Everybody loved Lucy, my longhair Chihuahua who passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 21 at the age of 13. Attitude. Sass. A sense of self-importance. The aloofness of a cat. Personality up the wazoo. Lucy had it all – along with a healthy dose of cuteness that combined to endear her to so many people worldwide. How my diva dog packed it all into that pint-sized body of hers, I’ll never know.
She was my Lucia when she was good; my Lucifer when she was not. My road dog. My pampered petsetter. Over the years, we called Los Angeles, Florence, Positano, New York and San Francisco home and traveled together to more than 10 countries. We slept together in the finest hotels and some dumps when times were tough.
Since her passing, I’ve been comforted by emails, phone calls, greeting cards and the hundreds of messages of condolences on Facebook, where people changed their profile picture to one of them and Lucy, posted photos of them with her or simply wrote of the time they met her. Those who never met her wrote how they felt they had after reading our tails of adventure. And there were many.
For 13 years, my principessa lived a life better than most people. First class airline travel. Doggie massages at Esperanza resort in Cabo San Lucas, Peninsula Chicago and Trump Las Vegas to name a few. Blueberry facials and pawdicures in several locales. Room service at Le Byblos in St. Tropez and many other five-star hotels on various continents. Turndown service at the Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna. Helicopter rides over the Mediterranean and Lake Minnewanka in Banff. Lounging at beach clubs along Pampelonne Beach. The plushest of dog beds in Nice and Madrid. Lunch at a mansion on Martinique. Her name embroidered on placemats at the Mandarin Oriental Paris and Four Seasons George V. Strutting in a sequined cocktail dress with feathers in a doggie fashion show in San Francisco. Hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities. A photo shoot for People magazine. A canine cruise in Chicago. Being walked by a canine concierge in Dallas. Taking in an off-Broadway play in New York. Nothing was too good for my Lucy. And didn’t she know it?!!
Because she was so quiet and well-behaved, she was welcomed into the homes of friends, at weddings and inside businesses. And when she wasn’t, well, I didn’t let that stop me. There was no place I didn’t feel comfortable sneaking her in. She discretely went to Michelin-starred restaurants, churches, movie theaters, grocery stores, hospitals, nightclubs, graduations, on non-pet-friendly airlines and in hotels that didn’t allow dogs.
Although she didn’t like it, we went to dog parks too. The first time we went a dog peed on my foot as I chatted with his human. I could have sworn I heard Lucy laugh and say, “Now can we go home?”
She never understood why dogs sniffed each other’s butts. To her, it was unladylike and I only saw her do it about 10 times in 13 years. Don’t even thinking about sniffing hers.
No matter how much I tried to socialize her with other canines, she wanted nothing to do with her kind. Just a few days after she became my family member, I took her to see her brother from the same litter. Lucy took one look at her sibling Mouse, a pet therapy dog at Children’s Hospital in L.A., and turned her body around so she wouldn’t have to face him.
The only dog she took a liking to was Tequila, a male Papillon who lives in Malibu. Though they’ve known each other for years, it was just three years ago when they became BFFs. But Lucy’s infatuation was short lived. When she saw Tequila earlier this year she snapped at him like she did all of the other dogs that entered her space. Yes, she grew old and crotchety just like some humans I know but I still loved her like a child because that’s what she was to me.
Most people who have never had a pet don’t understand how pawrents could ever consider a dog or cat a child. Lucy and I spent an inordinate of time together during our 13 years as a duo, certainly more than humans and their offspring. Except for a year or so when I went into the office every day at People in New York, I worked from home the entire time I had my pooch. Lucy never left for school or daycare like kids do.
I toted her to celebrity interviews, where she served as the perfect ice breaker, when I ran errands, on first dates because she was good for sizing up men, and on a good deal of my business and personal trips. The pitter patter of her tiny paws when she got up to drink water in the middle of the night sounded like she walking in high heels but made any hotel room feel like home.
Though she had four legs, she didn’t consider herself a dog. She was a princess trapped in a longhair Chihuahua’s body. Just one of the girls who loved to be right up in the mix when I sipped wine with my girlfriends.
During my week-long 40th birthday celebration with a throng of friends at Villa Mia outside of Puerto Vallarta, she was the star, going from one lap to another when she wasn’t hanging out in the kitchen with her peeps. It was rare when she didn’t travel with me. We’ve been to so many cities that it would take me a month to count them all.
I have so many wonderful memories to comfort me right now. One of my fondest is the side-by-side massage we enjoyed at La Quinta Resort & Spa near Palm Springs.
Our luxurious travels inspired me to launch TheJetSetPets.com so I could help other pet parents take their fur babies with them. For a while, she earned money blogging about her journeys for AOL’s PawNation and was recently paid to write an article about her travels for Cesar Millan’s Cesar’s Way. Without her, I never would have landed the book deal to write The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel for National Geographic Books, which features 75 great destinations in the U.S. and Canada to vacation with a dog. Of all the places we visited in the U.S., there’s not a more pet-friendly place than Carmel-by-the-Sea as you can see in the video below. A trip there will never be the same without Lucy.
I’m still not sure what took her life. At first I thought it was neurological damage but after her vet called me yesterday, it could have been heart related. I don’t need a necropsy done because it’s not going to change anything.
When I first got Lucy, she was nine months old. During one of her first visits to the vet with me, I was told that she had a soft spot in her skull, called the fontanels, where her skull hadn’t completely closed; and that in a couple of years she may start walking into walls. She never did. But when we lived in New York, a vet noticed how her nails were wearing unevenly, a sign that she was dragging her paws and which could signify a neurological problem. She had a fierce waddle that delighted onlookers but was likely spine related. Over the years, she showed signs of aging when she stopped chasing birds and running in the sand on the beach and slowed her walk to a snail’s pace. Nothing abnormal for a senior dog. She dragged one leg only in the beginning of the morning walk then would be fine. Still, a vet, fearing neurological damage, had told me a few months ago to always be aware of the closest neurological center when we traveled. Thankfully I never needed one.
Thirteen is young by Chihuahua standards and I figured I’d get another two or three years out of Lucy. Judging by how much she had slowed down, I didn’t think it was fair to make her travel as extensively as we’ve done for so many years. And the timing was perfect when in August I became the Editor of Haute Living Magazine San Francisco, a position that requires me to be in the City by the Bay more often than not. She had been up and down over the last couple of weeks. My little Lucy always ran to my feet when she heard me pull the knife from the kitchen drawer and the chopping board hit the counter. She’d stare up at me with those large, black Chihuahua eyes of hers and demand her share of vegetables. Just like me, she loved bell peppers (only the orange, red or yellow ones — no green) and cucumbers. When I chopped veggies two weeks ago she didn’t budge from her preferred resting place in the living room, I knew something was wrong. Just not seriously wrong. She had become a regular at my nearby vet as I was doing everything I could to keep her healthy, including taking her to a second vet last month. She went in last Tuesday for a rabies shot but had a slight fever so didn’t receive it. I expressed concern about her inability to walk at times. She was put on a yoga mat and got up and walked away just fine. A possible visit to a neurologist was mentioned.
Two days later she returned to the vet and, with her temperature normal, received her rabies shot. I asked if her lungs and heart were OK because my beau and I could sometimes hear her breathing. Plus, she had seen a cardiologist a year ago after I rushed her to the emergency room late one night because I was concerned about her constant heavy breathing at night. Last Thursday the vet said everything sounded fine and she gave me the go-ahead to give Lucy more protein, the only thing Lucy would eat by now. I was still concerned about her wobbly legs. Rather than subject her to anesthesia for an MRI at a neurologist, the vet suggested acupuncture and recommended one that made house calls. Now eating chicken, Lucy rallied and her energy returned. As she always did when it was time to go out for a stroll, she eagerly hopped in her tote bag. Still, she looked like the town drunk as she wobbled down Fillmore Street on our thrice-daily walks. Passers-by sympathized and offered advice. On Sunday, she declined once again. She was lethargic and refused to eat, which had become her normal pattern so I figured she’d rebound once again. Still, I made an appointment to see her usual vet on Monday and contacted the holistic vet for the next available appointment, which wasn’t until today (Tuesday)—appointments I would never need. When I stood Lucy up in front of her water dish, she took a few laps of water and her head fell forward in the bowl. She had taken her last breath. I scooped her up and rushed her limp body two blocks to the vet. She was already gone. They were so kind at the Pacific Heights Campus of the SF SPCA, formerly known as Pets Unlimited. She was placed in a towel and I was allowed to have some time alone with her in a private room. I texted my beau, Bill, “she’s dead” and he hurried down the street. He loved Lucy too. They had a special bond. They spent their afternoons at the coffee shop and she did the “snack dance” for him every evening around 6 p.m. When we traveled, she preferred to sleep on the floor on his side of the bed.
But it was when he went through an extremely difficult time last fall that she really expressed her affection for him. After he had a complete rhinectomy (surgical removal of the nose) due to cancer inside of his nose, she stayed by his side. We slept in his hospital room for two nights. When we returned home and the nurses made daily house calls to change his bandages, she was right there watching their every move as if to tell the nurses, “Don’t hurt him. I’m watching you.” He has survived. Lucy did not. In the private room at the vet, we cried together, his salty tears unloosening the glue that secures his prosthetic nose. A sign it was time to say our last goodbye to Lucy and go home. I removed her beautiful orange Italian leather collar and put it in my purse. Walking home from the vet hand in hand, I told my beau that we had to move. I can’t bear to live in Pacific Heights, where dogs are everywhere, without having a dog. I’m a volunteer dog walker at the SF SPCA shelter that sits right above the vet. I’ve fallen in love with many of the dogs before they were adopted. Last night at dinner, which wasn’t the same without her sitting on the floor between us with begging/pleading eyes, we talked about getting one of the dogs from the shelter when the time is right. I tear up when I look at the vacant space in the kitchen where Lucy’s custom-made feeding dishes sat and the spot in the living room where we kept her soft pink bed. The emptiness reflects the hole in my heart. Rest in peace, my little Lucy. Everybody loved you but no one more than I.
Here are just a few of the places Lucy and I traveled to together and some of the people she’s met over the years. Click on any image to play as a slideshow.