Last week, our dog, Lola, died. Just like that. She hadn’t been sick or feeble, even though in dog years she was probably older than Jimmy Carter.
If you’re presently rolling your eyes and muttering, "Good grief, not another dead dog story," this column is not for you. Just flip on over and read about the economy or take a look at the comics. Come back in two weeks and I’ll try to have something we all can enjoy.
But today I’m writing for those of you who read "our dog, Lola, died" and immediately misted up at the memory of a Skipper or Bella or Buster, a pet you loved so much who was gone far too soon.
Lola came into our lives by happenstance. Our Pomeranian, Yofi, had died the previous winter and in the fall of 2004, we began to talk about getting another dog. My husband, Arthur, had one stipulation: He wanted a big dog, maybe a Lab or an Irish setter. He mentioned this to our friend, Ellen New, and she was all over it. Ellen may sell insurance for a living but her true calling is Australian shepherd rescue.
Within a day, she phoned Arthur with a possibility. There was an older adult dog who had been discovered wandering collarless on a back road in Gwinnett County. By Aussie standards, she was no Westminster candidate. She was broad in the beam and had one pale blue eye and one brown one, giving her a decidedly cockeyed appearance. And she was no pup. She was probably 8 or 9 years old at the time she was found.
Arthur agreed to take a look at her, mostly just to pacify Ellen. But when they met up at a parking lot in Flowery Branch and Ellen coaxed that tri-colored girl out of the car, it was a mutual case of love at first sight.
She had been with a foster family who had given her the unglamorous name of "Goalie" because the spots on her face reminded them of a hockey mask. Arthur was adamant that a beautiful girl deserved a beautiful name. We finally settled on "Lola." It was close to the other name so she acknowledged it right away. It also gave us an excuse to dress her up the following Halloween in pink tulle and a yellow boa in a tribute to Barry Manilow: "Her name was Lola. She was a showgirl ..."
I’d give anything to know her history. Someone had loved this dog and taught her how to love. They had worked with her for countless hours, housebreaking her and teaching her to sit, stay, lie down, roll over and catch a treat in midair. So how did she wind up lost and without identification? We’ll never know but we’re grateful to whoever gave that fine dog such a good start.
She and Arthur were a team from the beginning. When he had a storefront business, she rode to work with him each day and acted as a greeting committee of one. She had an uncanny knack for knowing who was a dog person and who wasn’t. She visited with the dog people and left the others alone. Any number of families ended up adopting Aussies after meeting Lola. She was the perfect ambassador for her breed.
When Arthur moved his business to a home lab, Lola was his constant companion. The years sped by and all too soon it was Oct. 6. Arthur and Lola walked to the mailbox and Lola took some time to sniff around and figure out which of her doggie friends had been by. When Arthur called her to her, she loped toward the house and then suddenly fell over. She seized, cried out and, in less than a minute, she was gone.
When Arthur called to tell me what had happened, I didn’t recognize his voice. It is one of the few times I’ve ever heard my husband cry.
Lola is buried by the front steps. We held a little service. In Judaism, there’s a prayer for everything: planting a tree, starting a journey and, indeed, burying a much loved dog.
Our daughter Molly, who is a fellow with the Institute for Southern Jewish Life in Mississippi, sent us a lovely prayer. It’s too long to reprint here but e-mail me if you’d like to have a copy. It was a source of comfort for us all.
I still half expect Lola to be waiting when I come home. It was all I could do to keep from crying when I left all of my dog food coupons for others to find on the pet aisle at my local grocery store.
Ellen already has offered to help us find another pet. Maybe later. Right now no one could measure up to our memories of Lola. It wouldn’t be fair to any other dog.
Thursday, Hall County debuted its new animal shelter. It is a wonderful facility designed to help everyone find their own Lola. Be sure to take a look at more than just the puppies and kittens. If we’d insisted on a younger dog, one who was purebred or a perfect specimen, we would have missed out on one of the highlights of our family’s life.
Everyone deserves a Lola. I hope you find yours.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears every other Friday and on gainesvilletimes.com.