I’ve been sitting on this blog post for so long. The last few weeks have been horrendous and sad and now the joy has started to spring back in and I think it’s time…
Just over two weeks ago on the first Monday of the Easter holidays we said goodbye to our lovely miracle dog Lola. I didn’t write a blog post because I couldn’t. I posted some of the many photos I’ve taken instead. I literally couldn’t find the words to say how much this beautiful loving soft soul had impacted our lives since we brought her home from the local SPCA about 11 years ago.
Lola joined us when we had to say goodbye to our gorgeous lurcher girl Cara. Aisling was only a toddler and Niamh hadn’t yet arrived. We arrived at the sanctuary and I took one look at the dog with the half black half white face jumping up and down like a loon and said, “that’s our dog”. She took some settling time with our lurcher Finn but was well able for him. She was a bundle of energy. Always up for a play, always up for a snuggle and always full of love. She grew with us as we welcomed our second daughter Niamh, and became my chief assistant mammy – she’d come and wake the girls in the morning with me, and stick her big wet beautiful snout in their ear or face to wake them. She was ceaselessly loving and gentle as well as being soft and fluffy and beautiful. She was fun – so much fun. She had a great love for the beach and trying to catch stones (I’m sure she had a few chipped teeth!) and loved to bark until you’d throw her stones. She didn’t bother with other dogs at all when we were out, apart from one local lurcher boy called Duke – who she went hilariously girly and wriggly for every time we met him. She was fantastically patient when we got Ted after Finn passed away and put up with his efforts to get her to play like the lovely patient gorgeously kind old lady she was. She loved us all unconditionally, always. Even the newbie. She was relentlessly happy and loving. Everyone who visited our house or encountered her loved her and she always loved them right back. She even starred in her own series of “You has” photos on social media – her steroids gave her that ravenous beastie appetite that meant she’d know if you were so much as thinking about food! She was unbelievably photogenic.
Two years ago we discovered that Lola had liver failure and the vet said she had about 6 weeks if we were lucky. We switched her to raw food and she came back to health and happiness pretty fast. Every day since then was a bonus. She’s been slowing a bit since Christmas and after some seriously horrible vomiting bouts, began refusing food unless it was chicken and carrots and sweet potato or a treat! She then began refusing that food about a month ago and returned (much to my relief) to her raw food and had a few days where things began to look good again. Then she got a bit yellow, then very yellow and started to lose weight and sleep a lot. Her back legs were quite wobbly and she was very slow for the first time on what proved to be her last walk on the Sunday at Tinakilly Avenue. She always barked to go for a walk when you mentioned the word. She loved being out with us all. We knew the day she didn’t would be one of her last. I wasn’t sure that Sunday was it, but when we had to stop a few times on the short walk we do with her, I did wonder.
Lola collapsed trying to get up the stairs to bed on the Monday morning about 4am. I heard her reach the top, then tumble down our small winding stairs. She couldn’t move but eventually got up to go outside briefly then came in and conked out on her bed. We had put her bed in the kitchen and wrapped her up to keep her warm. We surrounded her and loved her and sat with her and let her know she wasn’t alone. We talked about all the funny shit she’d done down through the years and the lovely things she brought to our lives: joy, fun, kindness, softness, loyalty and fierce companionship. We laughed a lot. We cried. We took her to the vet a few hours later and said goodbye. The week following is a bit of a blur and my recollection of it is that it was bleak and empty. Ted slept even more than usual and spent a lot of time at the window waiting. We were all missing our lovely, beautiful, bright, funny, fun loving, loving, kindly Lola. The things I miss most are her night time groaning and her big soft wet nose in my face every morning. I’ll get over the groaning but don’t know if I’ll ever get used to not being woken that way. I’m not sure I want to.
A friend sent me a beautiful quote about grief being love with nowhere to go and I believe that this is part of why we decided to start looking for another dog pretty much straight away. I know our pounds and rescues are full of dogs needing homes. I know our house is full of big hearts wanting a dog for us and for Ted. I know Lola was one of those dogs, as were Finn and Cara before her. We did some searching on line and found a few possibilities. I put some feelers out and I expected it would take a long time between emails, phone calls and visits to meet dogs as well as home checks etc. BUT we were super lucky to get a home visit a day or two later, and to meet our new lady just two days after that and know almost straight away she was our dog. So we brought home Sophie, a gorgeously affectionate, patient, playful, brindle lurcher. She hopped on the sofa as soon as we came home and tried to cuddle up with Ted. The Epic One was less than impressed with this infringement but tolerated it and even rose to a few friendly sniffs and a wag of the tail.
The second week of our holiday was taken up, in total contrast to the first, with getting to know a new beautiful soul and helping her settle in to our family. She fitted right in almost straight away. We’ve had one or two nights when she cried for someone to snuggle up with. Ted is very much a solo snoozer and snaps at anyone who disturbs his sleep and she desperately wants him to allow her closer. She has allowed him space and slowly but surely, with great care and determination is edging closer by the day. She was the same with playing. She really needs him to play more, but is very patient with him when he doesn’t want to or as it seemed at first – he was just too afraid to and didn’t know how. She has gently, slowly and surely showed him the ropes and this week he’s taking the lead and chasing her. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. In the last day or two they seem to have reached a whole new level of familiarity. They’re moving more as one. They hang out in the same room and when one moves, so does the other. They even synchronise poops and pees! Seriously!
I was telling someone just yesterday about what happened with Lola. I burst into tears. I realised afterwards that I had not had to relay the story to anyone in a while and that Lola’s passing will stay with me for some time. In the end although we were all heartbroken and things happened so quickly, Lola the miracle dog got to live her life to the max right up till that last 24 hours. When it all went wrong she was held tight, loved and comforted by the people who loved her most in the world. When it was needed we braced ourselves and made the call. We did what had to be done and were there till long after her final heartbeat. We felt that lovely soft fur for one final time and said goodbye.
I miss all the dogs I’ve had that have passed. I always will. Lola is no exception. Her loyalty and that big wet soft beautiful snout in my face in the morning left an ache that’ll never go. This morning a pointy brindle lurcher girl named Sophie stuck her little wet snout in my ear before licking as much of my shoulders and neck as she could. I woke up giggling. When I did get her to settle she stuck her snout in the crook of my neck and went to sleep. I lay there enjoying every second. It’s precious snout time that I’ll never take for granted. Ever.
I am amazed at the enormous love that happens between us and our dogs. I’m constantly honoured by the return of that love from such amazing hounds and humbled by their loyalty. I will always be grateful for each one and how they ceaselessly expand our capacity for love and remind us to remember that love, fun, food, snuggles and a good walk daily are in fact, the recipe for the good life if you do it all in the right company. I count our family very lucky to be heartbroken, at this rate on a pretty regular basis, by the passing of a family member as wonderful as the dogs we’ve had grace our lives. We’ll keep doing it. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you are thinking of getting a dog, please go and adopt from your local rescue , shelter or pound and not from a breeder! And please please think of a lurcher or greyhound who are much neglected and abused and make the most fantastic pets (as long as you can make room on the sofa and in your bed).