Monday, January 25, 2010

Lucille: She’s right where she belongs

She’s so fluffy that she looks like a fuzzy football. She has blue eyes, a winning gaze and maximum hug-ability. She’s so smart that she’s housebroken herself, and she already knows how to wrap all of us around her tiny webbed paws.

She’s Lucille, the latest black Labrador to join the Walburn family.

Lucille came to us almost two months after losing beloved Suzie, the black Lab who died Nov. 28 after a left side paralysis forced us make the toughest decision pet owners ever make. Suzie’s in pet heaven, as I described here weeks ago, and I bet Suzie approves of the new girl in town. Our resident cat Tiger is not so sure.

Lucille is the name we decided on (Will made the final decision, as Suzie was technically his) from a list we started a couple of weeks ago. Suzie Q was named for the rock ‘n’ roll song by Creedence. Our name choices didn’t all come from music although the list included Queenie (Little Queenie, Chuck Berry), Lola (The Kinks) and Maybelline (Chuck Berry, again). But Lucille (Little Richard) won out, as Will and I picked up precious from Walt and David, who work with Will at Lowe’s. Lucille is “mostly” Lab, not registered, so Lucille was a gift, (no $200+purchase price that come with AKC registration). That’s fine with us, and Lucille, she’s a gift in many ways.

A sweet, chewing fuzz-ball who only occasionally whines, Lucille is lovingly and gradually filling that void left by Suzie in a household that’s always had a dog and always black Labs.

Our first Lab was Remus, a Labrador/Weimaraner mix who we got before we got married. Remus, who followed Bonzo, the Alpha dog of our Auburn mobile home community (aka the Ghetto), into the mischief and eventually onto Wire Road, got hit by a car during our first year of marriage. The Auburn vet school fixed him up, and our broke selves paid on that bill for a long, long time.

Before we had children, Remus went everywhere with us. One Christmas, while we were visiting my parents in Pleasant Grove, Remus disappeared. She had followed Fannie (stepmother’s mostly beagle) off on an adventure. Fannie came back and Remus didn’t.

We spent the rest of that short holiday (I worked at a newspaper then, so you got off for Christmas eve or Christmas, never both), and had to return to Selma without him. My written plea, Oh, where, Oh where did Remus go? was on the front page of the Selma Times-Journal that day after Christmas. (Slow news day, and we had a picture….) I heard from sympathetic dog-lovers throughout Selma and central Alabama, but in the end, Remus made his way back on his own. Remus was walking in front of the house when Emily saw him and called his name. Em said Remus sat down, like, “finally.” We rushed back and picked him up; I wrote a follow-up column, and Al Benn, then my editor, took a picture of us reunited.

Young Remus, at the beach

We have lots of pictures of Remus, and for years, other reminders: the couch he chewed the arm off of, the teeth-marked, mangled broom sticks, the shredded shoes. This is the dog that used to climb on top of my car – first my seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time beige Gremlin, then my at-least-it’s-paid-for Ford Maverick. Remus would stretch himself out on the roof of the car – like Snoopy on the dog house. I think he wanted to know when I was leaving, in case he could go, too.

Remus, gentle with children yet protective of us always, stayed with us through the birth of son Will and then daughter Mary Claire, until he was gray and scarred (from the fights that un-fixed male dogs get in). Then one time, Remus did not come back from his wanderings. We think he went off to die the way some pets do if they can, I believe, to try to spare their humans from grief.

Henry was our next black Labrador. He was still a puppy when we moved from Selma to Camden and lived for a while in the “guest” mobile home provided by MacMillan Bloedel, where Frank worked then. One day that early fall, when the air conditioning stopped working at our temporary home, we called the HR person who took care of the these things.

Whoops. It turns out Henry had sliced and diced the air ducts under the trailer. “That’s okay,” said HR person said, “we’ll fix it.” I later joined MB as a freelancer, then as public relations manager, and that HR person, Janet Carlisle, became a friend. She never forgot Henry, either.

     Henry, when he was old and gray

Then, Henry made his mark, again, when we bought a house in Camden. The first week, our neighbor, the late, wonderful Helen Strother, came over holding a mangled set of wires that used to be the pump that kept her winterized swimming pool clean. We paid that off, too, and Helen loved Henry always. Henry, loved by all who knew him, grew gray and scarred and eventually went the way of Remus, disappearing and not coming back.

The next black Lab was Suzie, and her story is written in these postings.

So, welcome to our family, sweet Lucille. Who knows what you’ll chew up (I need to check on her right now; she’s being mighty quiet).

And, who knows how much love you’ll give us in return.

Picture of the day: Lucille

(Photo by Mary Claire Walburn)

Song of the day:
Lucille, by Little Richard

"Lucille, please come back where you belong
Oh, Lucille, please come back where you belong
I've been good to you baby
Please don't leave me alone."


  1. Jack- I love this and your take me home, back to the good/"we're not sure so good" days. I remember, you have made such an impact on my life whether you know it or not. I love you like a sister and probably more. Can't wait to get to know Miss Lucy--she has big shoes to fill...but she has the best home and will be loved like no other. Pardon the emotional blog comments, it's all good. Mullet