On August 20, 2011, I rescued a terminally ill, elderly dog named Lucky.
Actually... that's the day I "adopted" him.
|Lucky, first day at the vet|
Lucky had lived all 10+ years of his life on the streets. He'd never had a family to love him.
Never a name of his own.
Never a place to call home.
For the last 2 years of his life, Lucky had lived outside of the local bank... with simple wishes for shelter, random scraps, and rain water. He was planning to live --and die-- there.
At some point along the way, Lucky was hit by a car. His injuries were severe: his leg was badly broken... his jaw nearly ripped from his face. Yet, no one ever stopped to help him...
So, Lucky's injuries would heal on their own... improperly, of course. His leg soon lost mobility. His jaw simply hangs from his face.
Then... one day, my friend, Kara, spotted Lucky at the bank. She saw the pain in his eyes. The limp in his step. The absence of his smile.
Kara and Marsha spent the next 2 hours trying to catch this dog. Well... he may be old and injured... but he's also fast when he needs to be. Throughout all those years of being ignored, broken, and taunted, Lucky had learned how to get away, and he'd become quite good at it. Honestly, it's how he'd survived this long.
|Kara, Marsha, Lucky & I|
Then, they heard the vet's recommendation: euthanasia.
That's when Kara called me. And as you already know, I made an offer. Lucky lives here now. Lucky is mine now.
But... Lucky's arrival was just the beginning of his story...
Because the dog that I met then... and the dog that I know now... are 2 totally different dogs.
Yet, the changes in Lucky didn't happen overnight. Not even close.
So... I'd like to share Lucky's journey with you... and soon... you'll understand why this particular story is one of the most life-changing experiences I've ever had...
In offering to take Lucky, I was more-than-aware of the challenges I'd likely face in trying to care for him, due to his years on the streets and his many health problems. I knew what I was getting into...
But during his first few hours here, Lucky was suddenly this super-happy, very-outgoing, fun-loving dog... smiling, sniffing, enjoying the attention. That afternoon, he stayed inside with me... basking in the air conditioning, gazing up at me, loving the fresh food and water.
I remember thinking to myself: "Wow. That was easy..."
But I knew better.
Later that day... Lucky became extremely anxious about the idea of being indoors. He wanted out... now. Of course, I knew that he'd need plenty of time to adjust to his new life, so I let him out in the yard. Soon thereafter, he was okay again: smiling, sun bathing, rolling in the grass.
That night, I tried to bring him inside to sleep with me... just to see if he was even interested in the idea. He was not. He wanted out, so I took him back to the yard, gave him some food and water, and sat with him... until it was time for bed.
However, I couldn't sleep that night. I just couldn't stand the thought of Lucky being alone, outside in this new, strange place... even though it's what he needed and wanted at the moment. (Baby steps...)
So, at 10:00 pm, 12:00 am, 2:00 am, and around 4:00 am, I routinely went and checked on Lucky in the yard. He was sleeping, mostly. But clearly, I was not.
Well... only a couple of hours later, at 7:00 am, I headed up to the kennel for work. When I got there, I stopped dead in my tracks...
I saw that the main fence gate had been broken.
I was in shock, because the latch I'd used to lock it was still attached...
So... Lucky must've worked on this gate for a while... to be able to force his way through it like he did... despite its reinforcements. Trust me... I've had plenty of "escape artists" here. None of them have ever escaped from that fence...
As soon as I saw that gate... I knew, and I panicked. I started screaming his name: "LUCKY???!!!"
As I'm yelling for him, over and over again, I'm simultaneously calling myself a dumbass in my head: "You idiot. He doesn't even know his name yet. He's not going to come to you. Stop yelling, dummy."
But I couldn't stop. I ran around the building... calling for him... frantically checking all over the property.
Lucky was gone.
I jumped in my car, and started driving. I stopped at every house, every gas station, and every bank along the way. Meanwhile, I called a friend, who quickly printed some Missing Dog flyers for me. Soon, I was frantically posting those bad boys all over town.
Everywhere I looked, Lucky wasn't there. I spent all day --and more than a tank of gas-- searching for him.
Still no Lucky.
As I was driving, I called Pippa... hysterical, sobbing, worried sick.
She said: "Okay, calm down. Breathe. You will find him, or he will come back. Trust me. This will all be okay."
I said, "But he doesn't understand that this is his home yet! He doesn't trust me yet! He doesn't even know his own name yet! I'm never going to find him, Pippa!"
Pippa said: "Ash, breathe. You know better. You'll get him back. You will."
I should never question Pippa. The woman never fails me. But that day, I just couldn't believe her. Even though I hoped --more than anything-- that she was right, I was truly terrified that I'd never see him again. I'd wanted to save him, to care for him, to love him in his final years. I didn't want him wandering streets, searching for shelter, hoping for food all over again...
I felt like I'd failed him.
That day, and the next day, I had volunteers run the shelter. I drove around... all day long... in search of my Lucky. I didn't find him.
Every second of those 2 days, I was constantly wishing, hoping, and searching for him. Every minute, I was worried sick. Every hour, I broke down. All the while... I was beating myself up, like you wouldn't believe.
Those 2 nights, I just couldn't sleep. I kept looking around, checking for him, calling for him... had he come back? Of course, he hadn't. Then, I'd cry some more.
The next morning... at 7:00 am, my phone rang. After tossing and turning all night, I'd finally fallen asleep. So, who the heck is calling me right now?! Half asleep... I rolled over, checked my phone, and didn't recognize the number. I started to hit "ignore," when it hit me: "Lucky..."
I frantically answered: "Hello?!"
A man responded: "Are you the girl with the flyers for the missing dog?"
I sat straight up in bed: "Yes! Have you seen him? Where is he?!"
Before he could even answer the question... I was dressed, keys in hand, running out the door.
He said: "I think your dog is asleep behind the Chevron."
I quickly said: "Please don't wake him. I'm on my way..."
Before I hung up, I just had to say: "Hey mister... you don't know me, but my name is Ashley. For 2 days now, I've been hopelessly searching for my dog. I'm sure others have seen him around, but you're the only one who took the time to call me. I can never thank you enough. I've been praying for this phone call."
I drove as fast as I could to the Chevron. Meanwhile, I was plotting my ambush. I'd have to be quiet --and quick-- in order to get him. Even though I'd feel terrible having to scare him like that, I knew it had to be done. He was just so used to running... it was really the only way.
Then... as I pulled in, I saw him...
Asleep on the gas station concrete...
At that moment, my heart broke into a million tiny pieces...
Because I knew the truth...
Lucky had only stopped there... because that cold, concrete, parking lot... simply felt like home to him...
As tears filled my eyes, I made myself a promise: I don't care how long it takes --seconds, minutes, hours-- I'm not leaving here... without him.
So, with lightning speed... I opened my door, sprinted toward him, threw him over my shoulder, and ran back to the car. As I placed him inside, I could see that he was terrified. He honestly should have bitten me.
I looked into his eyes, and said: "I'm so sorry, buddy. But one day, you'll thank me for this. At least... I hope you will."
Then... I took him home.
That was the last time my Lucky ever tried to leave me.
Even still, he needed more time to adjust. It didn't happen overnight. He didn't trust me for a while. And honestly, early on, he didn't even like me that much. Especially after I'd ambushed him at the Chevron...
But I was okay with all of that. I knew what he needed from me: he needed space; he needed care; he needed love. But most of all, he needed time.
So... I was gentle. I was patient. I was kind. I never forced myself on Lucky. I never pushed him to do more. I never asked anything of him.
Out in the yard, I'd let him roam as he pleased. I always stayed close-by... yet, I kept my distance. He seemed to be okay with that, so I was okay with it, too.
Soon, I'd see him looking around for me, just to make sure I hadn't left him.
In those moments, I'd stop... I'd reflect... and I'd smile.
|He thinks I'm funny|
Lucky began to feel... lucky.
Slowly, he started to follow me, to smile at me, to love on me.
He started to bark, to chase, to play.
He started to become... a Lucky Dog.
I watched... as Lucky let go of the uncertainty, the worry, the pain.
I witnessed... every change, every nudge, every smile.
I became... his friend, his leader... his mom.
And one day, I suddenly realized... that it was happening. Lucky was slowly releasing more than 10 years of daily struggles, and the only life he'd ever known... for me, and because of me.
I apologized, and he forgave me.
I was trustworthy, so he trusted.
I loved him... and then... he loved me back.
It honestly changed my life.
Today, Lucky is the happiest dog I know. He's learned to walk on the leash, and it's one of his favorite things. He loves to play in the yard, and he never tries to escape. He also loves attention, affection, and sunshine.
Lucky loves the simple comforts, like knowing that food and water will always be there. He's realized that he doesn't have to beg, search, or fight for scraps any longer... and it helps him feel safe.
In fact, Lucky is so comfortable with the food situation here, that he actually demands to have his breakfast served first thing. And if you don't feed him as quickly as he'd like, he will bark at you, until you get off your ass, and give him that bowl. I'm not kidding. It makes me laugh every single day.
Lucky loves Kongs with peanut butter. He loves smiling. He loves me, and I love him.
Lucky loves... life.
If only you could have seen the broken dog that came to me last year. The fear in his eyes, the pain in his heart, the uneasy smile. The dog who was dying... and waiting to die...
If only you could have known that dog...
Then you'd never believe the boy that's here today. I think you'd only believe me... if you'd witnessed it for yourself...
For those of us who were so lucky, his transformation has been nothing short of incredible. Lucky has saved us all.
To those who claim: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks..."
Well... I'm here to challenge that...
Because I took an OLD, 10+ year old, broken-boned, terminally-ill, super-untrusting, at-death's-door, lived-all-his-life-on-the-streets dog... and was able to teach him every trick he needs to know...
Most importantly... how to smile.
But of course... that's nothing compared to the lessons he's taught me: about trust, forgiveness, acceptance, letting go, moving forward....
And most of all: love...
While Lucky may have only days, weeks, or months left to live... he gives every bit of love in his heart... every bit of loyalty in his soul... to me... every single day that he's here.
Seriously... who's the lucky one?
*Lucky Dog Rescue focuses on the forgotten dogs... those with no other hope. If you wish to help other dogs like Lucky find the love they've always dreamed of... please click below to donate today... and please share this post, & ask others to do the same. Thanks -Ash