Lucky was the name I gave to a yellow shepherd-collie mix with the honest-to-goodness face of a deer that my friend Debbie and I rescued from a freeway onramp. This was back in 1994 when the two of us, fresh out of college, went to work in San Jose – or as we Santa Cruzan’s often refer to it – over the hill. I remember that day like it was yesterday: we had just finished lunch at Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food and were heading back to the office when we spotted her. Debbie had driven that day so we were in her little white Fiat with the top down, and before you could say boo she had brought that car to a dead stop in the middle of the intersection of First and Burton. It seemed like time suddenly came to a standstill. There were no sounds of lunch-hour traffic, no voices – just a sweet and scared, angel of a dog standing there – and I got out and scooped her up.
She was wearing a collar with the name Lovey and a phone number. Upon calling the number from the payphone at a gas station on the corner, a boy’s voice answered (in what seemed like cruel sarcasm to me at the time), “We don’t have a dog.” So Debbie and I proceeded to put fliers up around the intersection, called the local humane society, and placed a classified ad in the Mercury News. When our attempts to find Lucky’s owner failed, I kept her. We had brought her home to Santa Cruz after work the day we found her, her honey-colored ears flapping in the wind over Highway 17 in Debbie’s sporty-little convertible. I’m quite sure we captured the envy of most other commuters that day, if not the rewards of attention – two girls in a convertible with smiles plastered on their faces, and between them, the luckiest dog on the planet!
Lucky was the first dog I’d had since being a teenager. I renamed her Lucky and we made stories up about who might have named her Lovey, and joked about Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island calling out for Mrs. Howell, “Lovey… oh, Lovey.” I still giggle today thinking of calling her that. I secretly wonder, however, if Lucky belonged to a sweet-little-old lady (or man) who died or was in a car crash, accidently leaving “Lovey” to fend for herself. Lucky had been well trained by someone – she had, hands down, the best manners of any dog I had known prior or have known since.
Not long ago I wrote about how people who rescue animals are they themselves rescued. Lucky was the first dog to do that for me. I’d had two dogs before. One was Shoni - I’d brought her home from the Santa Cruz Spring Fair when I was 13 years old. The other was Sinbad and I was 17 when an old boyfriend and I got him, though I honestly don’t remember the circumstances. Shoni and Sinbad were both brown, black and tan lab-shepherd mixes. Shoni, unfortunately, spent most of her life tethered outside to a dog house, her care provided for by my parents. Sinbad, sadly, died on Christmas morning 1978 of Distemper – he wasn’t even a year old. Lucky, bless her angelic heart (and the magic of grace), taught me through our unconditional love for each other that I could eventually forgive myself for not loving Shoni and Sinbad the way they deserved. Through caring for Lucky properly, I was able to let go of not knowing better how to care for animals when I was younger. It wasn’t easy though.
I recall a time I was walking Lucky at the old Scotts Valley Airport in the days before there was a dog park and sobbing (loudly) for Sinbad and Shoni – agonizing over their cheated lives, steeped in guilt over any and all pain either dog experienced. It was Lucky who assured me, in that moment and day by day as the years ticked by, that I am a good person, a loving dog mother and deserving of a dog’s love.
Lucky lived to the ripe old age of 17, assuming she was four years old when we rescued her like the vet estimated. The years I had with Lucky helped mold me into the animal rescue advocate I am today, a testament to the power of Lucky.