Putting Down The Dog

Putting to Rest Little White Dogs
FEBRUARY 14, 2010 11:26PM

In which the little dog begins, arrives, eats chocolate

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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.

As far as I know she did not get chocolate again until her last day, though there was one Easter when some Cadbury eggs went mysteriously missing from their hiding place. 

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Awesome! what a cracker girl she was, I am impressed by her climbing abilities and her digestive system.

Our Bobbie (CKCS) on his first trip to the beach drank way to much sea water, shortly afterwards he exploded in front of several hundred Japanese tourists. Multicoloured streams from both ends :( and us with nothing to clean it up with.

He was happy as though, attempted to eat it then happily trotted off.
Somehow I have myself locked into a need to follow through on the Lula stories before I write about anything else. Normally I'm not that rigid or obsessive.

Blackpaw, that's hysterical. Dogs can be so dumb.
Part of the grief maybe nc? I think its a good thing to lay all her stories out - a tribute of sorts?

Bobbie died last year at age 12, I don't think I'll ever stop missing him, nor do I want to. But it becomes bearable and the stories make us laugh, a better way to remember him.
The worst thing my Maggot dog ever ate was over half a dozen donuts. She was a small dog and they left her as wide as she was long. Wide and groaning :)
Einstein ate about half of a birthday cake once -- it was left out on the table. He's not to be trusted for the time it would take me to go to the bathroom and come back into the living room -- so I"m accustomed to putting valuables up high enough he can't get them. It sounds as though Lula is small enough to climb though -- really hard to keep stuff away from her.

I like your mothering style.
Wow, glad I had breakfast long ago and not yet lunch. heh Great story, but this time I'm also glad you didn't include photos... ;)
Hysterical! Reeeeally well-written - and this kind of story could have gone either way but you completely held my attention.

That was ONE.CUTE.DOG.

Please keep writing!
Blackpaw, yes, I think some of it's grief. Some just fear of writing in public! As for never stop missing ... Spot died Jan 26, 2002 and I can still feel her body as I carried her that morning ... I still choke up over Lula and my left arm gets all empty feeling sometimes - no one to carry ...
bluesurly: but did she learn a thing? I'll bet not. :-D
skeletnwmn: The Rambunctious Poodle is locked out of the kitchen and all bedrooms when I'm not there to watch - that way he has no access to food or hardcover books - his very favorite chewtoy.

And thanks. I'm an insecure mother but given what fabulous kids I have I think I should get over it. An advantage of making them so responsible is being able to make their limits so wide you get a reputation as the most permissive mother. But those kids never screwed up very badly.
Sally Swift squeamish? ... trying to comprehend ...

I actually finally got around to having the bag of ancient film processed and not a single picture of that night! So I tried anyway.
Outside Myself: oh, thanks so much. I have a few more stories in me about her ... then to decide whether to move on to the poodle or the family ... Maybe just politics - it's so much less complicated!
I answered every comment separately because I've seen it done and I like the look of many comments. I can filter that little picture from notice if I try ...
It's so true that those of us who have had a dog we loved and lost never forget them...For me it's 2 years this March since I had to put down my beloved beagle Joachim....(officially, "Joachim-the-good-dog") He liked chocolate too....Thanks for the memories.
Doggone it! My 2nd doggie post this evening! I, too, thought chocolate was poison to dogs! My dog would eat anything so I have to be very careful as his digestive system backfires with anything other than dry dog food. Poor Corgi!
Lula's essential stories. Oh how I love that.

and this one. this is a beautiful lula story. I can understand all of it. do you draw? because this could be a children's story easily. it's filled with love and history and a clever and pretty little American Eskimo Dog.

nerd, this is gorgeous. I'm going to read the next one right now. thank you.
Monkey, I don't draw but I think I'll be talking to my son about your idea ... thanks!
I think you're on to something with this. it would require a very soft touch...because lula is such a beauty..all fluff and black eyes. and wicked sweetness. this is a keeper. believe it! you'll be rich!
Loved this, n.c., and I'm so glad I finally got a chance to read about Lula's arrival. I love your deadpan voice--and what a great image, the little dog on the refrigerator, chowing down, while the big dogs gaze upwards in awe. Rated.