Laura and I put the harnesses and leashes on our two dogs and unlocked the front gate. The sun was bright and the air was warm and the dogs were restless. A walk was a foregone conclusion. But we didn’t get far.
We hadn’t taken more than a few steps out of our gate when we saw a familiar streak of her black and light tan coat atop four legs race across the road and into the empty lot just across the street from our neighbor’s house. It was Lucy. Our Lucy girl. Yeah, we named a stray dog. You sometimes do that after you feed a dog and her seven puppies for several weeks in the winter and eventually farm the puppies out to homes so they don’t freeze to death. Laura had found a box for them from our basement. It had been really cold the week we found them. The box and food Laura gave them probably saved their lives. So, yeah, we were attached.
She knew our car. Every time we drove up the street, pretty soon we’d see her trotting towards us, sometimes in a full-out sprint—as fast as her four stubby legs could take her anyway—in our direction. And yet, we never could quite pet her. It was like there was some sort of war brewing within her. She’d correctly identified us as friends. The food was proof enough of that. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to let us get close enough to reach out and touch her. She’d hunker down close to the ground and inch forward and then get spooked and jump back and run away. Then she’d circle back and repeat the same pattern.
We never fully established her relationship to one of our neighbors several houses down from us. We think she used to be their dog. In fact, sometimes we saw her inside their gate. She always seemed on pretty good terms with that neighbor’s two other dogs. Sometimes the three of them would run and play in the street and in the open space across the street. We wonder if they kicked Lucy out after she got pregnant this past winter. We’ll probably never know for sure.
Then we saw her run across the road one sunny day as we were just about to take our two dogs for a walk. She was running fast, like she was being chased, but no one or no other dog was behind her. She crossed the street and ran out into the open grassy area on the other side. She barked and started running in circles. It looked like she was trying to scare off an invisible attacker. I won’t lie; my first thought was doggy demon possession.
Then things got worse. She shrieked at a high pitch and fell over onto one side, jerking and twitching and whining. She was seizing.
Naturally, our dogs were going crazy. After a bit of chaotic yelling between Laura and me, I finally took our two dogs back inside and locked them up. When I came back out, Lucy was still keeled over on one side thrashing about on the ground. In medicine it’s called differential diagnosis. A young, otherwise healthy, full-grown dog having a seizure most likely meant one thing. Lucy had been poisoned. We realized there was nothing humanly-speaking we could do.
The seizures died down, and Lucy lay stretched out limp on the ground, gasping for breath with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth. Then, to our shock—horror?—she snapped out of it. She jerked her head up and managed to stand on all fours. She seemed to shake it off and trotted down the street. Was that it? Would whatever it was strike again?
We decided to still walk our dogs. We made it down the street and back with no problem. At one point we saw Lucy empty the contents of her stomach. Closer inspection revealed a large amount of cut up sausage. Stray dogs don’t use cutlery, and sausage isn’t widely available on the streets. We don’t give her any. Seemed our fears were confirmed. Someone had most probably poisoned her.
Once we were back home, Laura decided to go back out and take her some food and water. I stayed inside. After some time passed, I put on my shoes and went out to see what was going on.
I found Laura standing next to the ditch along the side of the road, four or five houses away, peering down at a pathetic sight: a dog, our Lucy, seizing in the dirt, tongue hanging out of her mouth, gasping for breath, unable to find it, kicking her legs, and fighting a battle that was already very much lost. It seemed like all Lucy’s vomiting had been too little too late. The poison was already circulating through her bloodstream. At best she would die very soon from the seizures. At worst she would suffer neurological deficiencies the rest of her life and probably get hit by a car as a result.
We were hoping she’d just die. We wished we had a gun. Neither one of us thought we could bring ourselves to try to asphyxiate her with rope to quicken her passing. We knew it’d be foolish to risk a dog bite, even from Lucy. What we for sure couldn’t do was just keep standing there, watching. So we left her to die alone. On the side of the road in a ditch littered with trash.
What a contrast to open our gate and find our two dogs, clean, well fed, well cared for, and very much not poisoned, waiting for us. We sat down on the ground, and of course, they swarmed us, clamoring for petting and licking Laura’s tears.
Later that evening we found Lucy’s small, stocky body in the place where we’d left her. She was quiet now. The poison had won, but at least now she wasn’t thrashing about uncontrollably, gasping for breath. She wasn’t in pain. Laura was finally able to pet her head for the first time.
If it could get worse, we think Lucy was pregnant again. We’d seen her on several occasions out traipsing around with a boy dog from that same neighbor. That’s probably what did her in. That neighbor didn’t want to have anything to do with another litter of puppies. Why sterilize a dog when you can just poison it and let it die a slow and agonizing death?
The next morning we buried her in our patch of land across the street from our house. With each shovel full of dirt, I asked myself who exactly was more human and who exactly was more animal.
And that’s how they killed Lucy.
“Lucy,” photo taken 12/28/2017