On Wednesday 5 April 2017 at 9.15am we farewelled our best friend, our companion, our fur-baby, our angel, my bubba Lucas. Losing a beloved pet is losing a member of the family. The grief, sadness, anger, regret and pain are very real. All too real. Maybe because they become so completely devoted and reliant on us. They adore us, they worship us, they wait patiently for us to come home (even if we've just gone to the letter box) they want nothing more than cuddles, to be around us and kind words, and chicken. Lucas always wanted chicken (and liver treats, any treats really, oh and food, didn't matter what, if we were eating it, he wanted it).
We didn't set out to get a puppy that Sunday back in December 2004. Emilio hadn't even been given permanent residence in the country! Just another Sunday afternoon walk along Chapel Street to buy bread and milk. And there he was, in a pet shop window all by himself. Now I'm not proud of the fact that we supported the puppy farm industry that day. Must admit I was more ignorant then than now and I wholeheartedly support the closure of all puppy farms (I want Oscar's Law) and adopt don't shop. But we went in and came out with a 10 week old wriggly bundle that was soon to be named Lucas.
We didn't have food, toys, a bed or anything really for a puppy. Hell, we hadn't even remembered to buy the bread and milk! We didn't even have that much furniture in those days and lived in a little rented 2 bedroom house in South Yarra where we hadn't asked if we could have a dog.
Minor details. We had Lucas. From day 1 he was a little whirlwind. A bundle of energy constantly tripping over his own ears. A piddling, playful puppy who howled when we left him in the laundry at night. Luckily Emi was studying at the time and worked in the evenings so he was rarely home alone for too long. Which was a good thing because he was destructive! Lucas's penchant was for wood and cardboard. He chewed the coffee table, he chewed the wall unit, he chewed our wedding albums, he chewed anything we left on the shelf under the coffee table, and progressed to anything on the coffee table as he grew and any photo frame within his reach soon became "lame" as he seemed to love the bit that props them up at the back.
He liked his toys, but fell in love with the frog draught stopper. And when I say "love" I really mean lust. He did unmentionable things to that poor frog and carried it around with him everywhere. Like his security blanket, he eventually grew out of it and it had to go.
His, and our first Christmas in Melbourne and we spent it with the Old Duck's family in Ararat. Lucas was an additional unexpected guest. I'll never forget finding farmer Baz rolling around on the floor with him in the lounge room, his words, "he's a good little fella".
One night Emilio came home to find me in tears with scratches all over my arms. Lucas had spent the night hurling himself at me biting, scratching and wanting to play. I hate to say it, but at that moment, I thought what the hell have we done? Another night I went to bed at 11.30. Emi was due home around midnight so I made the mistake of thinking OK, I'll leave him in the lounge to see how he goes. 30 minutes is a long time in puppy years. Somehow he managed to knock everything off the coffee table, destroy several magazines, eat a photo frame and score the jackpot - a whole bowl of little solid Easter eggs. Which he of course ate, foil and all. Now we all know that chocolate is not good for dogs so we anxiously watched for any signs of illness. The only reaction, very colourful poop over the next couple of days.
The day we collected our car in January 2005 was special. Not because after 8 months without one we finally had a car, but because for the first time we were able to take Lucas to the beach. St Kilda on a warm Wednesday evening. He was not happy when Emi threw him in. But it was the start of his love affair with the beach, with puddles, rivers, any water really - well maybe not so much warm bath water whilst getting a wash.
Ah it's fun being a puppy in South Yarra! We lived near big, beautiful Fawkner Park where Lucas soon made lots of friends. The great thing about having a puppy when you are new to an area? We got to meet loads of new friends as well. Every evening was a little doggy community gathering. Lucas's BFF's at the time, Buster, Paco and Lulu. All around the same age, Buster and Lucas in particular were inseparable - sometime literally, as they tussled for hours. He would get home, with ears sopping wet, and once his belly was full, would fall into a doggy dreamland where he was still chasing Buster and where they finally caught the rabbit. He also met his surrogate "dad" Leo, a beautiful standard poodle who he loved and respected at the same time.
Lucas was a babe magnet. Not so much the four legged kind like him (in fact, it seems that male dogs found him far more attractive than female dogs), but the 2 legged kind. Now Emi has never been a mad keen shopper so I had no idea why he seemed to like spending so much time walking down Chapel Street. Until I saw the 2 of them in action. The shoestring strap top incident will go down in history. 23, tall, long hair, sunny day. Oh look at the gorgeous puppy! I too have been known to bend down and let them jump up for kisses and so I can smell their puppy breath (nothing beats the smell of puppy breath - until they discover that poo can sometimes taste great). Unfortunately for this young lady, Lucas managed to get his paw caught in her top and pulled the whole thing down breaking the straps in the process. Now I guess if I had young, firm pert breasts, I wouldn't worry too much about wearing a bra either. Anyway suffice to say, there was embarrassment and apologies (neither of which came from Lucas) and a hasty retreat (probably to the nearest clothing store). I thought Emilio could have waited more than 30 seconds to bend down and tell Lucas what a good boy he was. And how the hell he ever taught him that, I have no idea.
Lucas has nuzzled ONJ's (Olivia Newton John's) breasts too. She's a dog lover that bends down to receive puppy kisses too and as it happened, shopped at the local South Yarra Woolies.
There were very many other funny incidents. The whole, hot tortilla off the table (note to selves, never, ever trust a dog no matter how well trained to not remove unattended food that has been left at nose level), the no I was not scrounging in the bin even if I have somehow managed to get the bin lid stuck around my neck, or the not me, I did not smash that plate trying to steal food off the kitchen counter. The night he found a hot roast chicken, and the countless mornings I would be screaming at him like a mad women because he was sitting in a muddy puddle and I was going to be once again late for work. If there was a puddle, he would find it and he knew ever single goddamn puddle at Fawkner Park. So many wonderful memories.
In April 2006, along came Lola, a baby sister for Lucas. Not quiet the second cocker spaniel we had planned on, but hey, these things happen - an unplanned adoption if you like. He wasn't overly impressed, but gradually came to accept her although they were never completely enamoured with one another. Still they played together and he was good at sharing his toys (food, not so much). Not so happy when Buster seemed to fall in love with Lola and want to spend his whole time licking her rather than playing with him, but that's what happens when your bestie gets a girlfriend.
We moved to Coburg. He made new friends. We really missed South Yarra, but maybe we really missed Fawkner Park, we went back. Ah it was good to be back in the hood. Holidays were spent staying at Jane's with the zoo! What fun, dogs and cats to play with all day long! People came and stayed, they too came under the spell that is Lucas. Life was one big doggy party with lots of friends, walk, parks and beaches.
Oh and weekends away! Lucas loved the car. The car meant one thing, doggy adventures and maybe some fishing! Whenever we were packing to go away, there would be Lucas, by the front door waiting. He hated when we went away without him, although he always had so many wonderful people who have cared for him over the years. But on the trips when he came with us, he was happy. The slightest sniff of ocean would set him off. The nose would quiver and point out the window, the eyes would close and the ears would be flapping in the breeze. Fishing with dad was the best. In would go the lure, in would go Lucas. Waves - no problem. Several times he would be sent tumbling to the shore, but that was OK, he'd be straight back in. So many places visited, so many new sniffs and smells, so happy that there are so many doggy friendly holiday houses out there.
Between play, came work. The best thing was being able to go on site with dad, was that Lucas got to dig in new gardens - just like his dad! Some houses even had other dogs to play with. And even days where he had to sit tied up to the trailer were fine too, 'cos he got to watch and be close to his dad.
2011 and the big move to Perth. Lucas and Lola cross the Nullarbor. Another new adventure! A whole new city to explore, new family and friends to make and meet. A house with a huge back garden - different after growing up living in areas with only small gardens. Different plants, new smells and even a whole new ocean! And then in 2013, it was back in the car for the return trip across the Nullarbor, this time with Christian in the car instead of mummy. Back to Melbourne, home again.
Carnegie, a different suburb, we missed Fawkner Park, but this was nice too. Still plenty of walking, playtime, working with dad and going away on weekends.
2014, the big 1-0! What an amazing 10 years those eyes had seen, that nose had sniffed, those long floppy ears had heard and those paws had covered. Over the years there have been many trips to the vet (I'm sure we have put many a vet's children through uni). There was the severe ear infection (and being a cocker spaniel that loved water, we can consider ourselves lucky that there was only ever one really bad one), the arthritis that crept in, eye infections, rat poison ingestion (really Lucas - with all the delicious food we gave you), the lumps and bumps and all the little mishaps (paw caught in door and nail ripped out - ouch. The bandage the vet carefully applied that had lovely ladybugs on it cost $20 and lasted about 30 seconds) that show a life well lived.
Christmas 2015 and another long car trip and Lucas's first ferry ride to Kangaroo Island. For a dog that loved water, he certainly loved being in it rather than on it. Yet another ocean to swim in. Lucas did more kilometres than most people do in their whole lives.
And then the holy grail, in 2016 we moved 5 minutes from the beach! Ah to be able to wake up every morning and smell the salt air. To spend many hours walking along, swimming, running and chasing the ball. Yes, by then he'd return home tired and limping, but the joy in his eyes shone bright.
Sadly, it was short lived and mid August Lucas ruptured a disc in his back. He hated being in hospital and seeing him like that broke our hearts. We got him home as soon as possible and it was a slow, but steady recovery. Back surgery wasn't going to stop him and although he now slightly dragged one of his back legs and struggled to walk for too long, his eyes still lit up at the sight of the beach. Barking and wagging his tail, he'd still want to chase his ball and swim. Maybe swimming and the cold water helped ease the pain in his legs. We sometimes thought it was too much for him, but couldn't take away that joy. There was only ever one direction he ever wanted to head in when we went out for a walk.
The decision to not go on anymore trips without him was an easy one. He has always been a sooky boy, but maybe as he grew older (and grumpier), he needed to be close to us. He hated us leaving him for any length of time and would be our constant shadow at home. Always needing to be in contact and know we were close by. His spirit the last few months was amazing. Even last weekend he was running, barking and swimming at the beach. And at night he would rest his head on my lap and look at me with those beautiful eyes that seemed to say thanks mum, I had a great day. Deep down I knew we didn't have long. I thought 2 more years would be fantastic, I would settle for 1 as long as he wasn't in too much pain.
In the end if was quick. Maybe we was wiser and stronger than we are. And when the pain got too much for him and he could see the pain in our eyes, maybe he decided it's time. I think on Tuesday night we both knew. The emergency hospital where he had his operation was out of the question. We would sit with him and hold him and tell him how much we loved him. And we hoped for a miracle. That come morning, he would be able to stand and all would be well. Maybe it was just a pinched nerve. Morning came, his ability to stand did not. We looked in his eyes and he looked back with a sense of calm and love. Maybe that's what we needed to see.
The trip to the vet was one of the hardest we have ever had to make. Yes, it appeared another disc had ruptured. There were no guarantees that another operation would work or would it just prolong the pain? Yes, he was getting old. Maybe the additional time we had with him since his surgery made the decision to let go that little bit easier. We would not put him through all of that again.
Lucas fell asleep in our arms peacefully knowing he was very much loved and that he would be truly missed. The house is not the same without him. It feels empty. On Wednesday afternoon we took Lola to the beach to watch the sunset. She had a play with his favourite ball and then we threw it into the bay so he would forever be able to run, chase and splash after that ball.
At home a candle burns to light his way. When his ashes are returned to us we will set them free in the sea he loved so much. We don't need to keep them, he will forever be in our hearts and memories.
RIP my beautiful boy and thank you for making our lives so much better for having you in it.