She held my heart for sixteen years and five months.
She had eyelashes so thick and long that people would comment about them. I could stroke her back for hours while I read with her head resting in my lap. I never doubted her devotion, even when she gave me a look that clearly said, “Explain to me why I should do what you’re asking.”
Lacey J was the best damn Jack Russell Terrier ever. She was smart, not yappy. She was a 25-pound warrior with a brave alpha heart that made her both bossy and intensely protective of her pack. She kept the barns clear of mice and the yard clear of possums and snakes. She would proudly tip up her chin to show off the strip of skin where her thick coat refused to grow over her badge of courage, a snake bite scar.
She liked being an only child after I sold the farm and split from my ex. She never had much use for other dogs. Except for Jack, an extremely timid yellow lab mix who spent the first five years of his life in a pen at a no-kill shelter. She actually played with Jack. She taught him how to swim in the pond and catch popcorn in the air. It was as if she knew he needed help.
She also was a stubborn and obsessive hunter.
I wanted to strangle her the night she ran into the woods after a deer and didn’t come back until the next morning. On several occasions, I had to literally lasso her as she swam around the pond until midnight, just out of reach, because she didn’t want me to take away the turtle (aka tennis ball with legs) she was carrying in her mouth.
Cute stuffed animals must be gutted and scattered in minutes, mere minutes. I don’t know what I was thinking when I complied with my ex’s request for bunny slippers one Christmas. They were real rabbit fur — big mistake — with a fake bunny head. The minute Dee slipped them on, Lacey launched herself to grab the left slipper by the throat and held on, no matter what we did to pry her loose. Dee was never able to actually wear them with Lacey in the house, and the day she forgot to shut the closet door securely, they were history.
But even at age 15, she would still occasionally race around the house with exuberant joy because I had once again returned home after work. She got the last bite of nearly everything I put in my mouth. And I spent many sleepless nights sitting up with her during thunderstorms because they terrified her.
This morning, her last morning with me, was a happy one. She scolded the new puppy for running in the house, played ball for a few minutes in the backyard to taunt him and then refused to share the juicy steak bone Larkin Rose had failed to fully strip of meat when she visited over the weekend.
A few hours later, I held her as the veterinarian administered a lethal injection.
She’d never had a seizure before, but she had been lying at my feet while I answered email when they struck. One, then another, and another. Nothing the vet did could stop them.
Lacey knew all my secrets. She loved me at times when I doubted anyone else did. I wrote my first three novels and the first half of my fourth to the gentle cadence of her snores.
So tonight, my heart — the one she held for sixteen years and five months — weeps.