I have measured the timeline of my life by the dogs who have loved me, starting with a black cocker spaniel I had at three and ending with Lola, a Bijon Frise, who is currently a part of our family.
We adopted Lola six years ago. She had been a breeder in a puppy mill, rescued by a zealous group of animal lovers who stepped in to save her and the other unfortunate dogs who shared her dismal fate. When she came to us, she was overly skittish, hated men, and lacked socialization. It was to be expected. She bore the physical marks of her ordeal. Her hips had been stretched wide and her stomach hung away from her body, swinging as she walked. But there was something about her spirit, something locked deep inside, waiting to be released. She was strong, a survivor, and I admired that. Little did I know that she would teach me how to be one as well.
Shortly after she came to live with us, I sat on the floor with her, feeding her treats. She looked at me and for a moment, we locked eyes.
“It’s going to OK, Lola,” I said. “Promise.”
From then on, she became my best pal, curling up next to me on the sofa, accompanying me on long walks. We formed a kinship. I watched her mourn when Romeo, our other rescue, died, holding a vigil as she sat by the back door waiting for him to return. And she was always there to console me when I felt the world had been unfair as I wallowed in self-pity. As I rubbed her misshapen belly, I often found my place of calm.
Six months ago, she began to stay a little closer, as she followed me from room to room, crying when I left her at home alone and becoming overly excited when I returned. I would often find her staring at me, as though she had something important to say. It is sad that dogs are unable to talk, isn't it? But goodness knows, she tried. She developed an antibiotic-resistant bladder infection. Sympathy sickness? It's possible. As I nursed her back to health, she became even more devoted than ever, our bond growing closer.
I recently read an article about dogs who are able to detect cancer. It seemed like a strange phenomenon, an unlikely superpower. But I wonder if somehow Lola sensed mine. Perhaps if I had just paid a little more attention to the changes in her, I might have noticed the changes that were occurring within myself. Who knows? I am trying not to look back in hindsight, but the idea does give me pause. And somehow as she looks deep into my eyes, I think she wants to repay me in kind, to whisper, "It's going to be OK, Momma. I promise."
It is hard to deny the bond between a human and a dog as they give us their boundless devotion and unconditional love. We have all heard that dog spelled backwards is God. It makes a nice saying to be imprinted on a poster, but it also leaves us with a bit of truth as we are sometimes given a brief glimpse of the divine while in their presence. For now, she comforts me in her doggie way, reminding me that I am not alone. The angels come to us in the least likely of ways, don’t they?