There is a new little Starr in our house and his name is Lucky Starr. We lost our beloved Emma to cancer the day after Christmas. Her lung cancer had proceeded very quickly and our holidays were terribly painful for us with her loss. Christmas Day, when she was very near her last, was truly miserable. It took us months to grieve for her and I had really not been sure that our family was ready yet for another dog.
Lucky (he was named “Houston” then) had come to the Richmond SPCA on one of the air transports that we receive from a couple of shelters in California. He had been on the adoption floor for a couple of days and no one had adopted him or even seemed to notice him. But I was sitting in my car waiting for the train to go by and looked at my e-mails. I had one from Caroline Radom, our Manager of Communications, with a picture of the little “Houston.” Caroline had seen him in our kennel area thought he was cute and took his picture for us to consider him for media spots. I knew immediately upon seeing his picture that he was ours – funny how it is that you just know when you see the right match for you. I hurried back to our Humane Center and literally ran to the adoption area where he was sitting, waiting for me. I just scooped him up. We did not want to keep his name, however, knowing that it would lead to a million “Houston, we have a problem” jokes.
Lucky’s new name is very special to me – not only is the “Lucky Starr” thing cute but I have wanted to name a dog ”Lucky” for years because of a children’s book that I read to my daughter when she was small. It was always our favorite and it continues to be the book that I take to read to school groups when they ask me to bring a book. The book is The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant and I highly recommend it.
The premise of the book is that there was an old woman who had outlived all of her friends and, as a result, was afraid to give a name to anything or anyone who might not outlive her – in other words, she was fearful of connecting emotionally with anyone because of the possible pain of losing them. Then, a small brown dog (the perfect description of our little “Lucky”) started coming to her garden gate and, as she fed him daily, he kept coming back. This went on for months and she came to really care about him but was afraid to give him a name. Then, one day, he did not return. She troubled greatly over his absence and then went to look for him at the “dogcatcher’s” (the book, while wonderful, is not so politically correct in its nomenclature). When she got to the dogcatchers’ kennel, she saw the little brown dog sitting there. She identified him to the dogcatcher who then asked her for the name of her dog. That, of course, was a moment of decision and commitment for her. She hesitated but then “she thought of all the old, dear friends with names whom she had outlived. She saw their smiling faces and remembered their lovely names, and she thought how lucky she had been to have known these friends. She thought what a lucky old woman she was. ‘My dog’s name is Lucky,’ she told the dogcatcher.”
That last line, and the leap of love and faith it reflects, has always brought tears to my eyes. Everyone of us who has ever lost a beloved pet knows that his or her loss was so painful but we were so very lucky to have had that pet in our lives. We have to be willing to take that same leap of faith and commit to another wonderful dog or cat because there are others who need us and want us and who will, in their own very special ways, greatly enrich our lives too. And so, while thinking of all of the wonderful pets my family has been lucky enough to have had and treasuring each of their memories, we named him Lucky. And, that we are, for sure.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.