Last month, Tom and Anna Finnerty put down Missie, their very old and deaf Manchester terrier. When the vet asked them if they wanted to see the lethal injection, Tom and Anna said no, no. Don't you start crying or I'll start crying, they told each other.
Already, their poodle Chanel (the gray bundle now under their kitchen table) had been diagnosed with cancer and given a year to live, and that was six months ago. It's been a lousy fall, dog-wise, for the Finnertys of South Baltimore.
Then, they got Lucky.
See Lucky swim late last month in the Patapsco River channel. See Lucky get trapped under Pier Six. See tourists and Inner Harbor employees follow his plight. See Lucky elude nice men trying to lure him out with rare sirloin. See Lucky finally saved by the nice men over Thanksgiving weekend.
"You know that dog that was in the harbor?" Tom had said to Anna on the phone that Saturday. "You're bringing him home," she had answered. She knew. She mentally picked out a name for the 8-month-old spaniel mix: "Lucky," as in lucky to be alive after paddling in the Inner Harbor and taking refuge under Pier Six.
Then, Anna picked up the newspaper Sunday and read where the dog's rescuers, officers Ian Cameron and David Muller, had also given the dog the name Lucky. This, she thought, was fate. This, she learned, was one skinny, jumpy, famished, sick-to-his-stomach, ear-nibbling mutt on their seasoned hands.
Tom, who manages the city's trash-skimming boats in the harbor, was working down there Nov. 27 when officers Cameron and Muller plucked the dog-tired dog from the harbor and into their police boat. Tom told the officers that if no one wanted Lucky, let him know. They let him know.
"If he survived all those days in the water," Tom says, "he deserves another chance to live."
Lucky continued to be elusive from the moment Tom said yes. "I was taking him to my car, when he first ran away." Tom did get him in the car and to his house. A five-foot fence in his back yard proved to be a pitiful match for the Luck-ster. "I'm not one for chasing dogs, but I chased him for two blocks."
A week ago Sunday, Lucky ran away again to the firehouse near their house. "I gave you a chance yesterday," said the grown man talking to the dog. "Either you come back or just go." Five minutes later, Lucky was at the back door of the Finnertys'. It had been decided. The dog was home.
The new-dog drill commenced. The vet found Lucky to be in surprisingly good shape considering his grueling water adventure (Tom theorizes Lucky wound up at Pier Six after swimming, floating and running his way down the Jones Falls). Lucky's ribs still show, which accounts for a 40-pound sack of Puppy Chow that leans against a kitchen wall at the Finnerty home. There are also enough Milk Bones to feed 100 poodles.
Given the amount of yucky harbor water ingested, Lucky spent his first days making frequent and familiar messes in his new home. His poor stomach has since settled. Lucky has been fitted with Missie's old collar. As for the alpha dog, Chanel, she does not appear to be on the Lucky bandwagon yet. The he-dog has been using her water dish. Dirty looks have been exchanged.
An animal clinic has already called to offer Lucky a free neutering -- a welcome holiday gift for the Finnertys. Trust us. Lucky properly introduced himself to us Thursday by mounting our right shoulder, then licking and nibbling our ears. Mount, lick, nibble. Repeat.
"He'll lick you to death," says Travis Finnerty, 15. Lucky has stayed close to Travis since Day One. Travis has come up with other names for the dog: Slim, Ribsy, Brutus, The Hoover and Buddy. "You would think my boy raised him," Travis' dad says.
So, that's the update on Lucky. Rather than adopt a Jack Russell terrier (as they were considering), the Finnertys now have the famous Pier Six Water Dog of Thanksgiving '99.
Cover your ears.