Lacey, Fred, and Pepper

I’ve been putting off writing this not because I didn’t want to do it but because it is tough to write. When my wife and I got married at age 24 she had a Chihuahua named Buster that was getting up in years. He was getting fairly senile and had gone pretty much blind at that point. She had had him since she was a young girl.

For a short time after we got married, we lived with her Mom who had been widowed long before my wife and I ever met. Her Mom had never lived alone after she was widowed and welcomed the company. I was able to repair things around the house and on their vehicles which helped them out quite a bit.

Enter Lacey. After the wedding, Buster’s health began to slide. We had spent the weekend at my best friend’s (also the Best Man in our wedding) place out of town. His then wife had a Yorkshire Terrier that had a litter while we were there. My wife thought they were “really cute”. We enjoyed holding them and she mentioned something on the way home about wanting one. What she didn’t know at the time is that they had all already been spoken for. I mentioned that we would be interested in one from the next litter to my friend. Little did we know that we would later have the pick of the litter delivered free of charge later that year.

We were still saving money and trying to get a place of our own when the call came in. Lacey had been picked by one of my friend’s in-laws that lived on the farm with young children. One thing worthy of mention is that the smaller the dog, the bigger they think they are. By the time Lacey was six months old she had been snake bitten and had broken one of her front legs. Henceā€¦ the farm was NOT the place for her. That’s when she entered our lives. There is no doubt in my mind that God had a hand in it. At that time Buster’s health was really starting to slide.

The intent was for Lacey to take up with my wife before the inevitable with Buster took place. Sometimes, you don’t get to pick your dogs. They pick you. Contrary to what I had thought Lacey took up with me. Eventually she made friends with my wife but there was no question that she was my dog. I took a lot of ribbing for having a “sissy dog” but never really cared about it.

As time rolled on and we were closer to moving into a place of our own, Buster had a stroke and fell down a flight of about 17 stairs. We had planned on going out with friends that night but they ended up going with us to the animal emergency room instead. That’s when I discovered that my wife was incapable of putting Buster (or any animal) down. She could make the call but wanted someone else to do it. That was the first time that I ever had to do something like that. The situation was hopeless and he was in a lot of pain. It had to be done.

Enter Fred. Several months after that when we were packing up to move to our first home together, a Beagle pup showed up in the back yard and hid under one of the bushes. The only time that he would come out of hiding was when nobody was around and Lacey was the only one in the backyard. My wife wanted to keep him right from the start but the right thing to do was to find out who the owner was. We didn’t like what we found out. The reason Fred ran away and his was that his owner was an alcoholic with a violent temper. More times then not, he would beat him. We would later find out that he had been beaten to the point that he had neurological damage as a result and was prone to seizures. That was not until years later. After finding out why he ran away we decided that he WAS NOT getting his dog back.

We only had to keep him out of sight for the next 48 hours until we moved. That was the day that we named him Fred after the Basset Hound in Smokey and the Bandit that wouldn’t “get in the truck!” As a parting shot, Fred gave his former owner a blood curdling growl as we drove by his old home on our way out of town. I’m not totally sure but I suspect that that translated into English something along the lines of “dirty rotten (expletive deleted)”. Again, that’s just a guess. Fred became my wife’s confidant.

When we moved out it posed another problem. My mother-in-law had always had someone around ever since she had lost her husband. She was in her late sixties at the time when we moved out and the empty nest syndrome hit hard and fast. After talking it over, we decided that she needed someone to keep her company.

Enter Pepper. Pepper was the first dog that we had ever rescued from the dog pound. Up until that time we had always had the dogs choose us. Having been out on our own for a short time money was tight and buying a dog from a pet store or from a breeder was out of the question. In all honesty, it was impossible.

For those of you that have never been into a pound or a shelter, they are very sad places to be. Pepper was the most lively of the bunch. She was doing everything that she could to draw our attention… walking on her hind legs and the whole nine yards. Pepper was just a dog of no particular breed or pedigree but there was something about the energy and character that she exhibited. She had come from a home where she had been abused and neglected. The staff at the pound had brought her back to a healthy condition and she WANTED OUT! We didn’t want a small dog for my mother-in-law as she was older and did not move quite as well as in earlier years. A larger dog that had the puppy mentality fit the bill perfectly. Pepper was her friend, confidant, and companion. Many years later, she was diagnosed with Leukemia, and after losing a prolonged battle with the disease, Pepper came to live with us.

A couple of years after that happened, Fred’s seizures began to cycle closer and closer together. Eventually, it reached the point that he was no longer able to function, control his body, and had not a clue where he was any longer. I got a call at the office from my wife who was obviously distraught telling me that it was time. “I’ll be right there.” Even though she told me to do it, and we both knew that it was time, it still didn’t change that feeling of being one inch tall when I handed her the collar and tags that evening.

Not long after that, Lacey suffered a stroke while we were at work. It was obvious when we got home that the end would have to come that evening. After spending a little time saying goodbyes, my wife drove us to the Animal Emergency Room. There was no way that I was fit to drive there. At that moment I began to understand why my wife was not able to do that on her own. Putting an end to an animal that has become a part of your life is in no way an easy thing to do. Sure, I’d been attached to her dogs but it just wasn’t the same thing. I’m not sure how to explain that fully. It just wasn’t the same.

After the wounds from that sort of healed our son and I went out and bought a Basset Hound pup and named him Earnhardt because Pepper was out of sorts (as well as the rest of us) with none of the original gang around.

Now Pepper is the only one left of the original gang of three that nobody wanted and her health is beginning to fail. When the time comes, it is going to be particularly rough on the both of us. Pepper is one of the last constant ties that she has to her Mom. We only see her side of the family occasionally. We both know what is on the horizon and are not looking forward to it. Any way you look at it, this is going to be rough.

Pets are not something that you just feed and water. They become a part of you, a part of your family, and a part of your life.

Alan from Missouri