The name on her placard at Town Lake Animal Shelter1 was “Shannon.” SHANNON. There has never been a worse name given to a dog. I like to think I lifted that curse when I adopted her. I also got her on sale; the shelter wasn’t no-kill back in those days, and “Shannon’s” days were literally numbered. Best $20 I ever spent.
She went nameless for a couple of weeks as my roommate Amalia and I sussed out her personality2 and wrote a dozen suggestions on the whiteboard in our small apartment. The finalist just behind Lola was “Lego,” which in retrospect would have been PAINFULLY on the nose.
But in her trips to the dog park she turned out to be a speedy runner, doing aimless excited laps around the other dogs, red fur flashing in the sun. Her name was definitely Lola, and if you don’t get that reference—most people don’t these days—then you have a crazy movie to watch.
She followed me to seven different addresses over 18 years. She was there for friendships, relationships, heartbreaks both given and received, and marriages (well, just one of those). In her prime, she knew a fantastic array of tricks that we would do in sequence: “Sit! Lay! Roll over! Up! Down! Speak!” She followed along excitedly, her eyes shining, her ears perfect triangles, her curled tail wagging irregularly. When I got laryngitis at one point, she re-learned the tricks with hand gestures and whistles. Clever girl.
I’m not just a different person than when I got her; I’m two or three people removed. The college graduate half my age, clinging desperately to his thinning hair; the married suburbanite living in Leander (Leander!!); the world-traveling improv teacher. None of this has anything to do with Lola per se, except that she was constant. One of the very few who knew and loved ALL of those skinny bald men.
In 2014, doctors found a tumor the size of a dragon egg attached to her spleen—more accurate to say her spleen was attached to the tumor. She was rushed into surgery the next morning.
Looking back on it, I realize that’s when her time was up. But Lola decided otherwise. The tumor was benign; she recovered within a week; and she lived on borrowed time for another five years.
She faded over time, of course. First went the hearing, then the vision, then the hips. In the last year or so, she would wander the house listlessly, nails clackity-clacking on the laminate, as though she were seeking a spot she couldn’t quite remember. I’ll miss that persistent sound as I go to bed every night.
When we got divorced in 2011, my wife requested a clean break, and specifically asked me not to let her know about Lola’s health. “I’m just going to imagine her living happily forever,” she told me before we parted ways.
She very nearly got her wish.
- now Austin Pets Alive
- A lot more introverted than she had acted at the shelter. I think she had her game face on.