[an excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”, a Kindle book, also available as a pdf from www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]
I was startled awake by the loud crackling of thunder at 2:30 a.m. I could see the bright flashes of light outside. The storm was overhead. I went outside into the darkness, and the sky would light up with the bright flash, and the thunder shook the house. It began to rain. Mid-August and it’s raining. To me, Lulu was saying goodbye, leaving us as she moved along in the spirit world.
Lulu died at 5 p.m. yesterday, August 14. I saw her about five minutes after she died in Dolores’ arms. Lulu, a purebred pitbull, was Dolores’ dog who lived with us for all of her ten years. Lulu was a gift from Dolores’ daughter, Barbara, and Dolores LOVED Lulu!
The day she arrived, the little feisty dog took charge of the other two pitbulls, even though she was tiny enough to fit in one hand. Her tail had this zig-zag coloration like a lightning bolt, a good indication of her character.
Dogs are just like children. Their characters are silly, playful, jealous. No two are alike. Lulu loved attention and loved to be with us. When she came into our home, Cassius and Ramona were with us, and all three would sleep together, and stare out the window in unison, all lined up in the same posture. It was quite a sight.
Something unusual began to occur with Lulu in the early part of 2005. Though Lulu had a large bucket of water outside which was readily available for her to drink, she would wait until Dolores let her inside and then she would drink and drink and drink from the bowl of water kept inside for Baby. Dolores thought that Lulu was trying to tell her something. If Lulu was so thirsty, why not drink her available outside water? There was nothing wrong with that water. If Lulu was trying to communicate something to Dolores, what could that be?
At this time, when we were all out for a run with the dogs, Dolores noticed that Lulu seemed tired, unable to run as swiftly as usual. Something was wrong.
At the animal doctor, Dolores learned that Lulu had both diabetes and cancer. Thus began a new era with Lulu, which lasted about five months, where she was given special foods and some pills designed to strengthen her.
She grew thinner and thinner, yet she loved being with us and going places. She seemed aware that something was wrong with her body, but she attempted to continue as before.
Gradually, in the last month, she stumbled when she walked. We had to help her in and out of the house to use her bathroom. In spite of her increasing inability, Lulu seemed happy, not in pain, and always determined to go out side to use the bathroom. What a girl!
We took her to the farmer’s market and she loved being there with Dolores, seeing familiar friends, getting to walk in the open park.
One day at the Glendale Farmers Market, someone saw how thin she was and assumed we mistreated her. They called an animal inspector out who interrogated me with great suspicion. When it was clear that we were giving Lulu exceptional care, the animal inspector tactfully suggested that it was not Lulu we were concerned about, but our own desire to be with her. The animal inspector suggested we put Lulu to sleep. In fact, she intimated that she had the authority to remove Lulu from us and “relieve her pain” if she felt we were not handling thing properly. Ugh! Both Dolores and I were shocked and angered that this is the quality of person (and thinking) that our tax dollars support. We had no desire to kill off Lulu. We could feel that Lulu wanted to be with us, that she felt great joy and comfort. So we took her home in a hurry.
Lulu’s walk became more difficult, and she lost most of her sight in the last two weeks. We could feel the cancerous growths on her stomach and underside. We could feel that Lulu was often sad, but she would sleep all day now, though she would eat and drink and go to the bathroom once or twice. She wagged her tail when I came in.
When I last saw her alive Saturday night, I hugged her and touched her, and told her as I always told her, that she needed to get some meat on her body. I always encouraged her to get better, hoping, dreaming for a miracle that she would.
On Sunday, I called Dolores on my cell phone when I was out shopping. Dolores had me talk to Lulu over the phone, and say hello to her. Dolores said that Lulu made an effort to wag her tail when she heard my voice.
When I came back, I could see the sadness in Dolores’ face. Yes, you can go see Lulu, she told me. Lulu was covered in a towell. Dolores explained how Lulu really perked up in the morning when Dolores sat with Lulu and began mentally reviewing pictures of their good times together. Dolores said that she did it again after we talked on the phone, and Lulu died in her lap.
Suddenly, the life was gone from her. It was a dramatic change,” said Dolores
We sat there on Sunday with Lulu, still talking to her, feeling the emptiness of a good friend now gone. It was like the end of the world. We wished Lulu would be with us longer, another day, another week. We petted her, hugged her, the poor little girl who was now skin and bones.
There is an emptiness now where there once was Lulu. It cannot be drowned away with drink or drugs or distractions. It can only be acknowledged.
The solution to the sadness and the emptiness was to honor her life, and then to love the living even more, and to smile.