People often ask me what I write about in the Enigma. Although I’ve done pieces on small businesses, politics, movies and several other topics I always start with “my dogs”. Sadly usually after they have passed away. That’s what this month’s article is about. One of my dogs recently passed away, Lucas.
Lucas came to me as did four of my other dogs via my girlfriend at the time. I’ll always remember I was at Porkers restaurant eating with some friends when I got the call. I talked with my then girlfriend who was at the Humane Educational Society (called the pound as I grew up) looking for a dog. She related there were a couple she liked but she couldn’t make up her mind. She then mentioned one of the prospects was on “Death Row”, that is he was slated to be “euthanized”. I told her that was the one I would get as she would know she had saved him as his time was up. Perhaps the other ones would be adopted as they had more time. (The pound would only keep animals for so long at that time before they were “euthanized”. I really hate that term by the way. Another reason for you to “Don’t shop, adopt”. There are plenty of great cats and dogs needing homes in your local animal shelters. Please consider these animals. They will love you for it.
But back to Lucas. So the girlfriend brought home to her house this cute puppy with a spot of color around one eye, which I called a patch. Lucas was a very active puppy and seemed fairly happy by himself. He stayed in his “crate” during the day and my girlfriend’s dad would come by during the day to let him out while Chrissy was at work. Chrissy decided Lucas (Lukey) needed some company. She got a Springer Spaniel puppy to hang out with Lucas. However, Lucas was always somewhat of a loner and preferred to interact or play with humans over his new brother, “Little Man”. This trend continued for the rest of Lucas’ life. He interacted with people he was familiar with but never really gelled with other dogs. He would tolerate the other dogs in my “pack’” but he did not play much with the other dogs. That was fine and we accepted Luke as he was. He eventually became a fixture at my house.
As I mentioned, before he came to “Casa Haskins” Luke lived at my girlfriends’ house in East Ridge. Lucas was a free spirit and wanted to roam free. Although my girlfriend had an enclosed backyard Lucas always wanted to roam a little more. One day he escaped the yard and was running loose through the neighborhood. Once he got out like that he liked to run, often until he tired himself out. We could not get him to come to us and Lucas seemed to delight in our attempts to capture him. The problem was that one nearby street was very busy. Lucas had no experience with cars and would wander right in front of one. We needed to get him before he got hit. Lucas was very fond of riding in my girlfriend’s car so she jumped in the car to try to lure him in. I was still on foot going through yards trying to keep sight of our fugitive dog. Shortly afterward I saw one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen: a silver Mustang convertible with top down being chased down the road by Lucas. I could hear his nails skittering on the pavement as he sprinted to keep up with his master’s ‘pony”. He followed her home and after his running to keep up with the “Stang”. He was exhausted and eagerly went back into the house. I can still see Lucas sprinting for all he was worth trying to keep up with the Mustang and it always makes me smile.
Another Lucas escape caused me much frustration one morning a year or so later. I had recently moved into a house but there was no fence. One morning Lucas made a break for it before I could get a leash on him. The chase was on. The girlfriend was not home to help me and it was pouring rain. I was already dressed for work in dress shirt and slacks and tie so I was trying to not get dirty or soaked. To make matters worse I was late for work. After chasing Lucas through the neighborhood for awhile I finally got him into my unmarked police car. He had this dog grin on his face as I took him home.
Lucas and Littleman had grown up staying in their crates (basically a big metal cage type affair).They were trained on the verbal command “crate” to go get into their metal home. They appeared to be synchronized as they would both head for their crate upon hearing this command. They would go into the crate then quickly turn around in unison. It was fun to watch.
Except for his occasional breakout Lucas never gave me many problems. Although he was a little standoffish with the other dogs he never started anything. However, I had a large part mastiff/part pitbull? (We were never sure what he was) that just did not care for Lucas. Although Lucas was not in the least aggressive or assertive towards this dog he would not back down when pressed. Although this dog “Fido” was much bigger than Lucas and outweighed him by over 40 pounds. Lucas would “give as good as he got” and fought back. I ended up making some trips to the vet over their disputes.
Lucas also had another antagonist my Chihuahua, Buddy, who would nip at Lucas’ heels as they went out my back door to the fenced back yard. Buddy would also sit on his puppy bed and growl at Lucas while buddy “guarded” his food. Buddy had reason for this as frequently when he got up to go get a drink or go out to go to the bathroom Lucas would gobble down Buddy’s’ food. Eventually I learned that if Buddy was tarrying out in the yard I could get him to come in fast if I told him, “Buddy Lucas is gonna get your food!” Buddy would come running as fast as his little Chihuahua legs would carry him.
One thing Lucas did that annoyed me was his ability to stand on his back legs and grab food off the stove or kitchen counters. H could turn his neck sideways and get items I thought were far enough back to be safe. Lucas ate batches of fresh baked sugar cookies (twice), a coconut cake, plenty of cat food and a Honey Baked ham he managed to swipe off the counter or stove. Thankfully we had already had our Easter lunch before he pillaged the ham.
I will never forget the time Lucas became choked on a potato chip and I had to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on him. No I am not kidding.
Sadly Lucas began to slow down in recent years. He had problems with infections in his ears and eventually went deaf. He developed arthritis in his hips and got up and down very slowly. I no longer had to worry about him running off. I could easily catch him. He still did walks around my cul-de-sac and for awhile I would just loop his leash over his shoulder and he and Little Man would walk themselves with me following behind. A neighbor came out one day and said she thought they had gotten loose until she saw me behind them. She looked questioningly at their leashes looped over their backs. I explained they were walking themselves. She thought it was hilarious.
Lucas began having a harder and harder time getting around. He no longer walked the cul-de-sac. He would just go out and do his business. One day Lucas fell and I had to pick him up. He was having a difficult time getting his footing on my laminate and vinyl flooring. The next couple of days he was having trouble standing. One day he didn’t get up at all. I tried to help him stand but he could not put weight on his left front leg. It was badly swollen. I took him to one vet and he was prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine, antibiotics and painkillers. I had to carry Luke to and from the car or truck. When at home I would carry him to go out to go relieve himself. He seemed to rally and was moving around some on his own. The swelling went down in his leg. He was eating and drinking well. He seemed to be rallying. Then he nose-dived again. He was not getting up and barely eating.
I loaded Luke up in my pickup (which he always loved to ride in) and took him to my regular vet, Yvonne Ward at Northgate Animal Hospital. I had debated on taking my car but I’m glad I took the truck as it was to be Lucas’ last ride. He didn’t enjoy it much but it was symbolic. Dr. Ward examined Lucas and told me he was dying. It was time to let him go. This is the hardest decision a pet owner ever faces. I made an appointment to bring him back the next day. I carried Luke to the truck and took him home. I sat up with him and petted his head from my recliner. Sometime around 6am Lucas passed on.
Sometimes you will hear people say, “They were like family” referring to their pets. To some of us they are family. I had Lucas for sixteen years. He frustrated me some when he ran loose but I grin about it now. Someone once said “he likes to run free like his dad” referring to me. I had to agree.
I’ve smile now when I think about Luke running down the road behind a convertible, his escapes, and his just being there. I frequently bring my dogs back leftovers from restaurants and dole out the scraps. I brought some back the other day and as I was portioning out pieces I looked for Lucas then remembered he was gone.
I get the most comments about my “dog stories” than any other articles. People have asked me if it’s not sad writing about my dogs that have passed on. It is but it brings some closure. I also hope it may encourage people to adopt a pet. It does hurt when they pass on but they give you so much while they are here.
– Mark Haskins
Thanks to Frizzell Excavating of Soddy Daisy for their quick response and very minimal charge to dig Lucas’ grave.