they may have dropped. He is also very in tune with the buzzers on the oven and the microwave. When the timers go off, he is the first one there. He has actually been seen looking through the glass door on the oven to see what’s cooking on the inside. For the past year I have had to put him on a diet because he’s been eating too good.
It’s as though Lucky has been with us since he was born. He is the love of our life. Much like our children, he has stolen our hearts. Lucky has not only filled the emptiness within our home, he has filled that emptiness in our hearts from losing Bambi. He didn’t replace her; but he has made his place with us for the rest of his days. I thank my parents for bringing me up in a home where there was always enough love and nurturing, not just for us, but for God’s other creatures as well.
May 27, 1993