Zeddie Armstrong wanted a bird dog. Specifically a German Shorthaired Pointer from Spencer Bach. When he went to select his puppy, Lucy didn’t draw his attention. He chose her sister, Lacy. But not long after he brought her home she was stolen. Spencer felt bad about the situation, but by then he’d sold the rest of the litter.
Two years later Zeddie had an opportunity to repair his loss.
“I got two of Lacy’s siblings back, ” Spencer told him. “They’ve been penned up ever since they left here, and the owner returned ’em. I’ll let you have one if you still want a puppy.”
Zeddie agreed to give it another try. His fishing camp partner, Joe, brought Lucy to his house in Mobile. She didn’t present herself as the high-strung sporting dog Zeddie expected. It was obvious that two years in a pen had sapped her hunting instincts. Now she was shy and skittish. She was even scared of water.
Though Lucy wasn’t what Zeddie had in mind, she proved to be an ideal companion in other ways. She liked riding in the boat with the wind in her face. She liked watching the men fish. She liked being at their camp on Oak Bayou. She was kind and calm and gentle and endeared herself to everyone she came in contact with.
I had lunch with Zeddie and Joe not too long ago and listened to them tell me about Lucy as if they were talking about a child. Zeddie is a big, bear of a man, making his empathy that much more touching. And the way Joe talked about her, you would have a hard time gauging who loved the dog more.
“She just liked being with people, ” Joe said. “She was great with kids.”
“She wasn’t much of a hunting dog, ” Zeddie added. “But she was the best dog I ever had.”
One Fateful Day
It was Saturday morning in late October 2012. Lucy was 3 years old. Zeddie and Joe were fishing for speckled trout in the Delta. As usual, Lucy was with them, sitting quietly in her spot at the back of the boat. However, when they returned to Cloverleaf Landing, she was gone.
Lucy had apparently fallen overboard somewhere along a 5-mile stretch of river. The men retraced the route several times that day and the following week, but found no trace of her. They knew she didn’t like the water, but reasoned she could swim if she had to. Nonetheless, even if she hadn’t drowned, there was a chance she could have been eaten by an alligator. Furthermore, the swamp, with winter setting in, was a bleak place for a dog to survive. Zeddie had lost his second puppy, and this one was hard on them all.
A Chance Encounter
Dee Dee Spann’s husband, Paul Spann, is an old college friend of Zeddie’s. On an afternoon in January of 2014, Dee Dee came home to her house in Grand Bay to find two beagle puppies in her yard. She inspected their collars, found the owner’s number and made a call. That evening, a stranger, Trey Pitt, arrived to retrieve them. It wasn’t long before they were trading memories of their old dogs. Dee Dee mentioned that the best one she ever knew had been a German Shorthaired Pointer. The man smiled.
“Let me tell you a story, ” he began.
In early February 2013, Trey and his son, Andrew, were fishing on the Tensaw River across from Gravine Island when they heard something rustling in the underbrush. Trey eased up to the riverbank and saw a pointer, whimpering and trembling in the palmettos. She was on the verge of starvation, her face shredded and bloody from briar tears.
Trey knelt on the riverbank and coaxed her to him. The dog was eager to come, but seemed hesitant to approach the water. When Trey was finally able to get his hand on her collar, he picked her up and put her in the boat.
“She was so happy to be in that boat, she started runnin’ around and around the console, yelpin’ up a storm, ” remembered Trey.
The identification tags were gone from the dog’s collar, so that afternoon Trey looked in the paper for any ads about the dog and even took her to get scanned. But none of his efforts turned up the owner.
Trey’s son, Andrew, named her Delta. They built a doghouse for her and put it in the backyard.
“She’s the smartest dog we ever owned, ” Trey said. “None of my other dogs liked their houses. I put that thing out there, and she knew right away it was hers. She started runnin’ circles around the yard. Then she went in there and lay down in it and poked her head out. She loves her house.”
Home For Good
Suddenly, all of the pieces fell into place for Dee Dee. Zeddie was at home when his phone rang.
On the other end of the line it was Dee Dee delivering the good news. “Lucy’s alive!”
“We just couldn’t believe it, ” Joe said.
Zeddie took a sip of his sweet tea and seemed to be remembering the call. “She was out in that swamp more than three months, ” he said. “I can’t believe she survived.”
“So you didn’t get her back?” I asked.
Zeddie shook his head slowly. “No. Trey offered to give her back to me, but I told him to keep her. His son got pretty attached to her. I couldn’t do that to him.”
“Everybody’s got that one dog, you know?”
“Yeah, ” I said. “I know.”
Text by Watt Key