No You

A tribute to Lexy, adopted 2003 ~ 2013

Lexy Livingston

We were unsure from the moment we walked in. She cowered in the corner refusing to make eye contact. And talk about shaking like a leaf! She must’ve shed a full coat of fur in the five minutes it took the vet to give us the few known details of her situation.

Jon slowly and gingerly approached, reached down his hand for a pet, and she promptly peed on herself. A big puddle on the cheap laminate flooring.

But, oh, was she beautiful. Clear eyes, blocky head, black coat. Hard-headed as a brick but soft in all the right places.

We led her outside to the small patch of fenced grass to see what she would do. The vet said she’d warm up but we weren’t yet convinced. They’d been calling her Susie Q. She’d come to them unnamed and unclaimed. “She’s been layin’ at my feet all day,” said the gal who worked the front desk. “We haven’t put her in a kennel ’cause she’s so sweet and calm.”

Yeah, calm as a bump on a log, I thought. She barely moved, this dog. We eyed her closely as she slinked behind a bush to relieve herself. (Guess she didn’t get it all the first time). When she emerged from her hiding spot I picked up her leash from the ground and took off at a trot to see if she’d match my stride. The leash snapped taut at my sudden movement and she barely budged.

And that tail. She kept it clamped shut into place. Between the legs. No lift. No sway.

We left her overnight, enjoying a meal and a hotel room before seeing her again the next morning. It was at a fair for rescued labs that we decided to bring her home, but it was not without hesitation. Would she bounce back? Was it too late? Had love been withheld for too long?

Using a baby name book, I found one we liked whose meaning was significant. Healer. Maybe she’d be the balm for our broken hearts after our first dog, Abby, was hit by a car. We shortened it and, by adding our last name, we made it official. She was now a Livingston.

After a full-perimeter sniff of the house, Lexy remained cautious and tentative but, soon, days turned into weeks and she began to make herself at home. She bonded with our then one-year-old, finally stopped hiding behind bushes while pooping, and didn’t move a muscle three years later when our next toddler reached deep inside her mouth to retrieve a toy while my mother silently freaked out.

She later kept vigil while our family suffered painful losses and, still later, made company on the floor everyday with Baby Boy while his sisters were at school and he perfected the commando crawl. Meanwhile, I worked at keeping the dog hair off our clothing and a decade’s worth of family ticked on.

We paid too much money to repair a tear to her ACL only to open our wallets again–this time through tears–when a tumor was discovered. The surgeon’s bill bought us another three years and those X-rays gave us an unexpected peek into her former life. The bullet on the film raised our curiosity about who she’d been before she came to us and, while we’ll never know her back story, we deemed her worthy of a new one. Little did we know when we first met her she’d become such a big part of ours.

I’ve come to realize written word reaches deep down into my soul like none other. Brings the water pouring forth and, sometimes, on a day like today, that’s just what I need. So, Lexy, this one’s for you…

Today I woke up to no you. No shaking of your jowls, no stirring in your bed, no nudging at my knee saying I’m hungry. There was no you lying on the bathroom rug while I showered and the walk down the hall to the kitchen seemed longer without you leading the way.

It’s an awful feeling. Too quiet and too still.

I opened the cabinet to grab a mug and there sat your pill bottle still holding the medicine to ease your pain but there was no you at my feet to give it to. And if I hadn’t had to take the kids to school I may not have gone outside. There was no you at the back door needing to be let out.

For the first time in ten years, I watched the mailman approach and there were no paws pounding down the hallway, no skidding toward the front door. No reason for me to shush you like I did so many a day when a baby lay sleeping in a nearby crib. And I stood at the sink washing dishes when it hit me: never again will I see you through the window sunning on the warm concrete. I can’t bring myself to wash out your bowl.

There, in the dryer’s lint trap, I found evidence of you. You’re not here but you’re here. You’re everywhere and, for the first time, I don’t want to brush you off my clothes.

When our friend dropped cupcakes at our doorstep and I ran out to greet her, my chin snapped sideways to make sure you weren’t devouring the box. And when I brought a ham home from Costco there was no you for Daddy to give a scrap to and I could tell he felt cheated and lonely without your expectant face at his knee.

I laid down for a nap and my gaze turned toward your bed like a magnet to metal. I fully expected you to be there, always a step ahead of me, and it was wrong on so many levels that I didn’t have to worry about you snoring and keeping me up. It was restful but not right.

And when the kids returned from school and I let them in the front door, there was no you lying there, tail thumping the rug, having been awakened from your doze, looking extra happy to see them. I dragged the vacuum cleaner out from the closet but it still stands upright in the middle of the room, waiting to be used. I’m not quite ready to suck up the trail you left behind.

When we first brought you home you were a question mark but over time you became our rest stop. We watched you morph from Corner-Cowerer to Continual-Cuddler. You grew taller under our touch even though you came to us full grown.

It’s not lost on me that yours is a story of redemption and I like to think that, when I asked God all those years ago to send us the perfect dog for our family, He chose us for you as much as He chose you for us because He knew you’d be redeemed as you lived in the middle of our love.

And, Lexy, we’d take you in again. Buy you back from fear and bring you home to live with us for your pleasure and our delight. I suspect you blossomed here inside our home just as we flourish being hidden inside Jesus; tucked in him within the shelter of the Father’s love. You stepped out of the stench of urine and neglect and took on a new identity. Your aroma became one of beloved and belonging.

Today I laid out the meal and my eyes stung with tears when I remembered I didn’t need to tell the kids to guard their food. A lot of things have changed in this new era of No You and I just want to tell you that I miss you. We all miss you terribly.

I keep thinking back to a moment a few weeks ago when I came home a ball of nerves, anxious for no good reason, and buried my face in the scruff of your neck and felt the Lord whisper Look to her and you’ll see Me. Constant Companion. Fiercely loyal. Always happy to see you. Ever present…except for escaping to chase after cat poop. Okay. I may have added that last part.

Laying beside you I felt my pulse slow, my fears ease and my heart come to rest. You reminded me that I AM is eager to be with me too.

Not much will change around here. Except for everything. We’ll go on without you, doing all the usual things. Speaking to one another more sharply than we should, laughing at our own jokes, dancing hard like we always do. The only difference will be there’s no you in the corner pretending to sleep through it all and I need you to know, we miss you Lexy Girl. You will always and forever be a part of our family’s story.

And, between you and me, most mornings I’ll still come to this couch, same expectancy, same Book, it’s just that, now, there’s no you at my feet to share in these dark mornings and I find myself hoping I’ll see you again. May it be so, Lexy. May it be so…

Would you kindly join me in getting my words out there by sharing posts on the social media network of your choosing linked below? Also, if you haven’t already (and do), “like” The Right Volume on Facebook.

Author’s Note: I’ve learned since first posting this that Georgia Lab Rescue (from whom we adopted Lexy) spun off into Labrador Friends of the South and Atlanta Dog Squad. I’d originally linked to Atlanta Lab Rescue, who also rescues in that area. And to all rescue organizations everywhere: we sure do appreciate what you do!!

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  • Alana

    Thank you for sharing your story with the Atlanta Lab Rescue community. Your story, I am sure, will resinate with many of our volunteers and friends. It did me after losing my black lab just last year. I encourage everyone who reads this to check out your local rescue group, many more dogs like Lexy are looking for a home and a chance at a better life.

    • Samantha Livingston

      Amen, amen. We’re planning on adopting again soon I hope. Thanks for visiting and for all you do for the rescues. :)

  • Amy B

    Samantha, What a great tribute to Lexy. YOU MADE ME CRY of course!!! You were a wonderful, loving family to Lexy and she will be missed so much. There is another dog out there waiting for love from the Livingston family…God will bring you together.

    • Samantha Livingston

      I’m trusting He’ll do just that. Thanks for your tears and sharing in our grief. Hugs.

  • Carrie-Anne Mosley

    Thank you for sharing this lovely story. My current lab, also adopted has a bullet in his leg, so sad that beautiful creatures get caught in the crossfire at times. He came to us after we lost a black lab, named Gypsy (because she had so many homes prior to us), who looked just like your lab. I am sure Lexy had a wonderful life with you and for that you should feel peace.

    • Samantha Livingston

      Thanks for visiting Carrie-Anne. And thanks for providing a home for these lost ones.

  • Edith

    Barely wanted to read Lexy’s story. In a way, she felt like mine too. I don’t know what it is about our pets that the loss feels as significant as the loss of a person. That may sound disturbing, but I have cried more about losing Lexy than I’ve cried about anything in a long time. She was so very innocent and sweet. I remember when my middle granddaughter bit Lexy on the nose and Lexy simply got up and walked away as if nothing had happened. She was one in a million and I’ll dearly miss my Grand Dog. Mom

    • Samantha Livingston

      She loved you Mom. Lots of tears here too. Thanks for grieving with us.

  • Me

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of Lexy, it made me cry. I glad she had such a great family that loved her and that she could love you guys back. The story made me hug my baby even tighter…I never want to let her go.

    • Samantha Livingston

      So sweet. :)

  • Cyndi Young

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I, too, was the mommy of a rescue. A
    sweet dog who had a horrible start in life. She’d been given a choke chain
    around her neck as a puppy. It was removed from her throat when she was 18
    months old. A dear friend of mine worked at the shelter where this sweet dog
    ended up after her surgery. We adopted that sweet 18 month old on November 13,
    2003. My daughter was about to turn 7. Sadly, our little girl, renamed Noel,
    passed away on November 20, 2013, in her favorite place….the hallway which is
    almost the main area of our home. She passed away with my now almost 17-yr-old
    and I at her side, petting her, as she took her final breaths. We still walk in
    from school and the grocery store ready to move “Watch out Noel!”. Mealtimes
    are still tough without that sweet rotty/husky face with one blue eye and one
    brown eye staring on begging for a bite. I don’t think you truly know the love
    of a dog until you’ve been the lucky parent of a rescued dog.

    • Samantha Livingston

      What a beautiful snapshot of your life with her. Thanks for visiting Cyndi.

    • Sandra

      We lost our lab Xena on the same day 8/23/99- 11/20/13 and reading all of these sad stories made me realize how normal feeling like this is. My home of six is so empty and sad without her. Your stories have helped so much in this awful time and I’m so sorry for your losses and I feel your pain. XENA was our baby girl and changed our lives in so many ways…

  • Kim

    What a heartfelt and deep love you had for Lexy may she always be your guardian. Thank you for rescuing Lexy and all you did for her. There is nothing greater than the love of a dog, but it’s even greater when you adopt. All 3 of my dogs I rescued from being homeless or ending up in a shleter, I will continue to rescue and hope to foster when I am graduated from school. Your Lexy did well, may she rest easy now<3 RIP Lexy, girl.

    (I couldn't stop crying when reading this beautiful story, honestly thank you for loving Lexy better than anyone ever could). You are in my thoughts through this difficult time. Much Love, from IA.

    • Samantha Livingston

      Thanks so much Kim. Kind and comforting words.

  • Bethyy

    wow what a turnaround for Lexi. She sounds like the best companion anyone could have. :( Ive always wanted a lab, so loyal and loving. SOmeday I want to rescue a dog and give them a forever family.

    • Samantha Livingston

      Do it!!

  • SimplyDarlene

    Oh mercy. We’ve had two “Lexy’s” over the years. Still that hollow…

    Thanks for sharing this tenderness.


    • Samantha Livingston

      Thanks Darlene. It’s amazed me how many can understand and relate with these feelings. Thanks so much for visiting!

  • susan

    I have to share something with you. This blog popped up on my feed today, and Lexy’s picture made me suck in my breath. She looks so much like my sweet boy Jake. It was 13 years ago today I lost my beloved Jacob, and there were some true similarities in their stories. Thank you for sharing your beautiful Lexy with us. You are the second time today I’ve been absolutely sure Jake is watching down from Heaven, letting me know, in his own, sweet lab way, that all is good. Thank you!

    • Samantha Livingston

      Sounds like the Lord’s lovin’ on you for sure. :) Really cool timing. So glad He connected you to this story on the anniversary of Jake’s passing. Blessings.

  • sassy

    <3 Believe <3

  • AAB

    A friend posted the link to this this evening, as my family said good-bye to our 14 year old black lab mix, Toby. Thank you for sharing your heart. Amazing how the furry ones become family. I am already feeling the loss as I listen for the click-click of his nails on the hardwood floors and wait to feel him lie on my foot under the table. Best dog ever!!!

    • Samantha Livingston

      I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s hard. I’m still there. Really missing Lexy. And thanks for this, “thank you for sharing your heart.” That you can see it through my writing is the highest compliment. Blessings on your family during this time…

  • Layne

    I found your page through the ALR Facebook page and clicked it against my best judgement, knowing I would soon bawl my eyes out. I too lost a rescue dog two years from yesterday, and it’s still so painful. I found this video shortly after he passed, and although it made me cry for nearly a half hour (and still does every time), it’s a comforting, peaceful cry.

    I suggest you watch. It’ll make you miss your Lexy, and long to stroke her fur and cuddle her neck, but it will also remind you how special she was, and how dearly she loved your family. How lucky were both your family and Lexy for the time you had together.

    “Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die”

    Sending prayers your way! I know how terribly difficult it is. But The Lord is GOOD, all the time! And He will provide for your family when the time is right. God Bless.

    • Samantha Livingston

      Wow Layne. Thanks so much for sharing this. Incredibly powerful. Tears flowing here. Grateful for our time with her…

  • Margaret Sorrells

    I have had so many dogs who have been my best friend. I mourn each one and remember each one. I always get another. Right now, we have four dogs, two Aussie brothers, Oscar and Merle, and two adopted dogs, Beaureguard, an English Setter, and Lady, a mixed Border Collie and ???. Lady is the only girl and she is in charge!!

    • Samantha Livingston

      Love it! We’ve rescued another too Margaret. A sweet gift from the Lord out of the clear blue. Thanks for visiting.