eleven years ago, i was starting to think about getting another dog. it had been two or three years since our lab, odie, had passed away and it was just too hard to move on from that. i couldn’t do it. but eleven years ago, i was beginning to come around to the idea that it might be almost time to start to think about it. baby steps. i mentioned this, in passing, to a coworker (a friend), who got very excited and told me that a friend of hers was taking their two year old lab to the shelter that day and did i want her? hey, absolutely no pressure there, right?
we drove over after work and i took the dog. i’d met her once before at a party and sort of knew what i was getting into. the dog, lily, was a two year old lab: hyper, boneheaded, and terrible at staying home. her owners both worked all day and lily simply wasn’t getting enough attention for a dog of her energy level. the woman of the couple was pregnant and at the end of her rope with lily, who would blithely follow cyclists off into the hills on weekends and go on destructive tears during the week. she chased cats and anything else that moved.
i brought this monstrosity home to my two very small children (the girls were just about four at the time) and my small herd of cats and worked double time with a leash and a long fuse to get this dog settled. she was terribly depressed for the first few weeks and i think that helped with her training, to be honest. i let her sleep in my bed for company and we bonded pretty quickly. once we had a good bond, she was eager to please and learned the basics of good dog manners in just a few short weeks. i brought her to work with me one day. she saw one of the barn cats and made a beeline for it. i called out her command for leaving the cat alone (“cat!”) and she immediately swerved off and came back to grin at me. the coworker who had brought us together and who had known the dog since the dog was a pup was astounded. “is that even the same dog?!” she asked.
we changed her name from lily to willow (another of my coworkers was named lily and i have trouble compartmentalizing) and she’s been a good family dog for us. there were occasions when the naughty behaviours from her earlier life materialized. she was hugely into swimming and if someone didn’t take her to swim every day, she’d often just take herself down to the river for a dip. after we moved out of town, she’d take herself about a mile through the woods to a large pond in the wilderness for her swim. she didn’t like toys, she would not fetch, but she lived to swim and go for long rambles through the woods. she chased bears out of the yard and turkeys, too.
about three years ago, just after she’d turned ten, she just sort of stopped. she didn’t really slow down; there was no appreciable winding down. she just suddenly and inexplicably got really old, really quickly. knowing how difficult it had been for me to get another dog when one dog died, we decided to get a puppy while the old dog was still around. it would transition us to having a dog in place in our family already and perhaps make willow’s eventual passing easier. we found a black lab puppy and named her lola. willow proceeded to live and live and live. good old girl.
now lola is three and a half years old and has never been the only dog. willow has gone from slow-mo to nearly stationary. she has a very difficult time getting up and down the stairs and our house has the entrance on the second floor. she’s losing control of her bowels. her marbles? mostly gone. she’s sunsetting: we’ve gone from expecting months for her to weeks, maybe days. and then what becomes of lola? how does she deal with being an only dog?
to be continued…