On Thursday, March 25, our sweet Lola made her way to Rainbow Bridge, the mythical connection between heaven and Earth where pets who have passed wait in a meadow until their owners reunite with them so that they can cross the bridge together. Such comforting lore at a time of deep loss.
In the few days before, we could see that Lola was running out of gas, but she kept hanging on. After numerous tests, bone marrow procedures, and most recently a blood transfusion, deadly leukemia was the culprit ravaging Lola’s blood cell production. It would not get better. Lola’s blood test the day before showed that her blood cell levels had dropped to 13%, the lowest since the transfusion two weeks before. She needed to be hospitalized. Again.
She looked beautiful and deceptively normal, but her breathing had become labored. We are forever grateful to Lola’s caring doctors who diagnosed her “good” (slow-moving) lymphoma two years before, which has been in remission. But our time had come to make the painful decision between proceeding with weekly injections and more testing or to let Lola go peacefully with grace, with all of her faculties intact, and without pain. We scheduled her euthanasia for the following morning.
It was as though Lola knew the plan.
On the morning of the 25th, she took her last pee on the lawn. Our neighbor Elizabeth crossed the street to pet Lola over the fence, a tearful moment for all of us. Lola sat and wagged her tail as she smiled up at Elizabeth. When it was time to go back inside the house, Lola laid down at the fence, something she had never done before.
“Come on in, Lola,” Louie called out.
But with her head held high, she just stared at us. Then as we walked up the front porch steps, she was suddenly right behind us. As soon as Lola went inside the house, she immediately laid on her bed, exhausted. As if saying, “I’m ready.”
Saying goodbye to Lola hit us hard. But time, our best friend, always heals. Our dear friends and animal lovers Teresa and Denis left white orchids on our porch. After reading their beautiful card out loud on the pathway, we huddled, hugged, and wept.
Then, shockingly, Rod, one of Lola’s BFFs since she was a puppy (she always ran into his arms whenever she saw him in the town square) texted Louie for the first time. Because of the pandemic, we hardly saw him. He checked in to ask how we have been and also had a refinance question. To break the news to Rod broke our hearts.
Another coincidental occurrence: Lola had a favorite UPS driver. She knew the sound of Ernie’s truck. On walks around town, Lola would come to a screeching halt whenever she saw brown UPS trucks, always checking to see whether Ernie was inside. If it wasn’t Ernie, she kept on walking. If it was Ernie, she bolted for the truck.
A few weeks ago, while Lola was outside, I saw a UPS truck turning the corner. Lola went crazy as she ran along the fence. It’s not Ernie, I called out. As the driver stepped out of the truck to deliver a package to our neighbor, she noticed Lola standing at the fence, smiled, and acknowledged her.
The next day, Lola and Louie saw the same driver. Louie explained Lola’s bond with Ernie. Then the driver told Louie that she was driving Ernie’s truck! Louie asked her to please let Ernie know that Lola is not doing well. That same week, Ernie dropped by our house to see Lola. Such a heartwarming reunion. I will have to visit Lola more often, he said.
These moments were extraordinary, if not eerie.
After Louie and I took an evening walk on Friday, I started preparing dinner. Louie was doing some office work. The house was so quiet. I looked around, then yelled out to Louie.
“You know what I just realized? Lola was the loudest one in the family!”
She was a task master.
Often before her dinner time, Lola would come to me with “The Look.” No, Lola, I would tell her. “It’s too early. Go sit with your Dad.” And there she quietly went. Ten minutes later, she would peek into the kitchen, her neck stretched out like a rubbernecker, with her laser eyes on me. “Not yet…go lay down.” And there she went. Sometimes this happened three or four times. It was quite funny.
When it came to OUR dinner time, Lola didn’t hesitate to tell Louie. By the end of each workday, she stood on all fours next to Louie at his computer. With the stomp of her front leg, she was telling him to wrap it up. Stop working!
During dinner prep, she always positioned herself between the dining room and the kitchen to “watch the show.” Completely focused in his chef’s zone, Louie moved between the chopping board and the stove with Lola quietly at the ready to catch flyaway food. When we sat for dinner, she politely waited nearby until she could see that I was done eating and no longer fiddling with my utensils. Then she knew it was okay to ask for her after-dinner snack. But if our dinner conversations were carrying on longer than she could stand, she would softly grumble until I acknowledged her, at times escalating her grumblings if I didn’t respond fast enough.
“I hear you, Miss Lola…”
But Lola’s favorite time of the day was late evening when Jacqueline arrived home from her studio. The ritual started with 10-minute hugs at the back door. After I bid everyone goodnight, the kitchen came alive, again, as Jacqueline whipped up late-night eats with Lola at her side as they moved in unison from the fridge to the stove. But I was always comforted knowing that whatever Lola had in her belly by the time she went to bed was healthy and nutritious.
Yesterday we paid a visit to Lola’s brother Bleu who lives by the beach. Like his sister, he still looks gorgeous even in his senior years. We thank Louie’s Aunt Magdalena who surprised us with three-month old Lola just two weeks after our beloved Anouk, another Golden Retriever, had passed. Before leaving for San Clemente, we discovered a lovely bouquet of flowers and a card in the rocking chair on our front porch, which had been left by our neighbors Derek, Natalie, and their boys Jason and Roman. Such love for Lola.
The sentiment, “for every death there is a birth,” rang true when we walked out of the veterinary clinic following our farewell to Lola. In the parking lot was a young owner with her new frisky Golden Retriever puppy, looking as mischievous as Lola did when we brought her home ten and a half years ago. The sweet pink leash was the giveaway that it was a girl. Our tears became smiles with this joyful scene. Perhaps this sighting was Lola’s doing, reminding us that life goes on.
Thank you, Lola, for your love, loyalty and being with us through COVID. You taught us lessons and you brought happiness to not just us, but extended family, friends, and so many others who knew you.
You will be in our hearts forever. Rest well, pretty girl.
This is your country, and it’s up to you to save it.” – English translation of a saying in Taiwan
Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives