Once upon a time there was a little yellow labrador retriever named Dixie. She was bought by a young man who wanted a cute little puppy to love, and at first he adored her. She was tiny and adorable in that rolly poly way that all puppies are, and they had great times together. But soon the young man had to leave for college and he left Dixie behind at his parents’ home where the young dog was kept outside all day long. She got into mischief, became a barker, and grew into an unwieldy seven month old puppy, who was more wild than cute. (Although definitely still pretty cute.)
In desperation, the man’s parents called Lone Star Labs, a local rescue organization whose mission is to care for and rehome lost, abandoned, or unwanted labrador retrievers. Lone Star saw potential in little Dixie, and they had almost immediate interest in her from a family who had four kids and wanted a lab puppy to call their own. But the family couldn’t take her immediately due to some personal conflicts, so Lone Star turned to one of their foster families to take her in for a long weekend until she could go to her permanent home. You may remember this post chronicling her arrival at the Hornes’. Miss Dixie spent a nice April weekend enjoying the hospitality offered to her at House of Horne.
Early the next week Dixie went to meet her new family….it should have been a beautiful, happy moment for everyone, but it wasn’t. Evidently Dixie, in her puppy exuberance, jumped on several of the children, and the mother decided almost immediately that there was no way they could take this wild young thing into their home. Miss Dixie had to go back to her foster family, who were only too glad to see her, and welcomed her back with open paws.
For the next several weeks, the little golden puppy charmed her foster family, who admittedly fell in love with her fairly quickly. During Dixie’s prolonged second stay, the lady of the house was nuts enough to take on yet another adorable puppy for a couple of weeks who needed a place to lay her head until she found her forever family. This puppy was younger, and the lady of the house was forced to get up in the wee hours of the night to let her outside to “do her business”, but she didn’t mind. Well, at least not too much…how could you resist this little face?
I am happy to say that today sweet Lulu puppy continues to enjoy a blissful existence at the home of some dear church friends of ours with five children, and a lot of love to give.
By middle of May, the family decided Dixie was a keeper; they changed her name to Lucy, and happily settled into life with the exuberant puppy whom everyone agreed was a perfect fit for their family.
And she was:
She played frisbee with her favorite boy as often as he’d let her.
She lay beside the baby of the family when he was sick:
She happily snuggled whomever had a hug to give:
And life was good.
In October, when the Daddy of the family found himself out of work after his startup company failed in the infamous economic downturn of 2008, Lucy was there. She was a compassionate friend, and became his shadow day in and day out. She lay beside him at his desk while he searched for jobs. She ran to catch the frisbee again and again when he needed some fresh air, and a break from the long drawn-out search. She snuggled next to him in his leather chair while he drank his beer in the evening, and was just a wonderful, if a bit hyperactive canine companion.
And then, in August of 2009, the Daddy of the family returned to work. His new job was far away, too far to enable him to spend many long evenings throwing the frisbee for Lucy. She began to miss her “favorite boy” who had been home and personally available to her each and every day for ten long months. Instead now, the children in the family, who were home most days, took breaks in between their studies to play ball with her, romp in the yard alongside her, or play a fierce game of tug of war. The mommy lavished what affection she could upon the golden yellow doggie, and even learned to throw a decent frisbee for Lucy to retrieve. And yet, Lucy remained unhappy without the man of the house around to personally attend to her.
How did the people of the house know that the doggie was unhappy? Well, because she told them so in no uncertain terms: by regularly doing her potty business inside the house instead of outside as the Good Lord intended for doggies to do. (And as Lucy herself had done very proficiently for over 15 months since joining the Horne Household.) This was a messy state of affairs. I am sparing you the gory details, but suffice to say it is not fun to deal with doggie mess on bedroom carpet again and again and again.
After three months of Lucy continuing to eliminate inside the house, the family was sober. They loved Lucy, but couldn’t seem to help her shake her nasty new habits, no matter how they tried. They contacted their friend*** at Lone Star who confirmed their suspicion that Lucy wasn’t adjusting to her boy being gone during the day at his new job, offered some suggestions to try to help, and asked them to please check in again soon to keep them posted on Lucy’s progress.
And things continued in the same way. After six months of efforts and no change in Lucy’s behavior, the Lone Star contact suggested something new. She remembered Lucy’s prowess with the frisbee, and wondered if Lucy was just as enthusiastic with a ball. The family assured her that yes, she was, and the wonderful contact suggested that perhaps Miss Lucy needed a job to keep her busy. She told the Hornes all about the GAP: (which stands for Gifted Animal Placement) a program which trains dogs who have unusually high drive to focus and retrieve, to use these skills in a variety of jobs, many of them assisting with local police and law enforcement. Most dogs which succeed as GAP animals are so intensely focused that they often struggle to live a quiet life as an ordinary, albeit adored family pet.
In February, Lucy had her first GAP evaluation test: she passed with flying colors. The dog was, as they like to say in the GAP world, “ball-obsessed“! The Lone Star representative said in all her years working in dog rescue that she had only ever seen one other lab with skills like Lucy, and that she was truly a special and talented doggie. Armed with this knowledge, the Lone Star folks began searching for an actual job opening for the talented Lucy. Meanwhile, Lucy’s family, who loved her dearly, and hated the notion of her leaving, but didn’t know what else to do, began praying for the dog people to find the perfect spot for their sweet Lucy. The children prayed especially hard, though they always added afterward that they hated the idea of having to say goodbye to their beloved lab.
In April, the call came: a trainer from Austin would be in town over Easter weekend to run all prescreened GAP dogs through her training evaluation. She was specifically looking for dogs who could be trained in drug and peanut detection. This was Lucy’s big chance! Her family got her rested up for her big day, and they asked their family and closest friends to please pray extra hard that she would sail through the test like a champ.
And she did! (Thanks go out to all who prayed!) Lucy was one of the special dogs chosen by Austin trainer Sharon Perry to enter the program as a drug detection dog trainee. Even now, Lucy is a few weeks into her very important training to learn to be a police dog! Once she has completed her training with Sharon, she will be matched with a “human police officer” and as a team they will spend their days sniffing out narcotics in places like schools, and airports. Miss Lucy will be doing her part to take a bite out of crime! Of course, Lucy won’t know that. From her point of view, she will only know that someone is paid good money to play with her all. day. long. One can safely believe that she will be as happy as a dog can be with her newfound job.
This is all somewhat bittersweet for the family who raised her from puppyhood to adulthood, and bonded with her in the process. There is something beautiful about the creatures God made being able to work at a vocation which will truly help protect people, and drug detection dogs do just that. So the Hornes are proud of their Lucy and the work she will do to make the world a better place.
And yet, there is a hole in the Horne household since Lucy has gone. For all her hyper antics, and naughty behavior in the house, Lucy was a loving dog, and the family had no doubts as to her affection for them. The boys of the house have felt her absence most keenly. Lucy slept in their room and “guarded” them at night, and they miss her. Now in the evenings, when they pray and thank God for finding Lucy such a good “job”, the boys shed a tear or two even as they utter their thankfulness. Precious kids. And in addition to thanking God…they have now added a new request to their evening prayers: that God will bring them a new puppy someday to sleep in their room and be their friend.
* **We received very sad news early this week that our Lone Star contact lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly. He was only 43 years old, and leaves behind not just his wife, but their two young children. If you think to pray for God’s comfort for this family, I know they are desperately in need of it.