The End of a Journey

How do you start?  How do you begin to tell the story when your heart is ripped out and tears pour from your eyes?  Your fingers spend as much time wiping your eyes and nose as they do typing.  This is the post all dog owners know they will write at some point.  The one you don’t *want* to write – EVER.

When we’re lucky, we find THAT dog.  That one that understands you, that pokes his nose under your hand when you’re sad, the one that can look at you with the goofiest grin just to make you smile.  The one that poses in his regal way even if he didn’t really like cameras.  The one that would work himself to death because you asked.  You know.  I’ve written about him for years.  I’ve posted photos and videos and stories and even won an amazing award with one of his photos.

I will say it.  On July 5, 2018, I had the vet drive all the way to the ranch to put Lucas to sleep under the shade of my cottonwood trees.  He deserved that at least.  He deserved so much more.  I could not bring myself to have him die in the vet’s office on a hard metal table with little yappy dogs in the background and the thousand smells of illness and pain.  So as the house wren sang and the ranch’s summer sounds of sprinklers and tractors serenaded him, The Good Doctor eased a shot into my sable boy and he slipped away underneath my loving hands.

I had been preparing for days… but all the preparation in the world still cannot ease the pain when the last breath of your best friend eases from his body.  I couldn’t write about it, I couldn’t think about it, I went on auto pilot for a bit.  I attended my Girl Scout reunion where unheard messages had been passed around and I received few words, thank goodness, because that would have tipped me over the edge into blubbering sobs, but instead I got quiet hugs, and short sympathetic phrases that I could handle.  They lifted me up as friends do and made me enjoy days that otherwise I would have wallowed in my tears.  Thanks, ladies…

Monday I had taken Lucas and Eden over to the vet for their first AI session of this cycle.  We’d tried it Saturday, but Lucas was uncooperative on his part.  This Monday AI session was more successful, at least Lucas produced some semen for Eden.  We returned home and I let them out of the Jeep.  After unloading groceries, I noticed Lucas laying in an unusual place, but didn’t think that much of it, until I came back out an hour later, and he was still there.  He was hurting and didn’t want to move.  I wasn’t sure if he had twisted something getting out of the car, or just had a catch in his get-along from AI-ing.  He had laid in the hot sun on a hot day, and we were concerned about heat stroke as he lapped up the water we held.

By dark, there was no doubt his current pain meds weren’t enough.  Victoria drug out my sleeping bags for me, and I pitched camp alongside Lucas in the grass.  I dozed through the night, 80% sure this was his last on earth.  It wasn’t, so in the morning we bundled him up and returned to the vet.  Blood work was good.  The exam by the Good Doctor found extreme pain in his neck and shoulder area.  He could have hurt himself getting out of the car… he could have slipped a disc.  With three bad legs, his one good one could no longer hold him up. 

He came home with steroids and extreme pain meds.  Forty eight hours was going to be the test period.  I kept him under the shade of the cottonwoods… he drank but wouldn’t eat.  He’d suffer the embarrassment of wetting himself because he couldn’t stand.  He’d raise his head and try to sit up in that famous Lucas pose, then flop over exhausted.  

I brushed and petted and cried and read to him and reminisced and told him how good of a dog he had always been.  I apologized for leaving when my Girl Scout obligations pulled me away, and held my breath when I returned, waiting for the white tip of his tail to wave at me as I drove in.  He scared me again and again… but he would open his eyes and lay a paw on top of my hand.  In concern or sympathy or forgiveness or even to simply ease his pain by elevating it a bit, I will never know.  

Lucas, “bringer of light”, had led me on a wonderful journey these past 12 years.  I learned about the English Shepherd breed.  I met people from all across the U.S.  I delved into dog training and breeding and acupressure and reading therapy and T-touch and genetics.  I brought in Elsa from De Butcher and sold puppies from coast to coast.  I raised Dally and met more people breeding her.  I made a website so people could find me and called it Rimrock English Shepherds… where I started a small sideline blog at first entitled “Overlook”.  

It was all because of Lucas Cade.  

Because he wasn’t just a Good Dog.  He was a Great Dog.  That final afternoon I told him so.  I told him to run far and fast on his newly healed legs.  To bounce through the grass with a goofy grin on his face with no pain for the first time in over eleven years.  I told him I’d be okay, that him being free from this extreme pain was more important than how I felt.  I told him to look up some guy named Charlie Burton, who taught me to love dogs… and that Jerri Burton would be there too.  She was the nice lady who went along on his acupuncture treatment.

I fell silent.  I ran my fingers through his lion mane.  I buried my face in his fur and breathed deeply.  I looked into those golden and brown eyes for the last time, and knew how lucky I have been to share my life with him.  My sister-in-law wrote, “Lucas has always been a special dog, not only for what he endured, but the spirit in which he endured it.”  That is perfect.

So Eden and I walk quietly around the place, glancing at his favorite shady spots by habit.  We expect his galumphing gait to sound across the floor.  She sniffs at where he lay that last time.  Vernon insisted on digging his grave, and oh, my… I thought I had myself under control until Vernon joined me in shedding some tears.  There was no doubt, Lucas Cade, that we loved you!  He now lays next to Elsa and Dally and Colt… just outside my studio.

For years, I’ve cried at the words of this poem, knowing that someday it’d be me saying the words…

“… if you’ve never owned a big Malamute (or English Shepherd), perhaps you can’t understand, that ol’ longing I get, especially at night, just to feel his big head in my hands.  So at times in the hush of an evening, when the winds have grown tired and are still, I’ll sit here just waiting for Memory to call, just hoping she’ll bring Big Wicked Bill (or Lucas Cade)!”

I love you, boy.  Good dog.



The End of a Journey — 48 Comments

  1. Damn Carol, Jack aka Yankee Nipper is here beside me with his head on my knee looking into my eyes wondering why I am so sad. These English Shepherds aren’t pets, I know everyone thinks their dog is the best and I have had some great dogs in the past. But the first English Shepherd I lived with was as a young boy , when I lost him it was three years before I could even be near the other dogs on the ranch. I look in to Jack’s eyes and know I will have to say goodbye to him some day not so far off. I said these guys aren’t pets, they are the most loyal best friend you will ever know, they are soulmates, you don’t own them , you share your life with them. I think of the story of Old Shep and know if I go first Jack will mourn me as much as I would him. I was blessed the day you called and said he was ours if we wanted him, That was one of the greatest gifts life has given me, just as know when we part it will be one of my saddest days. My heart truly goes out to you, I understand who and what Lucas was to you because I know where Jack came from and where he got all his wonderful qualities.

    • I shouldn’t have read this during my lunchtime at work! Now I’m all teary eyed! Of course, they also know what Lucas meant to me, so it’ll be ok. Thank you very much for your heart felt words, and I’m thrilled that Jack has become your soulmate/dog! Vernon caught me having a Miss Lucas Moment the other day… I think I will always have them. But I’m very happy I got to share his pups with so many wonderful people.

  2. oh Carol, we’re so sorry to hear of Lucas’s passing. We know how hard it is when a pet come to the end. Our lovely old cat had to be put to sleep a few months ago, and it was extremely emotional. Glad we got to meet Lucas.

  3. For the love of a dog…a lump in my throat and tears rising to the surface. To love is also to endure the heartache that comes trailing along as well. Such a sweet story of a gallant friend. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  4. Oh,so sad. I’m so sorry about Lucas. It really tears at me because I know I am facing losing our dear Sarah dog, who is 15 1/2 years old. I’m so sorry!

  5. Dear Carol, I have followed you for so many years. My heart breaks for the loss of your beloved Lucas. There are no words to describe the intense sense of loss of a pet as special as yours. We lost our beloved Fenway almost 14 years ago, and I still miss her daily. Our Kestrel is over 13, and I love on her as if it is her last day. She will get extra love and pets tonight. Peace and Hugs.

  6. The only bad part about dogs is that they don’t live nearly as long as we need them to. This was such a nice (but sad) post.

  7. So sorry to hear about Lucas, Carol! He was truly a great dog and what a great life he had as well!

    We parted with our dog of 13,5 years only three weeks ago and it was insanely hard to let her go. I’m afraid that we didn’t bear it stoically at all – we cried our eyes out. For several days. Maybe she and Lucas are hanging out on the rainbow bridge now – she always loved wrestling and racing with other dogs but couldn’t do it for many years because of her frail hips and back. I’m hoping she’s getting a chance to do it now, with whoever can keep up with her….

  8. I cried anew, remembering my Sarah, whom we put down just about a year ago. Oh, Lord, how they enrich our lives, and how hard it is when it’s time for them to go.

  9. Crying with you Carol! Thanks for sharing your wonderful words and tribute while in your deep sorrow.
    We lost our special little dog 3 years ago! They will always be part of your heart. Peace to you!

  10. Like many others, I’m crying with you. It’s so hard to lose our dearest friends. I saw the picture on Facebook while I was checking at work. I had a feeling and knew I couldn’t look at it there or I’d be a blubbering mess. *hugs*

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. Your well-written dedication to Lucas made me cry because I know the pain, sadness, and loss of having to say goodbye to a great dog.

  12. Oh, Carol, I am so very sorry for your loss of Lucas. He was your heart dog,
    I know. I can’t find all the words I’d like to send you in sympathy and support, because I also am sad. I loved him from a distance, and recently had a strange feeling that he might have gone to the Rainbow Bridge where he is running free. He certainly was a wonderful representative of the English Shepherd…loyal companion and worker…in touch with you as a thinking dog…soft paw touch to stay connected. A noble dog for sure. Please keep those happy memories of him always. I know I will.

  13. I’ve sat and cried as I read your post. So very sad for your loss of Lucas, but grateful that you have so many memories of your loyal friend. Under your cottonwoods: what a wonderful way to pass to the other side where there is no pain. RIP Lucas Cade

  14. Lucas was the most beautiful dog and his work ethic was amazing… How much he wanted to do in spite of how much he COULD do, and reading about how you always had to be the one to say that’ll do, long before he would give up. This one got me and I’m crying a river for the passing of your handsome dog, and knowing he is whole, perhaps already forgetting what it used to be like to run on three bad legs now that he is as perfect as he was intended to be, that only makes a bit of a smile through the gasping and weeping. Hugs to you. I sure hope that AI worked.

  15. No words will work to ease your pain, but know you are loved. So many lives the two of you have touched. So many of us forever changed because of your love for one dog and his love for you. Hugs from our family to yours.

  16. My heart hurts for you. We had to say goodbye to our sweet Millie after 15 years this Winter. So thankful for the time we had with her. Glad you have so many pictures and memories of Lucas to look back on. xoxoxo

  17. My heart goes out to you. As a working dog owner, there is nothing like watching dogs “do what they were trained to do” Take care.

  18. I am in tears…. I am very sorry for your loss. We know that pain all too well. It doesn’t fade nor does their memories. They take a piece of our heart and in its place, they leave a piece of theirs.

  19. It is so sad to lose a good pet friend, mine was Sam, a cocker spaniel I had for 13 years before his heart gave out, cried my eyes out- for the longest time I would look outside to ck. on him- RIP Lucas

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