Lucy’s Shaky Path to Freedom

by Sulana Stone

Lucy weighs as much as I do. And this gentle giant’s head comes up to my chest. She is a big and powerful girl! One hundred forty pound Lucy could easily knock me to the ground with one push. Little do I suspect that the Great Dane’s admittance to the boarding kennel where I work will soon demonstrate her immense power in a most unique way.

Keep Your Hands Off Me!

The first time I go to pet Lucy, she lets me know that she doesn’t want to be touched. The message comes through loud and strong when I glimpse shinny white teeth through gnarled lips … her face mere inches from my face.

From the get-go Lucy won’t eat. It doesn’t seem as though she’s drinking much water either. Lucy’s also trembling, even though the weather’s balmy. After a couple of days, the kennel manager decides a trip to the vet is in store for the ailing 18-month-old girl.

An appointment is made later in the day. My gut tells me I might be able to help the gigantic black pup. “Talk to her,” it whispers. I have just three hours to work some magic before she’s off to the vet.

Talking with Lucy

When I open the door from Lucy’s cement run to the large dirt exercise area, she walks out gingerly. Her entire body is mildly shaking. As usual, she keeps her distance and ignores me as long as I don’t try to touch her. As usual, I steer clear of her, put my attention on her and keep my hands to myself. I don’t want Lucy to decide that her previous warning to stay away needs repeating.

Then I begin talking to Lucy from my heart. I ask her why she isn’t eating or drinking. I wait. Soon I get a strong impression that Lucy is being abused at home. And that she wants to die. I’m not clear if Lucy is being physically mistreated, if it’s emotional or both. Perhaps she’s not being abused at all by “human” standards, but it’s clear that Lucy’s very unhappy. I realize that I might be able to help Lucy by coming up with a solution for her.

Being Free to Choose

A few years earlier when I volunteered for hospice, I learned that people chose when they die. I counseled a woman who’d been in a coma for over six weeks about her choice to die whenever she wanted. I got the sense that the woman wanted to cross over yet was afraid to let go. I told her that she could choose to cross over when her doctor was with her, or perhaps when a favorite nurse or her loved ones were present. Or she could go when she was alone. I also told her about moving into the light and that loved ones would be there to assist her. About two hours after we had “the talk,” the patient decided to finally let go. She was alone.

Being with Lucy, I recall the experience I had with the hospice patient. And I feel it would be helpful to the big pup to point out some of the choices that she can make.

As I watch Lucy standing, trembling about 30 feet away from me, I continue talking to her from my heart. I tell her that she has a choice. I tell her that she can die any time she wants. To live or die: it’s up to her. And that no one will stop her if she decides to leave the earth plane.

The Magic in the Moment

The moment I relay the message to Lucy that she has a choice—that she doesn’t have to continue to live the way she’s living—at that very moment*, Lucy stops trembling.  She then walks towards me, circles me, and stops next to me. Letting out a huge sigh, she falls against me with all 140 pounds of her! No, she doesn’t die on me. She’s totally relaxing against me. As I stroke her for the first time, I let her know  that everything will be OK. I can see and feel how relieved she is.

After a few minutes of sitting together in peaceful silence, I tell her about another choice she has: to go the vet … or not to go to the vet. Time’s running out. I inform her that she will be going to the vet unless she eats something. Immediately … at the very moment I communicate the situation to Lucy, she walks back into her dog run, eats all her food and drinks some water! I’m blown away!

After I report to the manager that Lucy is eating, drinking and has stopped trembling, the vet appointment is cancelled. For the next two weeks that Lucy is at the boarding kennel she behaves normally.

6 Months Later …

Six months after Lucy returned to her home, her “family” arrives at the kennel again. This time with another dog in tow. When I ask them where Lucy is, they relay that four months earlier, Lucy died … suddenly. And that no one knew what happened.

I knew. And I felt relief! Lucy chose to be free!


A couple years after Lucy chose her freedom, I realized there was another option for Lucy that hadn’t occurred to me at the time. Another choice for her would be to run away from home the first chance she got. To run until she found someone who’d really care for her and wouldn’t look for her previous family.

Now, as a foster home for many stray dogs who have had some previous interaction with people, I let the dogs know that I respect their choice to be free from whatever situation they left. I realize that some dogs get lost and want to go back home. And I also get that some choose to move on to something new.

*I wrote about the phenomenon of “talking” with a dog and getting a response in the moment. See Transforming Tina (—transforming-tina-fear-biter.html).