Towards the end of January, my dog, Lola, died. It was really sudden, so I took a few months to sort my feelings so I could share them with you.
I met Lola in October of 2000. Except, that wasn’t her name yet. A friend of my sister’s had found her alone in a park in my hometown. The friend named her Summer, but when my sister took her in a name change was in order and she became Maggie. She was so small that she had to jump over grass and yet was already an orphan who’d had two names. My sister couldn’t care for her long term, and I had already fallen in love with her. There were plans to take her to the no-kill shelter, but I couldn’t bear even that. I wanted her to come home with me. We decided to rename her. It took awhile. We tried all kinds of names on, but none of them stuck, until my son prompted one in my mind. Lola used to have a horrible habit of jumping up on people when she was a puppy. She used to knock my son down from time to time. He started preemptively yelling “STOP!”, in this great toddler lisp, to halt her from jumping. It even worked, sometimes. Do y’all remember the German movie “Run Lola, Run”? You know that parts where she says “STOP!” and then the movie re-starts? His toddler lisped “STOP!” sounded strangely German and instantly I knew what her name should be. Years later, we added her middle name, Ursula, as a tribute to her very bear-like appearance. Shortly after we brought Lola home, I became pregnant with my daughter. My husband and I were working opposite schedules. I was tired a lot. Lola didn’t always get the attention she needed. She escaped and ran away a few times. On one of those nighttime jaunts, unbeknownst to us, she had a rendezvous. Shortly after my daughter was born, Lola had puppies. We had no idea it was coming, and were not prepared at all. It was a difficult situation, but we got through, found the puppies homes. From that point on, Lola insisted on mothering my kids as if they were her own. She herded them in our yard if she felt they wandered too far. When we took her camping, she would always stay near us on the trail to make sure they were safe.She loved being outside, as well as being with her people, so of course she loved camping out with us. Once, while we were at Crown Lake, my husband went for a swim and Lola followed him. All the way out to the middle she swam, until she got to him, and then she was tired. So, she rested her paws on his shoulders. It took some coaxing to convince to swim back to shore. She loved my husband and wanted to be near him, always.
The boys took her backpacking a few times, and we all took her camping a handful of times. Of course we wish we’d taken her more, now. Isn’t that always the way? All the more reason to appreciate the moment now, I guess. Lola also loved the dog park. She knew the way, and would get excited when we would make the familiar turns on the way there. She loved to run, like you would expect from her name. But, with her runaway history, I was often worried about her taking off for good. The generous dog park in our town always put us both at ease. Wish I’d taken her there more, too.Lola loved making new friends, of any species. She would often run out to the road as people walked by, so she could say hello. Alas, most people didn’t take well to an overweight Rottie mix running towards them, no matter how big her smile. I found myself yelling “she’s friendly!” at complete strangers, to no avail.Every person who took the time to get to know her loved her. It only took a moment for her sweet intentions to reveal themselves to new people. From those who knew her, it is widely agreed she is the sweetest dog who ever lived. Songs were written about her. Really!She loved to be outside, to lie in the grass. Resting in the coolness, or rolling around on her back making the best snuffling noises. Lola was an excellent weeding partner, a silent companion (except for the whole running off unexpectedly part). She was nice to all species, especially cats. More than anything, she wanted to be friends.When my depression was at it’s worst, I used to lie in the cool grass with her, next to her, holding her. She held me, too, in a way. I will always be thankful for that, for her presence. She was my best friend, she always understood. I was never too much for her. I miss that. I think it was then, when I needed her most, that I started to wonder how I would handle things when she was gone. I knew it would eventually happen, as we all understand. She had runaway tendencies, we lived near a busy street, she was getting older, big dogs don’t last long, etc. Plus, her muzzle was turning white. She looked dignified. And, old.She started slowing down the past few years. Her joints stiffened, she started sleeping more. I started to tell myself I should start preparing, sometime soon, for the idea that she might be gone. Soon. Yes, I would think about it soon. Then, one night, there was an accident at home and we heard something snap. Watching it happen, it didn’t seem possible that her leg could be broken, but it was also quite apparent she couldn’t walk on it. We called the emergency vet, made arrangements to take her in. Lola bravely hobbled on three legs out to the car. We hoped it was just a joint out of place. It wasn’t. It was broken, and as we would find out over the long three day weekend, she had cancer in the broken bone. It would not heal. All at once we had too few decisions to choose from and they were all horrible. Life is oftentimes about making the best of things, especially when things are completely full of shit.But, that’s not the part of Lola’s story that I want to close with, even if it is the close of her story. I want to tell you about the thing I think Lola loved more than any other thing (other than food, of course). Lola loved fireworks. I know! Crazy, right? She was fascinated by them, making me wish she had opposable thumbs so she could hold a sparkler. She wasn’t frightened, or alarmed. She was simply mindblown. We often do Fourth of July fireworks in our driveway. It started one year, due to schedules or something, but continued, I think in part because Lola loved it so much. My husband does a great finale at the end and we always find it very impressive, Lola most of all.She couldn’t have been happier…