This is a really special story for us because this is a story that affected all of us at audiochuck recently. This is a sad story, but I think it’s important to honor Luci, the good girl whose mom, Olivia, is a member of our team.
“K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma. (Their) program is unique, comprehensive, and proven thanks to research by Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. (They) provide each warrior with a service canine, equipment, training, certification, seminars, legal instruction, vet care, housing, home-cooked meals, unconditional love and listening, and a lifetime of wrap-around services. In essence, (they) don’t just give each of our warriors a service dog, (they) give them the K9s Family. The K9s program is 100% free for the veteran. (They) have our Warriors’ backs.”
Olivia kind of rolled her eyes and was like, “Mom, come on. I’m not a veteran. I can’t just take one of the dogs from this program that is so devoted to helping people who have served in the military!!!” Then she read more about this dog, then named Zelda, that her mom had sent her. She had been in the training program, but only made it a couple of months before she was deemed unfit to become a service dog because she became too attached to an antler bone toy and couldn’t continue. Now, K9s for Warriors was looking to give her a good home with a civilian!
Olivia sent an email asking about available dogs, and thought about sliding in a little p.s. that said, “Zelda was adorable,” but decided against it. They responded right away and suggested she apply for Zelda! The only hiccup was that Zelda was in South Florida, and Olivia was up here in Indianapolis. Her mom, who lived in Florida, left a nail appointment to meet Zelda. Her stepdad drove all through the night driving Zelda from Florida to Indiana to Olivia’s house. They arrived in Indiana around midnight and as soon as she hopped out of the car, Zelda, now renamed Luci, came right up to Olivia who was sitting in her driveway, and put her head right on Olivia’s shoulder. She was a velcro pup from that day forward. Olivia actually described Luci as one of those stuffed animals with the velcro arms and legs that we had as kids that you’d just like, hang around your neck and walk around with like that.
However, I did say this was a sad story. Shortly after Olivia got Luci, Luci had this little bump on her nose that kind of came and went. Olivia always got it treated and Luci never seemed in any pain or discomfort. This past November, the vet suggested getting some dental work and X-rays of the area, and by dental work, they meant taking out 6 teeth. Keep in mind, Luci was only 3 years old. That’s not something that should ever happen to a dog at such a young age.
They used antibiotics trying to treat the area, but nothing seemed to work. Luci had developed an incredibly pervasive and mysterious bacterial infection that had been spreading rapidly for months. It had eroded a lot of the bone and muscle from the left side of her face. After consulting with multiple specialists and Luci’s quality of life continuing to deteriorate, Olivia came to accept that she was going to be saying goodbye soon. And Luci crossed the rainbow bridge on February 5th, 2021.
Even though this feels so inexplicable, Olivia is at a special peace with her time with Luci. As someone who is an assault survivor herself, losing Luci made Olivia realize that she learned so much from her in their short time together that they had together. This service dog dropout was at her side in some of her darkest moments. Even though Luci never graduated, her training that specialized in helping those experiencing PTSD truly saved Olivia and she’s since become a stronger and more whole person in the past two years. All because of Luci.
Olivia told me something a friend said about Luci, she was a sparkler. She came in so bright and passionate, bringing so much joy and love to anyone, but like a sparkler, she just wasn’t meant to shine for long. It isn’t fair, but she made so many friends and Olivia gave her the best life. Luci fought hard but loved so much harder, and that’s what Olivia hopes Luci will be remembered for.