Lola died on August 4th, 2014 at 5:15 pm at age 8-1/2. Seven months after she was diagnosed with cancer. Six months after her leg was amputated in the hopes of stemming the cancer. And only two weeks after x-rays showed the cancer had returned. I wrote her inspiring story shortly after her leg was amputated, How Lola lost her leg and embraced life. Our sweet Lola indeed embraced life until the very end, until she was too tired and sick to make the effort any more.
The last day
After Lola’s surgery in February of 2015, my aunt told me, “We make a contract with our pets that we will safely and kindly see them through life and then to death. It’s the cycle of life.” Wise and comforting words I think.
We took Lola to a park on her last day, trying to bring some joy to her in her last hours. As much as I tried to savor every last moment with her, I did find myself thinking, “two hours from now, she will be gone; one hour…only 30 minutes left.” Sitting with her in the doctor’s office, there was a part of me wanting it to just be over and another part screaming, “No, she can’t leave us yet. This is a mistake.”
We wrapped our girl in a pink blanket which had the word ‘love’ written all over it, a gift to her after her surgery – and sent her on her way with a packet of her favorite treats and peanut butter, photos of us and all our love.
She left this world with the same grace and dignity she showed all her life.
The ebb and flow of grieving
Shortly after Lola’s death, my young neighbors brought their little dog Cleo for a visit to cheer me up and ernestly told me they went to a shelter to find us a new dog to help us not miss Lola so much. Another neighbor brought Zoe, Lola’s best doggie friend, over. She was jauntily sporting a witch’s hat complete with vivid pink hair. The next day she was wearing a black spider on her head and the next day she was a devil with red horns. A bit of laughter through the all the tears and wonderful friends and neighbors helping us through.
As I wept for Lola, I embraced the idea of the Rainbow Bridge because it soothed me. I pictured our kitties Sherlock, Watson and Molly all waiting for Lola to welcome her there and to ease her passing. Then later I pictured her with her tilted head, ears fully upright and forward, a smile on her face looking directly at us as if to say, “Have you seen this place? It’s so cool!” It helped me to keep those images in my head.
My grief ebbs and flows, even now nine months later. I can feel her presence in so many places. It sometimes takes my breath away, how much I miss her, how much I long to have her back.
To adopt again or not, that is the question
I didn’t want another dog after Lola died. My husband Bill was ready almost immediately, but I was adamantly opposed. Until one day I wasn’t.
I didn’t tell Bill that because I had a nugget of an idea forming. I wanted to give him a shelter dog for his February birthday.
My internal dialogue was argumentative. “Here are all the good reasons to save another shelter dog…” “You’re crazy to want another dog. Look what you just went through.”
If you’ve ever adopted a dog or cat or wanted to, you KNOW those arguments. You’ve had those arguments. Until you make your decision. I made mine. Saving a dog far outweighed the negative arguments I was having with myself.
I searched the local shelters and started following one particular shelter on their Facebook page. I was looking for an older dog that was considered at-risk and hard to adopt. I kept coming back to a dog named Sasha that had been in a shelter for about eight months, adopted twice and returned. She is about three years-old and is an Australian cattle dog Lab mix. She has the most beautiful freckles and the goofiest ears and the sweetest temperament. I just KNEW she was going to be perfect for us.
And so on February 20th I blindfolded my husband and put him in the car with the words, “trust me.” When we arrived at the shelter and took his blindfold off, he was completely disoriented as he noticed we were in what looked like a construction yard.
I gleefully told him, “You’re getting a puppy for your birthday!” I smiled expectantly.
“What??” he asked, confused.
I explained further, “This is Petaluma Animal Services and we’re going to see a dog named Sasha. If she’s a good match, she’ll be your birthday present!”
The smile that broke out on his face told me that this birthday present was going to be hard to beat next year.
We walked in the door and met the newest member of our family. My instinct was right. She was and is perfect for us.
She is a 60-pound lap dog who loves nothing more than to snuggle with you or put her head in your lap. She brings us her toys, not to play with but as presents. She snores when she sleeps. She gets the ‘zoomies’ and races about the house, spinning in circles until she just stops and takes a nap. She does what we call a ‘wiggle woggle’ dance. If you can imagine a dog doing “The Twist” then you get the gist of what I mean. Her whole body wiggles with happiness, so much so her tail hits her in the face – repeatedly. It makes us laugh out loud every time she does it, which is quite frequently. She brings a vibrant energy to our home. We are so totally and completely in love with her. Even our cats tolerate her and she them.
Lola’s spirit lives on just as our other beloved shelter animals that passed before her do. It still takes my breath away, missing Lola, but we saved another shelter dog and that’s always a good thing.