So, we have a new dog. Her name is Lola (chosen in honor of The Kinks, not Barry Manilow). She is a replacement dog. You know, one dog dies, so you get another one to replace it. A replacement dog.
The need for a replacement dog came about last Thanksgiving when our dog of 9 years, a poodle named Lily, passed away from congestive heart failure. Lily was a special member of the family. She was my grilling buddy and my officemate. She welcomed all visitors and kept watch over our house from her favorite perch on the German's bed, from where she could see the neighborhood's comings and goings. She loved us all equally, only some of us more equally than others, which is a matter for continuing debate.
Our boys were quite young when Lily came into our lives. I suspect for them she was just another part of the furniture. Our Daughter's attachment was more visceral. She never fully understood that Lily belonged to all of us and not just to her.
Lily's last few days were a roller coaster ride of health problems and emotions. Near the very end, just as we were ready to do the merciful thing and end her suffering, she rebounded. She ate more food than she had eaten in days. Her breathing sounded almost normal and that young puppy light was back in her eyes. But the recovery was short-lived. By the following night, we made her as comfortable as possible and knew she had come to the end. She joined us in the family room, sat at My Lovely Wife's feet for several minutes, then came over to sit next to me. She gave me one last kiss on the head, rested her body against me and was gone.
We all cried and mourned her loss. We told the kids that we would start searching for a new dog when they were emotionally ready. Less than three days later, the boys announced they had found "the one."
Due to allergies, our pets need to be hypo-allergenic. Most people think this means a pet that doesn't shed, but it isn't the hair that gets you. Hypo-allergenic pets will never need Head and Shoulders shampoo because their bodies produce no dander. It's the dander hanging onto the shed hairs that waft into your sinuses and send your immune system into a five-alarm panic.
Long story short, we brought Lola, a mostly black Havanese, home with us from a breeder in Garner, NC. Five days might seem like a quick turnaround, and perhaps it is, but the lack of not having a dog in the house for the first time in twenty years hung heavy in the air.
My greatest concern for Lola was that she would carry the expectation of living up to the high standards Lily set in so many ways. Apart from recurring medical issues, Lily truly was a low maintenance dog. She didn't bark much, she listened well, she enjoyed the company of people, and she was smart. What we are learning now is that exceptional canine companions come in more than one make or model.
I knew Lola would fit in well the moment she vomited on Our Daughter's boyfriend, Señor Awesome. He is, so far, the only person to have been so christened, with the exception of a stray happy piddle on my Dad's shoe just the other day. Obedience is a bit of an issue. I imagine trying to lead a three-legged cat in heat in a straight line through a fish market might prove easier than taking Lola on even the shortest stroll down the street. Apart from that minor character flaw, Lola is proving smart and sweet and intelligent.
Best of all she likes sleeping in her crate at night, something Lily never would have done. The moment you closed the crate door on Lily she began digging like a crazed Chilean miner to escape. Lola, on the other hand, hangs out in there and sleeps until we open the door and announce "Release the Kracken!" to unleash unbridled puppy energy throughout the house.
And now we are temporarily dogless again as our little Cuban is spending the night at the vet's. Today was the big day for spaying, fixing a small hernia, and pulling baby teeth that refuse to give up the ghost. We are all anxious to have her back, because once you're accustomed to the unquestioning, uncompromising, blindly loyal companionship of a dog, your house simply isn't a home without one.
© 2014 Mark Feggeler