Tears as well-known rescue dog Lucy goes for her final walk on the beach
Animal lovers have paid an emotional farewell to Lucy the Labrador, as the 14-year-old rescue dog went for her final walkies at Crawfordsburn Country Park beach this weekend.
She was joined at the water's edge by friends and family of owner Charmayne Gourley, as she dipped her paws in the sea for the last time.
Two years ago, Lucy hit the headlines in the Belfast Telegraph after being rescued by Charmayne - who'd found her hobbling in the middle of a busy road, abandoned by her owner and with nails so overgrown she couldn't walk.
The neglected animal - who was 12 at the time - had arthritis, was riddled with fleas and had liver damage.
"She made a full recovery, except for her arthritis, which we managed to keep under control with pain relief," Charmayne told the Belfast Telegraph last night.
But a couple of weeks ago, Charmayne - who runs doggy daycare provider Petminder NI - noticed that Lucy had developed skin lesions.
"I thought initially that it was just a skin complaint, a rash of some kind, but when they didn't clear up, I took her to Vets4Pets in Newtownards, who ran blood tests and diagnosed lymphatic cancer."
Charmayne said it was clear that time was short for ailing Lucy, who was approaching her 15th birthday.
"It would've been wrong to put her through the trauma of the whole chemotherapy process - and her arthritis was beginning to get unmanageable pain-wise. So we made a date with the vet. On Friday night, we gave her her last supper - pizza," said Charmayne,
"And on Saturday we took her to the beach, and then to KFC where she had her favourite chicken burger."
Later that day, Claire McFerran of Vets4Pets - who had treated Lucy as she was nursed back to health following her rescue - brought treats and fed them to Lucy "with lots of kisses and cuddles", said her devoted owner.
North Down woman Charmayne paid tribute to caring vet Claire. "She was absolutely amazing," she said.
"You couldn't find a better vet, or have asked for better treatment than Claire gave Lucy yesterday."
When Lucy had finished her treat, we took her out into the garden under a cherry blossom tree - and she fell asleep in my arms."
"The sun was splitting the trees - I couldn't have asked for a better end for Lucy.
"My only regret is that I didn't find Lucy sooner. I could have given her more happy years," added Charmayne, her voice breaking with emotion.
"Lucy was everything to me."
Lucy will be cremated at the Peaceful Paws pet crematorium in Belfast.
Her ashes will be buried under a cherry blossom tree Charmayne is planting in memory of the beloved dog who brought her so much joy.
Lucy's last walk was filmed and can be seen at Petminder NI's web page at facebook.com/PetminderNorthernIreland and also on the Belfast Telegraph's website later today.