Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
May has been hell, to say the least and there’s still a few days left. It started on May 1st and only 5 days later, it went from bad to worse. Our dog died. Yep, it sucked even more than you can probably imagine. I’ve lost pets before but out Lola, she hit different because she was the first dog the four of us got together. Not to mention she came into our lives at a crucial time.
My parents never warned me that the price of getting to really and completely love someone or something is unfathomable heartbreak you have to endure when they are no longer here. That’s a shitty lesson that I’ve had to learn all on my own over the years.
I’ve lost people and I’ve lost pets but what we’re going through right now feels heavier and more devastating than almost anything I’ve ever experienced previous. This one, it hit different. On Saturday, May 6th, we lost our beloved Lola. It was more than just losing a pet, she was a decade of our lives. She was my children’s childhood. She was glue and we absolutely adored everything about her and every second we got to spend with her.
Like a furry little angel, Lola came to us when we needed her most. 2012 was a really hard year for our family. It was marked by transition and loss. We relocated and left behind all of our friends in South Bend and that spring we lost our third baby and a couple months later, our beloved Saffaron (Brindle boxer, our first fur baby) who we adopted right after we were married. As a family, we were devastated and feeling a huge void from two great losses. It felt as if there was no way we could weather the storm of our life.
But on December 14, 2012, we met Lola. The most beautiful, sweet, kind, caring, funny, loving and quirky Victorian Bulldog. It was love at first sight. She even came to us on a day when our hearts were filled with sadness and she made us smile through our tears. That is what our Lola did. She was redemption and hope all wrapped up in fur and a big pink bow.
All of us loved her just as much as we would any child in our family. I know some of you are scoffing at the fact that I just compared my dog to your child but it’s the truth. I’ve had dogs and I’ve had human children and Lola was closer to human than not. All the love we had to give, to our Saff and our third baby, was poured into our Lola and she reciprocated every single bit of it. If you were sad, she would sense it and come sit by you, snuggle in and fill you up without fail. If anything, we loved her too much and now, the hole is too deep to fill. There will never be another Lola.
In 2015, when I broke my leg, shattering bones and dislocating ankles, and could not walk for 3 months, Lola was my constant companion. She never left my side. At a time when I felt my most depressed and vulnerable, she was there for me. She was dedicated and loyal to the very end. On her last day, I returned the favor and she died in my arms.
She’d been sick for months. Late last summer, she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease right before her 10th birthday. She would have been 11 this upcoming September 6th. She had suddenly started gaining a lot of weight and was very thirsty. We thought maybe she was diabetic. But a series of blood tests determined that it was Cushings.
We didn’t know much about the disease other than it was an overproduction of cortisol. We followed the doctor’s orders and gave her the medication they prescribed and hoped to prolong her quality of life for as long as we could. However, soon instead of being overweight she was severely underweight. She lost almost 20 pounds in just a few months and looked emaciated despite the fact that we were taking her in every 2-3 months for level checks and giving her medication daily for the disease.
At some point the medication overworked and our Lola had no cortisol. She became weak and would hardly eat. Some, most, days I had to sit on the floor and hold her while I hand fed her chicken, fruit, pumpkin and water. I didn’t care, as long as she wasn’t in pain, this was the least I could do. The vet said she wasn’t but we could see and feel her declining. I won’t go into all the details because this wound is still too fresh and I may never stop sobbing if I go down that path.
Long story short, no matter how much you expect it or reconcile yourself to the fact that someone or something you love is dying, when the time comes, it is excruciatingly painful. No amount of preparedness can ready your heart for the monumentally gaping hole that will be left by losing someone you love. Yes, even a dog.
Honestly, losing our Lola may have been more painful than some of the human losses we’ve recently suffered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to demean any loss. I am only saying that our Lola was more than a dog to our family. She was a sister, a daughter and a friend and she is irreplaceable in our hearts. I spent almost every day of the last 11 years with her at my side, at my feet and in my arms.
On morning that she left us, she woke up and could not steady herself. When she went outside to potty, she vomited. She never vomits. Weakly, she continued to stumble around the yard like a wobbly newborn calf and I knew something wasn’t right. She headed toward me and locked her eyes on mine. Something wasn’t right. As I was holding her, she relieved herself all over me and went limp. My heart broke, I thought she’d died.
Then, she moved. I cleaned myself up as the Big Guy and the girls cleaned up Lola. In my heart, I knew, that this was our last day with our sweet Lola. I was terrified but on the other hand I was ready to help her peacefully transition. She’s been sick for almost a year and, as much as we wanted her here with us, we could not bear to watch her suffer. I promised myself that when the time came, I would sit with her in our favorite chair and hold her until the end.
We all surrounded her and loved on her. Through our sobs we held her and told her we loved her and how good she was. We could not change the inevitable but we knew we could give her a peaceful and loving goodbye, no matter how much it broke our hearts. It’s the least she deserved after being our faithful and loving companion for the past decade. I administered one of her pain pills just to make sure she was comfortable.
I sat in the big brown, leather, oversized recliner (where the two of us sat together countless times over the years) and I put her in my lap, wrapped in her favorite blanket (she was rail thin and always cold lately), she placed her tiny head on my heart and she slept there for hours. Only rousing ever so often to gently raise her head and look at me and then drift back off to sleep much like a milk drunk newborn.
Later in the day, her breathing became labored and shallow. She was no longer conscious and was no longer lifting her head. I placed my hand on her tiny heart and I could feel it racing beneath my hand like a thousand wild mustangs running across the plains. And then suddenly, it slowed down to what felt like 1 lone baby mustang and then it felt as if she disappeared right beneath my fingers.
Her heart was beating so faintly beneath my fingertips that it was almost undetectable. But still, she was very faintly breathing. We couldn’t take it anymore. I’d spent the entire day holding her so that she could pass peacefully in my arms but even when it’s what’s best for the one dying, it is almost impossible to survive for the loved ones watching them fade away. We decided to rush her to the emergency room. Not to be saved but just to make sure that she didn’t linger in between life and death.
We walked into the emergency room sobbing, holding the limp, seemingly lifeless body of our beloved and loyal Lola knowing that this was the last time we would ever see or hug her again. Knowing that this was the last time that we would ever get to rub her neck or kiss her forehead, knowing all of our days with her, were behind us now. We were there when she took her final breath, loving her until the very end. Ushering her to the other side with an abundance of gratitude and love.
We cried all day that Saturday. We’re still crying today, 3 weeks later. I feel like we might cry forever over our Lola. It was one of the worst things we’ve gone through recently. This morning I woke up and saw that my husband had emptied her food bowl (probably to prevent me from having to do it) and I started sobbing. Last night, I slept restlessly. I woke up reaching out for her. My heart can’t get used to her little head not being on the pillow next to mine. I see her in her bed, in the corners, under the chairs and couches, around every corner. I’ve cried for days over this loss. I don’t know how we’ll ever return to normal after losing the tiny angel who saved my family from more loss than our hearts could handle in 2012.
Lola we’ll love you forever. You are, were and will always be the best girl, our sweet Floki Moki.