We lost our dog Lola last weekend.
The truth is, the real Lola had been gone a while. She'd been sick and wasn't herself. First she was mad and pouty about it and then depressed and then confused and then sort of not there before she was gone.
Well, it's over now.
I know there's a monumental election about to take place, there are wars all over the world, the economy might be sound or it might be rotten just under the surface, and locally we worry about crime and people without homes and water.
And I'm sorry but I've decided to write a few lines ... probably more than a few ... about that half-Lab-half-terrier who looked like a puppy her whole life up until a couple years ago when her muzzle turned white overnight, who had a wry sense of humor, who was the dog in charge but was deathly afraid of flashlights, whose instincts, while hiking in the woods, turned her into a crazed hunter of ground squirrels, who loved being outside on a nice day more than any creature alive, who had the best dog smile you ever saw, and who loved us way more than we probably deserved.
The thing is, Lola was no shallow article, less important because of the gravity of the present reality. She was with our family through all sorts of weather for 15 years. That's no inconsequential thing.
Our daughter got Lola from the pound the summer after she graduated from high school and struck out on her own. While her mom and dad moved to another town for another job, she stayed behind, went through a bad breakup, then went through a scary illness. Lola stuck with her. Kept her in touch. Helped her get better.
Young people move around and at one point Lola had to come and live with us for just a little while ... and then there was no way we were going to let her go. That was 13 years ago.
She was an easy dog to like. Lola was a clown. The "monkey-dog," we called her. She taught us how to find some enjoyment, no matter how many subplots we had running in our lives.
When I had heart surgery and came home from the hospital, she knew how to not be rambunctious, but was always there to encourage me. She knew how to walk on a leash without pulling hard and ripping a stitch ... we walked and walked and I got healthy.
She was part of the household. She was around when the kids came to visit. She was there to meet their significant others with us. She was depressed right along with us when the kids left.
She and the other dog we had at the time got beat up pretty bad when we were away and someone with a crowbar forced open the door to the house and ransacked the place. The other dog didn't last much longer. Lola got over it. It took a while, but she even recovered her sense of humor.
We lived in a town before here where we could walk from the house a mile to a trailhead and be out of town, walking along a river and up in some foothills. On the way to the trail, we walked through an old downtown where there were several old hotels with rooms to rent for cheap. Older folks who were barely getting by sat out on benches watching time go by.
Lola wasn't usually that friendly with other people when she was on leash ... she didn't trust strangers and she was impatient to get to the trail and hunt mice. But with those old people on those benches, she would stop and let them pet her and talk to her. They'd tell us about dogs they'd had when times were better. We heard a bunch of stories, not the happiest, not worldly or profound, but often poignant. I heard those things because of Lola.
Lola liked it here in Northern California, away from snow and freezing cold. She had the soft velveteen of a puppy her whole life ... but she was never warm enough in the winter. Here the winters weren't so bad.
She still liked being outside, though she didn't walk as much anymore and she didn't want to be away from us for very long.
Lately she'd been having problems. She had probably had a stroke or two. She would have spells where she couldn't keep her feet under her. She was running into things. Even though we managed to get her to eat, she looked emaciated.
Still she would feel better once in a while and would think to put the new dog, Susie, in her place or find some way to tease her. Not too long ago, she managed to grab Sue's tennis ball. Lola could care less about having a tennis ball ... but she loved keeping it from Sue.
I wanted to write about how important Lola was. But I'm afraid I've made her sound a bit mundane ... just another old dog. Well, she wasn't a champion. She didn't rescue anyone or win any prizes.
In the end, dogs like Lola are just there ... loving you and watching you and being a sort of constant in your life. They know you. They know about you. They are everything you and your family go through from when you get them as puppies to when you watch them go to sleep for the last time.
And right now, we cannot figure out at all why we wanted to have dogs in the first place. Because you know you're going to lose them and it's going to break your heart.
But, boy, she was fun. And good.
You were a good girl, Lola. Good girl.