Lola was not an easy dog.
Pretty much the whole family was with my adult daughter Lauren when she selected Lola, a black mixed lab, at the humane society.
“This is the one.” she said.
Lola was just a puppy, but even puppies carry baggage, as we soon realized; she feared all men with the exception of my husband and son.
Lola had other “qualities.” She could manage to reach any food item on the counter no matter how far back it was placed. She barked indiscriminatingly at all of our neighbors. One Thanksgiving in the country it took us an hour chasing her to get her back into the van to return home. Thunderstorms sent her under my bed. Still, she was loved. And I fondly recall watching the movie 101 Dalmatians with her in my bed.
Lola and Lauren drifted in and out of our home for holidays or periods between life transitions – Lauren’s graduate studies, new jobs, and wedding preparations. But Lola came to live with us permanently when Lauren realized her toddler Peter and second child was allergic to dogs. My husband Jimmy and I already had two dogs, Salt and Pepper, but Lola joined the pack. Lauren and the children drove from Abington, Pennsylvania, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to bring her to live with us.
When we moved to a smaller house, Lola went also, and we aged together like two old ladies. Only Lola was not aging well. She began having neurological issues that didn’t improve.
By now Lauren had three children, and they were staying with us for a few weeks one summer. Despite all the years with us, Lola was still Lauren’s dog, and when Lola could no longer manage to walk outside without assistance, Lauren made the call. I could not bring myself to put her through the agony of a trip to our veterinarian’s office, so we arranged for a doctor to come to our home.
Lauren had previously scheduled her children to attend vacation Bible school at a local church that morning. However, before they left, she instructed Geneva, Peter, and Luke to say their goodbyes to Lola. We situated Lola on blankets on the den floor, and each child bent down to hug her gently and whisper their farewell.
“I love you, Lola.”
Then they left.
The veterinarian did her job quietly, efficiently, and respectfully. The first shot relaxed Lola, and at that point the rest of the family gathered, a ritual for us. My children had admonished me on the occasion I singly took our cat to be put down. The second shot did the job.
Between that moment and the return of the children, my son David and husband Jimmy dug the hole in our back yard. (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.) Actually, a plaque inscribed with “Our dear pet” partway down the hill indicated that Lola was not the first to be buried there. The yard sloped gently and was populated by numerous oak trees to provide a natural setting. On that particular day the ground was hard and difficult to dig in due to stifling summer days and precious little rain. Nevertheless, we accomplished our task.
We thought we had done it right, but when the children entered the house at lunchtime, they were confused.
“Where is Lola?”
Had we used some euphemism to explain what was happening to spare them? Had we missed a teaching moment in our rush to bury her? Our comments seemed inadequate. Some say that children, as well as adults, need to grieve for pets as part of the lesson to understand our own mortality. Maybe that’s true.
I remember someone asking if a book/movie about a dog existed in which the dog did not die in the end. At the time I failed to think of one.
When David’s dogs visit, they madly race down that same hill after a squirrel or the occasional deer. During the autumn months as the leaves heavily gather in the yard and the smell of wood fires permeates the air, I make sure that the worn plaque and stones lie uncovered, so I can find the exact spot where my Lola lies.
Author: Donna Morris