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Lou keeping watchA Dog Named Lou

I never wanted a dog.

In fact, after our beloved cat Sam died, I didn’t want any pet. We’d had Sam for twelve years, and she’d been a devoted companion. A couple of years before Sam’s death, our cat Blackie passed away at the ripe old age of seventeen. Before Blackie we’d had Snuffy, who lived with us briefly before she got hit by a car. We’d had a cat in our house, and often two, for over twenty years. I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. It hurt too much to lose them.

But my family had other ideas. My daughter Rachel had been asking for a dog practically since she could talk. I’d previously put her off by pointing out that we already had a pet, or two. But now that we were petless, I could no longer use that argument. I reasoned that dogs were a lot of work. Unlike cats, they had to be walked every day and needed kenneling when we went away. They shed as much as cats and required far more attention. It would be like having a toddler in the house again.

All my arguments went unheeded. Rachel’s older sister Dana joined the chorus for a new pet in the family, and when my husband Warren voiced his desire for a dog, it was three against one. I knew when I was beaten, but I managed to wrangle a couple of concessions out of them. The first was that we get a small dog. And the second was that Rachel be primarily responsible for the dog’s care and feeding. This was going to be her pet.

The girls started cruising the websites of the local humane society and other shelters. When they visited the shelters in person they were told that they didn’t often get small dogs and when they did, they were usually snapped up pretty quickly. My daughters were discouraged, but seeing how determined they were I decided to do what I could to help. There were always ads in the newspaper either selling or giving away pets, so I checked some out one Friday afternoon. I ruled out the large dogs, and the purebreds that cost a lot of money. If we had to have a dog, I wanted a nice friendly mutt that needed a home.

After a few phone calls I talked to a woman who had a female pug/terrier cross for sale. The woman was only in town for a couple of days and at that moment was at a veterinary clinic not far from our house where her dogs were getting their annual shots. Could we meet her there? Rachel and I and Warren jumped in the car and headed right over.

We saw the dog as soon as we drove into the parking lot. A little girl was walking her on leash on the sidewalk beside the clinic. The dog had an adorable wrinkled face and big brown eyes that melted your heart. Rachel fell in love immediately. But there were problems. I noticed a bald spot on her short, curly tail. The hair on the edges of her ears looked ragged, as if worn off, and her coat was spotty. When I asked about it, the owner was vague, saying that she must have lost the hair over the winter. Apparently the dog, whose name was Allu, spent most her life outdoors. It had been an exceptionally cold winter, even by Canadian standards. She was a sturdy little dog but hardly suited to the harsh cold. I kept my opinion to myself as we struck a deal for her purchase. With one last glance at her previous owners the dog hopped into our car. Rachel was thrilled when Allu immediately cuddled up to her on the drive back to our house.

For the next couple of weeks we got used to the dog and she to us. But a strange thing started to happen. Allu, now affectionately known as Lou, started following me around, moving from room to room as I did. She wouldn’t go anywhere unless I did. She lay at my feet as I worked at the computer and snuggled beside me when I watched TV, studying me with big, adoring eyes. She was supposed to be Rachel’s dog. I didn’t want her getting so attached to me, and I definitely didn’t want to get attached to her.

A few weeks after we got her, we followed our vet’s advice and had her spayed. Because she was already a year and a half old, she had harder time with the surgery and required some pain medication. After a few days of recovery, she seemed to bounce back and regained her energetic, sunny disposition.

One week after her surgery, I took Lou out into the yard to relieve herself before we all went to bed. She trotted back into the house and stood on her cushion. A large spot of bright red blood stood out starkly against the white cushion. And then there was another spot and another. Soon there was blood everywhere. Lou didn’t appear ill or upset, but the rest of us were. As we cleaned up the blood, Rachel cried, and I couldn’t help wondering if fate would be so cruel as to take this sweet little dog from her so soon. We put her in her kennel with a warm blanket, and drove her to the 24 hour emergency veterinary clinic.

As we waited to see the vet, I had to admit I loved the little mutt too. I desperately didn’t want to lose her, but I knew if I did, she’d already brought our family a lot of laughs and much joy. I knew from my cats that even though the pain of losing a pet is great, the pain is always outweighed by having had them in your life, no matter how short or how long your time together.

Lou recovered with flying colors. The bald spot on her tail has filled in, her ears are silky, and her coat is soft and lustrous. I now freely admit I adore her. I adore her curly tail that never stops wagging, and her comical little face. I adore her when she snores, and even when she chews my shoes. But I especially adore the fact that she’s twenty pounds of pure, unconditional love and that she adores me too.