Tiny Salutations

Tiny Salutations

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Monday, June 20, 2016

In Loving Memory of Lola

The past few weeks have been crazy for us... our son got extremely sick (including emergency) from a respiratory virus, I've had several bed ridden days, surgical procedures, autism has been very challenging, and countless appointments (an average of 10 per week). Over the past few weeks I worked diligently on creating a photo-story, but when I was finished, rather than feeling good about it I felt as if it wasn't quite right. As I continued to try to shape it into a finished product that did feel right, I realized that the issue lay not with the story itself, but that it was not the right time. Our beloved dog, Lola, passed away a few weeks ago. The story I was working on didn't feel right, because the story I needed to write was the one of Lola's life. I told my son when she passed that when we miss someone that is gone, the best way to feel better is to share your favorite stories about them, so I am going to share photographs and stories that represent our best memories together.

It actually took me a very long time to create this blog post, because I wanted it to be representative of how deeply embedded and encompassing she was in my life. I became an adult and shaped a lot of who I am during her time with me.

The ten years of Lola's life with me
The above picture is a collection of photos taken over Lola's entire life with me.
Lola on her first day home with me- you can see the incision from her surgery (and an extra 10+ pounds)
How I Got a Dog
The story of how I adopted Lola is quite unusual. I was working at a veterinary hospital to pay the bills while I went to school at the university. Lola was an old girl, having just turned nine years old, when I met her. She was fully sedated and asleep in one of the kennels at the vet hospital that I worked. Her owner had brought her in after not walking for a week after he had seemingly kicked her (his story was a little unclear). Her leg required surgery to be able function again. She was in incredible amounts of pain, which is why she was fully sedated. He didn't want to pay for the surgery and opted for her to be put down instead. A needle was drawn up to euthanize her and was taped to the front of her kennel, her name written on it, as they finished their conversation and paperwork. I noted how adorable she was, even sedated and pathetic- her floppy ears, her delicate snout.  I decided to inquire as to what was happening. When I heard that she could live if only she had the surgery, I asked to adopt her. The surgery would be expensive, but it was a life that could go on living if someone cared enough.

The surgery was performed late that night where the top of her left femur was removed, essentially removing her hip (her leg was no longer connected by bone-nor any artificial product-to her pelvis). It took her a little over a year to walk on that leg again, which you can read about in a story below. She was not a nice dog at first (which I didn't know since she was sedated), growling and snapping at pretty much everyone, but she grew to trust and love me intensely. She became an amazingly sweet, loyal, and gentle dog, even forming a strong relationship with my son when he was born.

Since she was already nine years old, I expected to give her about three more years or so. Aside from her leg, she was not in great health- she was very overweight, had allergies, and mild liver issues. A year later, she was a close friend and in great health. Rather than giving her three more years, she had nearly ten. She was 18 years old when she died and had spent nearly ten happy years with me. Her life could have ended all those years ago, her name literally written on death, but by giving an old dog a second chance, I gave her ten years, a second life of love and happiness.
My first day (or so) with Lola
Good memories...
I would like to share some of my favorite photos of Lola here (a few individually rather than the collage) that accompany really great memories.

This a hike (Whistle Lake) that my husband and I did nearly every day for the years that we lived nearby. Lola is the tiny black figure near the edge of the lake. 
Lola and I on the beach

Our son hugging Lola and helping her to walk (left) and Lola hiking in the rainforest (right)
Lola-- so happy that she is rolling in the grass
A Dog's Life to Envy
Not only did Lola get a second chance at life, one that was not only healthier and more loved and cherished, but she also got to see and experience incredible things, as you can see in the collage above. She was by my side through hot deserts, rocky tide pool covered beaches carved right out of the hillside, moss laden rainforests, ancient forests filled with gigantic trees, sandy ocean beaches, islands among the grey sea, the tops of mountain ranges, hot springs, historic monuments from missions to forts to Native locales, and even the top of a dam. Not only that, but she was part of my life as it evolved from starting out on my own to becoming a family. In the later part of her life, she was a boy's dog, which I think is a special relationship that every dog should experience.


Lola  and I greeting each other with love (left) and Lola and I hiking up a mountain and through a waterfall (right)

Tea for Two
While I was getting my Bachelors of Science degree, the university backed right up against an arboretum. Nearly every day I would hike up to the top of the arboretum with Lola. Then, afterward, I would sit down for tea and have tea and apples and cheese (I was vegetarian, but not vegan then). I would set out both of my teacups- one filled with Earl Grey for me and the other empty set out for Lola. She would just sit dutifully behind her teacup and listen intently to my stories and ideas. She is the best friend I will ever have for tea.

Three's a Crowd
When my husband and I started out in our relationship, we slept on a pull out loveseat couch every night (no joke). It was in between the size of a twin and full bed with a horrible "mattress". As if that doesn't sound cramped enough, my husband and I also shared the bed with Lola every night, and even our cat (who makes an appearance further down this page) in between his nocturnal mischief/mess making.

Lola and I wading in the ocean
Throw Her in the Deep End, See if She Can Swim
Lola would not walk on her leg after her surgery. After about 6 months, the doctors said that we should have just amputated her leg. I felt that with time and effort, I could get her walking again. She would not let me perform physical therapy initially, because she was a bit aggressive, scared, and confused. I tried several ways to get her walking on that hind leg, but none were very effective. When I moved north, I taped a rock to the bottom of her good rear foot. The idea was to make that foot uncomfortable on which to rely. That was somewhat effective, but not totally. Then, I found a lake that was a great spot to hang out and even to wade in. Lola was not fond of getting deep into the lake, but she would walk in with me to the depth she was comfortable. I decided to push that comfort, and she trusted me to do so. I would hold her and walk in fairly deep, then let go, and she would hastily swim back to shore. She wasn't all that happy about this, but it forced her to use that back leg that she had neglected for so long. We did this over and over. Over the course of a few months, she started walking on her poor leg. Eventually, that leg became strong, and she could use it to run and jump as if she had never had surgery. I surmise that her leg, two years after I adopted her, was able to do things she had never done in her entire life. There is something to be said for dedication and determination.

Lola following her boy dutifully
Lola dutifully watching over her boy (and said boy holding up a Captain Picard action figure in some kind of glory)
Protective 
When our son as born, he stayed at the hospital for many weeks. When he finally came home, he slept in a cradle in our bedroom. Lola had always slept as close to me as she could (in the bed with me, and later on the floor next to me), but when our son started sleeping in our room, she preferred to sleep under his cradle instead. I was very worried how my son and Lola would interact, especially with her past of being aggressive and the incapability of toddlers to be gentle, but she was incredibly gentle and loving with him.

Lola at the beach on the Washington coast
A Little Boy's Memory
I asked our son what his favorite memory of Lola is to include in this memorial here. He and Lola had become such close friends. He cared so much for her, considering her his best friend, and she finally felt comfortable enough (that she wouldn't have her ears tugged or a Hotwheel driven onto her back) that she could completely commit herself to being his best friend too. He told me that his favorite memory is playing with her and digging in the sand at the beach where we brought our truck. He is recalling the Washington coast near Ocean Shores. Lola always loved running on the sand. Although she couldn't really run toward the end of her life, she had fun exploring the beach with him. They particularly enjoyed each others' as he dug in the sand with his tiny shovel while she lay next to him in the sand, curled around him and his sand hole.

My son talking to Lola on the trail, telling her "I know it's fun for you to pee, and that's okay, but we have to keep walking. Do you understand?"
Again speaking to Lola, although I do not know what
The Gentler Side 
When you raise a child that is both bearer and witness to suffering, you have to wonder if it is going to negatively affect them. My son has autism and learning what you can and can't do to the dog was difficult for him, but she was very gentle with him and eventually they created a strong bond. In her last year, we decided to try to let him have the responsibility of holding her leash for part of the time we were out as it was difficult to juggle a toddler, a dog, and a wheelchair at once. He would take this job very seriously. Since he has autism, it is often hard to tell what he is actually hearing- when we talk to him he often seems to not be listening or understanding- but then we hear our words come out of him, and we know he has been listening much more than we thought.

One such moment was an interaction between our son and Lola. One day we gave him the leash on a trail, and then my husband had to run up to the trash can to deposit her waste. While my son, dog, and I waited, Lola decided to seize the opportunity to sniff about. Our son was fretting about this, apparently worried that this sniffing would somehow get out of hand. Then, he talked to her in a way that astonished me. He spoke gently to her saying "I know it's fun for you to pee, and that's okay, but we have to keep walking. Do you understand?".

Around this time, he started telling her when she would pant that "[she] didn't have to be scared, that [he] would be with her, and so [she] would be okay" and patting her ever so softly on the head. He developed this gentleness that he used specifically for her and the only other things to receive that gentleness are (most) plants and occasionally other animals. Through her last days, he told her over and over "It's okay. Don't be scared. I'm here and I love you". These are moments that no one else could have taught him.

Lola and I hiking up to the top of Mount Baker on the Heliotrope Ridge Trail
Lola hiking to the top of Mount Baker on the Heliotrope Ridge trail
Lola's White Whale
Lola was very out of shape when I adopted her. She hiked thousands of miles with me, but due to her hip, every once in a while she was unable to walk the entire trail. I used to have an amazing body for hiking- not sure if I could run if my life depended on it, but I could hike anything- and at times I would overestimate her ability. The only hike that she was never able to do was Heliotrope Ridge, which I had to carry her about a (challenging) mile down to the bottom.

Heliotrope Ridge, by the way, is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The trail hikes up to where you just about touch Coleman Glacier. The glacier also makes it a fairly dangerous hike, leaving glacial run off rivers that you need to ford, so I suggest not hiking unless you are an experienced hiker. I did not now anything about this trail before hiking it and did not come prepared. I ended up falling in one of these rivers near the top, which had gotten a bit too big for my petite size, and being pushed slightly down river. My camera was in my pocket, and it was destroyed in the river (but not the SD card, since I have these photos, yay!). Lola panicked and ran to me, but stayed out of the river as I instructed her. I was so sad that my camera was destroyed, but at the spot I was able to get out, I also found a very nice ice pick, so my loss and gains were instantly evened out (almost- I would've rather had my camera). My wet clothes turned icy- I told you it is dangerous, even for an experienced hiker since I didn't come prepared! The worst part is that just beyond the river was a ridge that, after climbing over, was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen at the foot of the glacier. So I never got a photograph of that scene. If I ever fully regain the use of my legs, I'd really like to get that photograph.

Lola (dog), George (cat), and I all on the bed doing homework (either physics or chemistry) during my undergraduate days
Respectful Consort
When I adopted Lola, I had a cat that was, in appearance, the cat version of her. They were almost friends, more like respectful consort, but almost friends. Sadly they parted ways about two years ago, because George (the cat) was unable to tolerate a mobile baby in the house and became aggressive toward my son, nearly compromising my son's eye in process.


Lola in front of a hot spring (left) and a geyser (right)- it looks like she's posing, right?!

Lola and I in the hot spring in Yellowstone
In Hot Water
Before landing in the wheelchair, I would venture to say that I was a pretty good picture of "Adventurer". I wanted to go everywhere, do everything, and own nothing but good memories (this is still what I want, but it is more... complicated now). Lola was my accomplice in that dream and as such we saw a lot of cool things. Shortly after adopting her, I took her to Yellowstone National Park. I didn't listen to the 'no dogs' signs very strictly (which I do not advise- park rules are for the safety of the visitors and the wildlife) because it was hot and I wanted to get out into the wilderness, which left me with some neat memories. Lola is one of a rare few dogs that have posed in front of a geyser, for example. I wanted to walk out onto a trail that would get me a little ways away from any people. So I walked in the terrible blazing sun on a trail with Lola for a few miles. I finally found water and walked right in without any thought, and she started lapping it up. I didn't know much about the dangers of outdoor water, and thankfully this wasn't a lesson for my digestive tract. As I waded through the water, which was a brilliant clear turquoise, I realized that I was standing in a hot spring. Of course, then I panicked, terrified that I just killed my new dog with sulfur. She was just fine, but I remember how perfect I felt, just exploring the world with my dog out in the wilderness, experiencing life in its most basic form.
Lola before and after her first grooming
A Whole New Look Makes a Whole New Dog
My husband and I decided one summer that it was too hot, and Lola would feel more comfortable if she had a hair cut. In the five years I had had her I had never had her groomed. I had removed mats from around her adorable furry ears myself and had often attempted to wash and brush her both of which came with a countdown to getting a warning "I'm done" nip. So we took her to get groomed for the first time with the instructions of "cut her hair short so that she will be cool, otherwise do whatever you think looks good". My husband and I were walking along the street several hours later on our way to pick her up, and as we got close, I saw a dog in the window waiting to get picked up. I slowed down to look and told my husband "Oh look at that dog! She is so adorable! I totally want a dog just like that in the future." When we went inside to pick Lola up, they handed me the dog in the window. It was Lola! She looked so different without her 8 inches of fur that I hadn't even recognized her. She even had a cute little bow.
Lola (that small black shape) on the beach at on of those very low tides on my favorite beach, Marine Park [this is actually one of my favorite photos of our adventures too]

Lola resting on rockweed (that seaweed under her) at Teddy Bear Cove 
A Marine Biologist Dog
At one point, Lola became my partner in marine biology. Before having my son and being confined to my wheelchair, you could find me several times per week at the beach peering into tide pools and under rocks. About seven years ago, I decided that I was not going to miss one day of low tide during the extreme low tide season. I ended up finding no one that wanted to join me, so my sole partner was Lola. I would find lots of different animals and share them with her. She would often try to bite the crabs she found, which I would attempt to avoid for the smaller crabs' sake and for her sake with big Red Rock and Dungeness Crabs. Every once in a while, she would find some intertidal critters before I would. She would even happily brave the car ride in my Ford Mustang, with her intense fear of moving vehicles, for the happy adventures at my favorite beach.

Lola standing alert at Teddy Bear Cove
First Come, First Served
Lola was an extremely loyal dog, whose trust was not freely given but hard earned. She loved hiking with us. We would often stop to hang out in a beautiful spot for a picnic, fishing, or simply to talk or enjoy the beauty. As soon as we sat down, Lola would consider that spot claimed as ours and therefore obviously needed to be protected from strangers. If anyone walked past, they would get quite the barking at until they were completely out of sight.

Lola at the apartment calmly keeping watch
Bite the Victim
While getting my undergraduate degree, I lived in an apartment. It was pretty low rent and very close to both the university and downtown, so it was inhabited by a lot of young people, many of which drank a lot. One day while letting Lola outside to potty, neighbors drinking on a nearby porch got into a fight, which resulted in one of the men punching the other in the face. The punch sent the man falling down the stairs to the foot of my porch, and Lola, being the fierce protector, took this as an act of aggression and gave him a warning bite on the top of his head. She didn't hurt him, but I always found it funny that she bit the victim, not the aggressor, to ensure my protection.

Lola and my husband, Jonathan, along side a boiler from a sunken ship (where there are amazing tide pools as well) within Boiler Bay in Oregon (we shimmied down a cliff to this beach-something I was prone to do in my good ol' days- it's not an actual park)
No, This Isn't a Dog, It's a... Really Big Coat
My husband and I used to visit Newport Oregon several times a year. We would stay at a hotel that didn't allow dogs, but weren't able to find another place for her, so we would sneak her in under a coat or luggage. We were paranoid about being caught, even though we probably wouldn't have been in as much trouble as we thought. Once getting into our hotel, we would collapse on the couch together, soaking wet from the pouring rain, laughing about our experience as smugglers of our good friend.

Lola turning to wait for us at the beginning of the trail up the Ecological Staircase and to the Pygmy Forest at Jughandle State Reserve 
Lola and I playing chase along the Oregon Sand Dunes
Babymoon
While I was nearing the end of my first trimester of pregnancy, my husband and I went on a trip we called our "babymoon", where we enjoyed our last moments of being a couple before becoming a family. Lola was a part of that and got to enjoy some incredible things. We chased each other along giant sand dunes of the Oregon Coast. We hiked together a long ways up to experience a Pygmy Forest, and through an Ecological Staircase, an amazing hike that I was able to cross off of my bucket list. She walked through giant holes in the trees of the Redwood Forest. We even took her up a gondola, of which she despised every trembling minute. Our road trip cut short when I found several ticks making home in Lola's face and head, at which point we searched for a veterinary office that would assist us (I ended up buying a "tick spoon" and removing them myself), and decided to turn back toward home. She had so much hair that she could run through poison oak or stinging nettles (as we would often encounter on our many adventures) and be unfazed, but ticks were another story.

Lola's namesake
A Name To Give
In some Native American cultures, it is a tradition-and one of the greatest honors-to hand your name down to a namesake, sometimes even to those who already have a name. The passing on of names is a tradition seen in different ways in cultures around the world. Just moments before Lola left the world, a baby llama was born in the very same barn in which she left. Graciously, our friend saw it fit to pass our Lola's name on to this new life, a new Lola, who can only hope to live a life as long and full of adventures, loyalty, and love.
Our family with our dog, Lola
I often feel like I want her back. Then I remember that I wouldn't want her back as she was in her last weeks or even months, often unable to stand up on her own, incredible difficulty walking, and terrible pain. As I poured over photos of the last ten years, I saw how much she had changed. She looked so different in these last few months, so feeble. It's something you don't notice over time, something you need to see in great leaps, as I have by photographs. I know how she felt- I too went from limitless hiking to crippling pain and inability. I heard her at night panting and whimpering in incredible pain as I too lay awake whimpering in pain. We followed similar paths. We were both at the height of our physical ability together, then as I was slowly claimed by illness, she too was claimed by age.

I just wish that we could go back. To the time that we were invincible. To the time that we, quite literally, conquered mountains. To the time that our lives consisted of adventure and exploration. To the time when I had my loyal dog dutifully at my side, walking in step with me and listening to my every word over tea. A relationship so pure of love and honesty. She was present my entire adult life, more than a third of my whole life. Every life has their time to go. As much as it pains me to see her leave, she left such wonderful memories and lived such a long and full life (she really was incredibly old, I mean 18?!). I am so grateful that she was able to stay with us long enough for our son to really remember her. She laid the groundwork for him in how to interact with animals, but also in friendship, loyalty, and unconditional love.

To my beloved dog, Lola..... Until we meet again for a long hike and a cup of tea.