this is lulu.

“I want to be upfront with you,” the desperation is evident in her voice.  “She doesn’t like little dogs, and she is aggressive with children.” I can hear her voice quivering with tears over the phone, and my stomach is in knots—hoping at the end of all this I can save a life.

I know some people don’t understand my bleeding heart toward animals.  I’ve never been involved in animal fostering because I knew, if I opened my home to an animal I don’t think I would be able to let it go. I would get far too emotionally attached.

“She has started jumping the fence and chasing children,” she continues, “we have tried everything—muzzles, a shock collar…” Luckily, she can’t see my face cringe on the other end of the line.  “I feel awful using it—but I don’t know what else to do, we have to put her down.  People think I’m a monster, but they won’t take her—no one will.”

“I want her,” I reply as compassionately as possible.  In my previous two years working at a kennel, I have seen a wide variety of dog breeds and personality types, and I had not once met one that I would consider euthanasia to be the only option.  Surly, this dog was not the exception.

Chloe, 2013
This is Chloe.

“We don’t have children, and we have a huge yard and a high fence.  We can make it work, if not, we will figure something else out.  Besides, my husband has always loved labs, it will be perfect.”

In reality, at the moment I am saying these words, my husband doesn’t even know I am trying to bring a dog home that very evening—Chloe.

Chloe is an 82 lbs. four-year old, spayed, and vaccinated chocolate lab.  Her family had had her since she was a puppy, and brought her to the island with them about a year and a half earlier. Recently they had had their first child. They had two dogs, they kept outside in their small yard (with a low fence) the majority of the day.

A friend (who works tirelessly to help stray animals and abandoned animals find safe, permanent, and loving homes) had heard that Chloe’s mom had planned to have her put down the following day.  In desperation my friend called her, offering (albeit unsolicited) advice on training techniques, etc.  Eventually, asking if Chloe’s mom would consider letting her have the dog, if she could find a foster home before her vet appointment.  The woman, presumably annoyed by my friend’s involvement in the situation and her tone, stated something along the lines of–“No, my decision is final. I’m done talking about this.”

Distraught and anxious, my friend called me at work with an update of the situation.  From there, she was at a loss. We got off the phone and I was left with a nagging feeling that made it difficult for me to focus on work. I couldn’t drop it. My mind wouldn’t leave it alone.  I sat, blankly staring at my computer screen, feeling sick to my stomach—and completely disheartened.

Chloe, the monster ball of sweetheart.
Chloe, the monster ball of sweetheart.

I’d met this dog, and she always seemed sweet enough.  Surely, euthanasia was extreme?  What could be done at this point?

 


This is where I came in, I knew I was able to do something (or at least attempt to do something), and if I didn’t try, this dog would be unnecessarily killed for essentially becoming inconvenient. I called my husband to give him a heads up, but his line was busy. I contacted the owner, I told her we wanted the dog. I didn’t mention my friend, I didn’t mention that I’d heard she was clearly sort-of-an-asshole who planned to kill her own dog. I just told her I’d heard she was interested in rehoming it. We talked on the phone for about fifteen minutes or so…

She let us have Chloe, with a huge sigh of relief.  (Yet, I couldn’t help but be frustrated at the fact I knew she didn’t actually have enough compassion to let her dog live and find a foster home with my friend, because my friend had offended her.)

I can’t think she wanted to put her perfectly healthy dog down, I assume her and her husband had convinced themselves it was their only viable option. I know they weren’t prepared to be the sort of considerate dog-owners Chloe needed. In all honestly, this woman probably shouldn’t own own any dog(s)—ever.

I’d later realize that Chloe wasn’t particularly troublesome; she was a dog—acting like, well, a dog. (Labs tend to be higher energy, she was bored in their tiny yard, so she would jump over the impressively low fence and wander about the neighborhood looking for mental stimulus, The situation was really that simple.)

 


 

Chloe giving me kisses, the first night she arrived at my house. 2013
Chloe giving me kisses, the first night she arrived at my house. 2013

My husband understood my actions—and we drove to base housing to get our giant new furry houseguest. I was nervous to say the least. I figured she would be all over the car, rambunctious, and disobedient. To my surprise, she sat calmly in the back of the car the whole fifteen-minute ride home. Occasionally nosing up to the passenger side window to smell the passing air, wagging her tail happily.

 

However, her introduction to Soupy and my little Dr. Morris (DocMo), didn’t go as smoothly. DocMo tends to be a bit possessive of me to new dogs. And she seems to think she is much larger than she actually is, presumably because her ‘sister’ is bigger. Soup is reserved with all new dogs, but holds her own. The big lug of a Chloe was nosing up into their business making both slightly aggressive, a behavior Chloe quickly emulated and elevated. She energetically wiggled out of her chain collar, and I frantically worked to hold back all 82 lbs. of clumsy-adorable-monster from my little-squirrelly-white-also-monster. After that interaction, my husband and I figured it would be best to keep our dogs separated from her, at least until we had a better read of her personality.

 


I cleaned out a caged area in our yard, full of prickly weeds, neglected dirt piles, lose gravel, and concrete siding tiles.  I worked for hours that evening sweeping up, organizing what I could, washing the ground—I set up her kennel with an soft old comforter, gave her some of our dogs’ more rugged chew toys and brought out large metal food and water bowls. Keeping her in a pen, in our backyard wasn’t ideal by any means, but at least she was alive—right?  Besides, the weather was warm, slightly cloudy, with a soft breeze, and ideal if you were a dog hanging out outside all evening.

Sweat dripped down my face, my stomach full of nerves—worried that maybe I had made a horrible decision.   I had a lot of experience caring for animals, but maybe this is beyond me?

What have I gotten myself (and inevitably my husband) into?

That night was awful.  We left her in the outdoor kennel, where she had the smaller enclosed dog kennel with the blanket, her toys, and food and water, but she wined and cried until the early hours of the morning. My husband, sleepy and irritable, was at a loss. I tried placing her in Soup’s large kennel in the kitchen. Maybe, she just wanted to be in a house? She cried, and barked—her noises emanating throughout the house.

I am the worst—I thought, as my husband mentions the dog is also probably keeping our landlord awake in the apartment below our house, annoyance (understandably) evident in his voice.

She is a ball of dork.  I love her.
She is a ball of dork. I love her.

Finally, as a last resort, I figured I would try lying with her in the guest room, I might not get much sleep, but if I were around maybe she would quiet down. At about 2 a.m., I freed Miss Chloe from kitchen-kennel-jail and we moved to the guest room. She lumbered up onto the bed as if she had lived here her whole life. I curled up next to her petting her softly, making a mental note to bath her the following day.

Stretched out in the dark, with a gentle night breeze coming through the window, I finally felt a sense of calm wash over me when I heard her light snoring. I fell asleep shortly after that, we both slept through the rest of the night.

The following day, I bought her a new non-chain collar, flea and tick preventative and a few other fun dog goodies. She sat calmly in the tub, as I gave her a bath.  As the I scrubbed off the dirt and excess fur, she looked up at me sweetly, with her adorable slightly-crossed golden eyes, and I teared up. I couldn’t help it.  She was looking at me with such love and trust—the same love and trust she must have felt for her previous owners—because that is how dogs are.  This was the very day they would have taken her for a car ride, and she would’ve been happy and excited—because she wouldn’t have any way of knowing she was going to be killed. That she would no longer exist in the world.

Instead, here she was in my house, in my tub, getting clean for a new starting point in her life.  She didn’t realize any of this.  But I did.  And I knew I had made the right decision.

 


Chloe in my yard, the first night she arrived at my house. 2013
Chloe in my yard, the first night she arrived at my house. 2013

She was my guest-room-slumber-party-buddy for the next four nights. Over the following days, our dogs became used to her presence and they could all be in the house together, and supervised in the yard together.  Eventually, we grew comfortable leaving them in the yard unsupervised. And during this time, Chloe also won the heart of our landlord, Chico. He’d always been affectionate toward dogs, and his wife adores our little DocMo. I had explained her situation—why we had this random new brown monster-beast in the yard, as well as her past circumstances, and her personality.

She really was a sweet dog.  Yes, she is a little bit of a bully to smaller dogs—at first.  She is a little stubborn, but smart. She’d been trained by her previous owners how to sit, stay, and shake. She loved to play ball and run in the yard. Chloe simply preferred to be around people. She was perfectly content sleeping on the tile living room floor as long as we were within eyesight. She loved pets and cuddles, and she would get supper excited when I returned home and make this fun happy yowl-bark noise at me when I started talking to her.

Chloe and DocMo sleeping nicely on the sofa.

The reality was, from the beginning, we knew we couldn’t keep her. We have two dogs and a cat. As a military family, we move—a lot, and we are financially responsible for all pet moving expenses.  We had to find another family for Chloe. Once we had officially transferred her military vet paperwork, we worked on finding her a home. But we didn’t look very long.

Our landlord, had fallen in love with her. She had become his buddy, and his wife and daughter eventually warmed up to her as well.

 


Now, she lives with them.  They call her Lulu, and I’m pretty sure she understands more Portuguese than I do.  She still has her pen in the back yard now completely cleaned out and solely intended for Lulu-use. (We can leave her in there when we need to open up the driveway to take the cars in and out.)  She still gets to be weird and run around the back yard with our two dorky dogs.

Lulu happy with her new dad.
Lulu happy with her new dad.

She is now a very happy and healthy dog. She’s down to a healthy weight, and is able to wander around the yard freely. She regularly curls up on the floor near Chico’s wife while she spends afternoons sewing. She often takes naps on the sofa with Chico. He takes her to the pier, where she swims in the ocean—and plays safely with local children. She often walks without a leash, and simply follows Chico about— with adoration, her eyes full of love.

Oh, and I still get to play with her, so that makes me happy too.  Sorry this post is so long.

This is Lulu.
This is Lulu.

17 Replies to “this is lulu.”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: