Originally I intended this blog exercise to tell Lula's stories but all I seem to have talked about has been her deterioration and my pain and indecision. Many commenters said they looked forward to stories about her. After a long delay, this begins a selection of Lula's essential stories.
Lula was first purchased in a pet store, an inauspicious beginning. A year later she was turned into the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society when her owner realized she didn't have time for a dog. The turn-in papers say she spent the day in a crate in the basement while her owner was at work and that she slept there as well. Seventeen years later my stomach churns at the thought of that human-loving little dog living in such extreme isolation. I'd much rather judge but I suppose the original owner has to be given credit for wising up to her own shortcomings and giving the pretty little dog a chance at a no-kill shelter.
My second Dear Daughter went to the CACS looking for a cat, met Lula and immediately violated the rule against college people getting dogs. The College Rule, in case you don't know, is simple: people shall not ever get dogs while full-time college students. Period. No questions, no amendments, no corollaries, no exceptions. The whys are too obvious to need listing but the big one is not everyone's mother has “sucker” tattooed prominently on her soul. DD2 is a person who, at the age of six (6), very seriously asked me why I, the very mother of her six year old self, couldn't just live my own life and let her live hers. SIX. You will understand that 13 years later she ignored The College Rule and ignored my strenuous advice against getting a dog. It did not help my case that I wasn't given the opportunity to offer advice until after the adoption was an accomplished fact.
Soon DD2's circumstances began to change and she could no longer keep a dog (see: The College Rule) but she also could not bear to return her to the shelter (see: The College Rule). What else was to be done but call mom in Maryland to take Lula in (see: The College Rule)?
Raising children, my strongest value was to hold them responsible for their own decisions, a rule I sometimes carried to extremes I now recognize as ridiculous. For example, DD2 started pre-school just after her third birthday and, having only recently outgrown two naps a day, soon found school very tiring. She announced her wish to stop attending. Nope, sorry, you wanted to go, you said you'd go, you took a space other kids would have liked, if you quit you may not be able to start up later, we're paid up for the quarter. You can change your mind after this term but not until then. It was called “Playschool” and that's what it was. I knew the school well and knew it wasn't a hardship for her. Besides, she was three and she had to be responsible for the decisions she made. Today that seems extreme but as it turned out, by the end of the first quarter she loved school and did not drop out.
At the time DD2 asked me to take in her dog I had two dogs, two cats and a boy of my own, a stressful job, and was in the midst of a miserably destructive divorce. As when she was three, my immediate reaction was to remind her of her responsibility, her choice. For months of frequent phone calls I held strong and said, “No.” “I'm sorry.” “I can't.” Eventually she stopped asking and neither of us raised the subject when she'd call. At the time I had never seen an American Eskimo Dog. That makes a difference.
On Mothers' Day, 1993, the morning was warm and sunny. I was in the front yard, fetching the Post, when the neighbor's kid drove up and parked on the street. He opened the back door of his car to release a white streak that flew so fast my brain could hardly register what I was seeing. In a moment I focused on a little dog across the yard looking for all the world like a bright white fox. Now I had seen an American Eskimo Dog. The soul tattoo I mentioned earlier, the one that says “sucker”, began to throb. DD2 called later that day to wish me Happy Mothers’ Day and as chance - or kharma – would have it, she renewed her request. This time I just said, “Yes.”
They came for Memorial Day Weekend, DD2, the boyfriend of the time, and Lula in a plastic airline crate. That first day I went into the kitchen from dinner on the patio to find Lula chowing down our dessert - an intensely chocolate cake. The cake had been safely stashed on top of the refrigerator. My two big dogs stood – nicely, on the floor – heads cocked, gazing up at the little stranger feasting high atop the refrigerator, with priceless expressions of awed confusion.
Her treatment for this chocolate consumption consisted of many hours of joyous hard running in the yard with brown streams coming out both ends of her body, accompanied the whole time by DD2. No one in the household knew at the time that chocolate was poison to dogs and on a Sunday there was no vet to call but the treatment turned out to be effective.
Some years later DD2 visited us at Christmas after we had moved to another house. She shopped for groceries while I was at work and left the bags on the floor of the pantry before going out again. There were two big bags of chocolate chips in the grocery bags. I arrived home to find that Lula had found and eaten at least half of one. The treatment and the result were the same. This time I walked her myself, leaving DD2 to fix our dinner, ten city blocks to the Mississippi River, an hour running at top speed through the woods, on steep hills and paths, ten speedy blocks back home, leaving the brown streams in her wake.