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I am deeply grateful for the kind words and condolences posted on FaceBook from friends and family. The internet and social media really is amazing that way. It’s the perfect amount of connection, just a little pulse of love and understanding. I feel supported. I am wiser with other’s words and insights which focus me again and again on the love our family shared with Lola for 11 1/2 years. 

My boys  my husband Hugh and my son Ailin  came through for us big time.  Hugh is the one who stayed with her through the night, sleeping outside, after the vet came to the house with acupuncture and antibiotics. That night Lola let loose with days worth of pent-up shit onto the kitchen floor and onto Hugh as well. He got her outside  she could still walk at that point  and cleaned up. Then he set up a lounge next to her favorite spot in the yard where she was able to sleep. He watched over her.  

It was Ailin who was clear that, yes, taking her to the clinic for euthanasia was the right thing. Wed be all together, he said, and she wouldnt die alone in the night. Ailin was right. We had a few hours to say goodbye. We looked at baby pictures and talked about her  remember this? Remember when she stole a roasted chicken off the table as we were setting up to eat dinner outside? She was so quick about it and there wasnt a bone or scrap left so at first we didnt even know what had happened!  We stroked Lola and told her what a wonderful dog she was. I thanked her again. I sang her the Lola songs. My mother came over for a last visit, and we fed her ice chips. Lola planted her face in the bowl, sucking up chips, and then rested her head there because she didnt have the energy to hold her head up.  After 24 hours of discomfort (pain? probably) and agitation, unable to rest, she finally gave up, soon after my mother had gone and just an hour before our appointment at the clinic. Even her breathing seemed to slow and calm.  Lola was ready. It was time. Hugh carried her to the car and then from the car into the clinic. Then, after, he carried her body, streaming a final release of urine and shit, back to the car. 

My boys dug her grave. Im thinking: this is Ailins first grave. This is the first time this young man has had to bury his companion. All I can say is that I hope its not his last. I hope he loves many dogs. He loved Lola and cared for her and in the end, he buried her. Hugh suggested we bury her with a bone  that dog loved food  and her water bowl, too. Hugh wrapped her, shrouded her, and laid her on her favorite dog mat. I added a small crystal that had belonged to my sister. Then I cried hard again but I was better. It was done. She was at rest. 

I am surprised at my level of grief. I wailed when she died. I am crying again this morning and I know I cry for myself, my loss. Lola had a good run. Im sorry she couldnt stay young for longer. Im grateful there was only this one week of her life when she couldnt go walking on the bosque. 

I need dog energy in my life. I totally get that whole dog/god thing. Lola was an animating spirit for me. Lola was a perfect anti-me. She was utter sweetness, wholly trusting and uncomplicated. She was, in truth, not very bright. She was, of course, present in each moment, unless I asked if she wanted Walkies, in which case she practically danced in circles with anticipation.

Yesterday I was heart-broken; today I am just very sad. Today I have that clarity of, okay, it was time. I miss Lola and truthfully I miss Lola-who-was-a-bit-younger. I miss the dog who could walk with me for hours and who bounded easily in and out of the ditches where she loved to soak in the water. 

Caring for an older and sick companion animal is a sacred task. This past week as she was sick, I thought often of my sister (Lola and she shared a birthday). My sister died slowly of cancer; she fought it but knew she was dying. This dying process - so slow sometimes, so unpredictable - can be painful and terrifying, and I reflected on that all week as I sat with Lola and considered how best to care for her. I reflected and trembled because I am scared of both death and dying. I remember my lack of patience as I sat with my sister when she was sick. I did not care for Lola perfectly but I approached it with more awareness and connection. As I grieved, I thought of the family members of those who died recently in Orlando; I thought of their absolute mourning. That’s what Lola’s spirit has always done for me: connect me, again. 

That’s my work going forward, to keep her spirit with me and let it continue to animate me. I don’t think there’s a heaven and I’m not sure there’s reincarnation. My belief is that spirit disintegrates  the way our bodies do. Neither is destroyed but is transformed. I won’t recognize Lola in the worms that eat her buried body or in the birds that eat the worms. Her spirit perhaps then transforms the same way by becoming part of something or someone else. While I live, though, my memory of her keeps some part of her spirit intact. I am also transformed; I will never be the person I was before my relationship with Lola. Blessed be.