Lucy is really good at weighing fourteen-and-a-half pounds. Give or take.
At the urging of the Lake Mills Veterinary Clinic, there raged an epic four-month battle of wills between man and chihuahua, mid-2019. The guy who feeds Lucy walked her like they were training for Boston, rationed treats, and counted every kibble. They weighed in every 14 days like World’s-Smallest-Biggest Loser. On July 23, Lucy was down to 13.4 lbs. Victory was fleeting. By Labor Day she’d beefed back up to 13.9. On Christmas Eve she was back in her comfort zone, just a tick over 15 lbs.
Lucy’s tenacity would pale that of a bulldog. The microchip between her shoulder blades legally identifies her, but the chip on her shoulder defines her. Lucy’s ideal weight would be little-over four-and-a-half kilos, but when you save the biscuit of the guy who walks you, three times… you might get an extra Charlie Bear every now and then.
The guy who walks Lucy.
Bill Street skipped his high school graduation. He was on a plane bound for Orlando with his show choir to perform at Disney World, a gig that would take him to the set of two Frosted Mini Wheat commercials and the stage of The Pabst Theater singing with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Bill stepped off the stage to support his family. He worked food management and sports services in and around County Stadium, which could explain his wardrobe. Every piece of clothing Bill’s ever been seen wearing bears the Milwaukee Brewers logo. His license plate reads BAT BOY.
By the mid-80s management became delivery. For 30 years Bill kept Southern Wisconsin Taverns stocked with Miller Genuine Draft, Friskies flush with Salmon parts to make cat food, and Scientific Protein Lab in Waunakee supplied with reagents from cold storage in Jefferson.
In 2012 a crank-handle sprang backward and nearly did a Captain Hook on his right hand. As Bill puts it, “and there began my career as a professional surgical patient.” After five procedures, he was declared disabled, a depressing designation that does little for a man’s pride.
After 40 years, his voice had dropped an octave-or-so and his knees would no longer power-slide or grapevine. Looking to serve his artistic side, he found himself acting in a Penguin Productions adaptation of Michael Perry’s Population 485.
Bill’s a storyteller. He phrases thoughtfully with a twinkle in his eye. His voice is an instrument, like Bailey’s-over-ice with a splash of bourbon. At 64, he earned a certificate in Voice Work.
Still, there was a void.
In 2012, when he moved to Lake Mills, his daughter hounded him, “Dad, it’s time to get a dog.”
The kennels at the Humane Animal Welfare Society were bare as the toilet paper aisle in a pandemic. He turned to leave, when he saw two buggy eyes and cream-colored head, just above the reception desk. When Bill asked to spend time with her in the meet-n-greet room, she trembled in the corner.
Back home, Bill collapsed onto the couch. Sunny, now Lucy, scaled his belly and gave him one kiss on the cheek.
It was the beginning of Bill and Lucy.
He’s still wondering what he got himself into.
Lucy has opinions. She does not pee or poop where she plays. The spot will be the correct texture, lighting, temperature, topography, and ventilation. The spot may be on the other side of town by the fish hatchery.
Timing is everything. Without fail, nature will call with a minute-and-a-half left in the fourth quarter of the Packers game, or when Columbo is just about to crack the case.
They bicker like an old married couple. Paused in front of The Corner Mercantile, Bill wanted to go see what was happening in Commons Park. Lucy smelled something on the wind from Rock Lake. They turned right.
At 66 years old and 200 pounds, it’s not that Bill is submissive to a 14-pound taco terrier. He figures he owes her.
She’s saved his life three times.
In 2015 Lucy started to obsessively lick the right side of Bill’s nose. He felt nothing, there was nothing to see. After months, there came a raised, fleshy mass the size of a wood tick. His doctor took one look and referred him to the specialist at UW, who diagnosed a Basal Cell Carcinoma and scheduled a surgery to disentangle the malignancy.
In 2019 Bill was hospitalized with flu. Discharged from the hospital he became light-headed and hypoxic. He fell between the wall and the toilet, where the coroner would have likely found him were it not for a persistent chihuahua licking his face and barking.
Lucy has not allowed Bill in the bathroom, unsupervised, since.
Bill started struggling for air in February 2020. Hell-bent on not repeating that horror show, Lucy wedged herself behind the toilet tank. Bill got the hint, made an appointment with a pulmonologist, and was diagnosed with COPD on top of his asthma.
To reward Lucy, Bill brought home Benny. Bill describes Benny, “He’d rather sleep than eat a rack of ribs, and Lucy and I are good with that.” When he is awake, he eliminates in the house and has zero concept of personal space. Lucy’s solution is to wind him up, then watch him fly around the house like a BB in a boxcar until he’s tired and goes back to sleep.
You’ll see Bill and Lucy at the farmer’s market. You will not see Lucy getting butt scratches from school kids or giving kisses to Shelly Perry. She does not care for little kids, and certain people. Shelly loves everything that breathes and runs a pet sitting and dog walking business. Shelly is not on Lucy’s List.
So, if you see a jovial guy in shorts and a Brewer’s cap walking one dog forward and the other backwards, wave and say hi; that’s Bill, Benny… and Lucy.
She might like you, she might not.