Husband and I came to this marriage not only with kids in tow, but with a dog each. Mine, a large not-so-bright rescue and his, a smart-as-a-whip beagle. After many years, we lost them both in a few weeks time, one from cancer and one died in her sleep.
A few weeks later, we visited Wayside Waifs to pick out our first dog as a married couple. We walked by dozens of lovable mutts, but it wasn’t until we passed a kennel with twelve puppies that we both paused. A volunteer put us in an enclosed area and shuttled the dogs in. While the other puppies nipped at my jeans and bit my fingers, a little puff of black waddled over and climbed into my lap. She plopped down, settled her tiny head onto my ankle, and expelled a loud sigh.
My husband made a case to take home one of the animated puppies attempting to cover his face in kisses. I pulled an exuberant pair off him and placed the serene black ball of fur in his hands. Sporting a pair of small, rounded un-dog-like ears we quickly dubbed her Lola Bear and walked out the door with our new best friend.
Told she would never grow beyond forty pounds, I bought a compact flat basket for her bed and lined it with an old sweater of mine. After nine hours of whining, she agreed to sleep when we added a radio playing country western songs.
Lola quickly outgrew her little basket and the one after that. She topped out a seventy pounds.
I’m sure there must have been struggles while house training her, but I don’t remember them. Like any dog, she probably chewed up a shoe or two and tried to run away, but those errors in judgment have been erased from my memory.
I think of her as the gentle giant that followed me from room to room where she’d settle on the floor next to me, expelling her colossal sigh. When I woke up in the morning, before my feet hit the floor, I’d hear the thump-thump of her club-like tail beating on the floorboards.
Eventually, Lola struggled with arthritis, a torn ligament and hip dysplasia. As a well-trained human, I gathered what I needed for the day and settled into one room of the house. All day I sipped on luke warm tea rather than move to the kitchen so Lola could avoid the pain of following me there.
Husband and I met with the vet to discuss euthanasia. He said it was time and explained how lucky animals are that we have the power to put them out of their misery. We weren’t ready then and took her home. That “power” the vet discussed became a curse, haunting me as I looked into Lola’s brown eyes, begging her to tell me if she was ready to go. I laid on the floor with her describing what a great dog she’d been. She thumped her tail a few times, but when I began to cry she got up and walked away, not agreeing to any melancholy.
Lola’s been gone a few months now, but Husband and I still pause at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for her to lead the way to our bedroom where she’ll flop down and expel her inimitable sigh.