Saying Goodbye to Lola
Occasionally, I have the great privilege of placing a dog with someone who seems to have been custom crafted for just that single, unique, particular dog. Among dog people, we sometimes refer to that once in a lifetime dog as our ‘heart dog‘. I don’t really know of a better way to describe it – this is the dog who occupies a special place inside of our hearts. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that we don’t love all of our dogs, and it’s not even about loving that one dog more than we love the other ones (no matter how many other ones there might be). It’s something different – something ineffable. After a while, we you’ve seen or known those two beings together, they become so enmeshed that their names almost start to run together (CharlotteHammer, comes to mind, and for me I hope it’s CarolTessa).
In this case, it was MaggieLola, or since we had more than one Lola at the time, it was usually Maggie’sLola. That wasn’t the most accurate way of putting it, perhaps – I think maybe calling her Lola’s Maggie might have made more sense to most of the people who knew them. Technically speaking, Maggie and I ‘co owned’ Lola together (formal name, Bullmarket Chiquita Lolita), but there was never any question of who Lola belonged to (and certainly not in Lola’s mind there wasn’t). On the occasions when Lola came for a visit, she behaved something like Royalty in Exile – she knew she was better than this, and she knew that soon would come the day when she was returned to her rightful Kingdom, where her loyal subject (Maggie), was waiting to pay her homage (which she was).
Lola had more names than almost any other dog I’ve ever known, and more than a few identities. At the end of her life, after she’d lost an eye, she gained a new level of fame as the “Dread Pirate Lola, Scourge of the Seven Seas”. Most of all, though, she was (and is, and always will be), just Maggie’s Lola.
And this is who she was, in Maggie’s own words.
August 2nd 1998 – October 27th 2011
a.k.a Bullmarket Chiquita Lolita, Lola Banana, Lopalo, Miss Lo
I’ve found it next to impossible to write a fitting eulogy for Lola: My friend, constant companion and my baby girl; my husband’s first furry daughter, who will always hold the most special place in his heart; Frisbee enthusiast and adept squirrel chaser; lover of soft veal treats and McDonalds French fries with ketchup – in equal measure; older (and very patient) sister to her crazy compadre, Sushi. Beloved Granddog to Bruce and Susan Montgomery, and adored by so many family members, friends and complete strangers.
Over the years, Lola captured the hearts of countless numbers of people in Canada and the USA. She was many children’s first dog. I would tell children that her fur was so soft that it felt like marshmallows. The kids would smile at that comparison and spend ages squishing and petting her and telling her how cute she was. I think that cute was the first word she understood. She would hear the word, stop what she was doing, and pose. Strangers would ask me if they could take pictures of her. The adoration began as a puppy; she literally stopped traffic. Cars did U-turns on busy streets so that people could come meet her. As a puppy, I would have to carry her everywhere we went. If I put her down to walk, we’d be surrounded by a crowd three deep within seconds. She was quite comfortable being carried – laying along my forearm, legs dangling on either side with her chin resting in my hand.
Lola was a fantastic Frisbee player. She could catch almost any throw, catching them over her shoulder, jumping higher than you’d think possible and would do these amazing somersaults, popping up with a huge smile on her face and then run back for more. Every day, for at least eight years, her Grandpa (and on the weekend Grandma would join in) would take her to the park or beach. I often came home from work to an exhausted and grass stained dog.
When she was eight years old, she began having eye problems. It started with ulcers that eventually required keratotomy operations. She dealt with all of the meds and time in a cone with great patience, and was soon back to her Frisbee sessions and car rides. Oh, how she loved car rides, being the co-pilot and leaning into the turns, windows down and her jowls flapping in the wind.
Shortly after her 10th birthday, glaucoma hit. Within twenty-four hours, it was obvious that her left eye needed to be removed. She recovered from the surgery and was back playing Frisbee the day that the stitches came out. For the next year she endured eight medications a day in order to control the glaucoma that would inevitably hit her remaining eye. Almost a year to the day after her first eye was removed, the glaucoma reappeared. After two failed shunt surgeries, I had to make the almost impossible decision to have her remaining eye removed. To have to blind your otherwise healthy dog is a feeling I can’t describe, but in the end it was the only option. Her operation was done at Lawrence Park Animal Hospital by Dr. Larry Wilder. He helped me accept the hard decision. Dr. Wilder had known Lola since her well puppy visit at 8 ½ weeks old – she was a big factor in his love of the breed, and he owns three Frenchies now. She was loved by every single staff member at the hospital.
Within two days of her second surgery, she was finding her food and water, and walking up and down stairs. What I treasure most about the whole journey is that she got to spend the last two years of her life just being a dog, as she deserved.
On Wednesday, October 26th 2011, my husband came home to find Lola having trouble breathing. We immediately called the vet and got her in first thing the next morning. The vet, Dr. Robert Glasser at Steinway Court Vet, said that her condition was very serious. He put her on oxygen, performed an EEG, ultrasound, blood tests, and a chest x-ray. Her oxygen levels kept falling, even with a mask on. They tried everything to reverse her condition, but in the end there was nothing to be done. Her lungs and heart were shutting down. My husband and I made the heartbreaking, but kindest, decision.
We were there with her in the end, so she wasn’t scared or alone. She wasn’t in pain, though she was struggling to breathe. The vet gave us as much time as we needed to say goodbye. We held her, kissed her and told her how much we loved and would miss her. We petted and touched her, and talked to her while the vet gave her the injections. She went quietly and quickly. She gently fell asleep with her momma and dada holding her.
I didn’t realize how many people cherished her until I had to make the calls to notify them of her passing. She’s been described as iconic, a special old soul, an example of the ability to triumph over adversity, and the reason that people have decided to let the love of a Frenchie enrich their lives.
Every day for thirteen years she came to greet me when I came home, even in blindness. My heart aches for her. My arms and chest feel empty in the places that she nestled when I picked her up and held her. I miss giving her kisses.
We had her cremated. Lola’s urn is surrounded by pictures, her favourite stuffed bunny toy and her pink collar with the heart shaped studs and pink and silver heart ID tag. Her urn rests in a sunbeam – the kind she used to bask in to get toasty warm. The picture that we chose for her urn is of Lola running towards me through the grass, Frisbee in her mouth, with a big smile on her face. She had the best smile.
No day shall erase you from the memory of time – Virgil
Sigh…I so hear you. We lost our heartdog last year. Kafka was 13 years too. Oddly, yesterday I was listening to my daughter’s iPod and this song came on. It brought back such a rush of emotion that took me by surprise. But a fitting tribute to this time in life, for sure:
Bronte by Gotye
What a truly moving and inspirational eulogy the two of you have put togehter for Lola. My heart breaks that this brave little soul isn’t here on earth anymore but I have no doubts that she is still in your home watching over you. This was one of the most beautiful tributes I’ve ever come across and you both express so well what its like to have your “heart” dog in your life.
Thank you for this.