He had a tumor in his nose, an aggressive form of cancer that wouldn’t have responded well to chemo/radiation even if I could have afforded to pay for it. For a while, he seemed fine except for frequent bloody noses and loud snoring.
Until a few days before he died, when he declined so quickly I knew it was time to call the vet.
The house is really empty right now.
I’m a dog person. I like cats fine, have had a couple over the years, and might again, but if I have to choose, I pick dogs. I’ve had three dogs as an adult. Winnie, Lobo, and Harry.
Winnie was a border collie/lab mix who I got as a young puppy and who died peacefully fourteen years later of old age after an active and happy life.
This post isn’t about her.
This post is about Lobo and Harry.
I adopted Lobo from a rescue group. He was a year old when I got him, and had suffered a traumatic puppyhood.
He was a handsome boy. Strangers used to roll down their car windows when I was walking him and shout, “Great dog!” He should have been cast as Tramp in a live action remake of “Lady and the Tramp.” Cocker spaniels regularly fell in love with him.
He was a great dog, but not necessarily a good dog. If I wanted him to come to me, I yelled “Lobo, goddammit,” because that was the command I’d inadvertently taught him when he was ignoring me.
My friends called him the Zen Dog, because every moment was now. If he’d been human he would have been Hansel from Zoolander.
And he was a hairy beast. Golden retriever, German Shepherd, and I think part Chow. When he blew his winter coat there was enough hair lying around to knit another dog. Everything I owned was covered in soft golden hair. I bought lint rollers in bulk and had to have the vacuum cleaner serviced every couple of months.
I’d look at Lobo from time to time and say, “In your next life you’re coming back as a standard poodle, right?” And he’d tilt his head in a quizzical way and wag his tail.
At age seven, Lobo developed immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. For no discernible reason, his immune system began destroying his red blood cells. After a week in the vet hospital where he steadily worsened and didn’t respond to treatment, I had the vet put him down.
I had six years with Lobo and because he’d died relatively young, I struggled with grief in a way I didn’t when Winnie died a few years later. She’d had her full life. She’d lived well and died well and you can’t ask for more than that. There was a sense of peace and completion with Winnie.
With Lobo, I just felt cheated.
After Winnie died, I got Harry, a standard poodle. At seven weeks old he looked like a fluffy stuffed toy. No actual dog should be that cute.
When I’d yell at him for something he’d look back calmly like he was thinking, “I’m sure she must be yelling at that other dog named Harry who lives with us, the invisible one. She certainly can’t be yelling at me.”
He may not have been obedient, but he was devoted. I was his person and that was that. He liked other people fine. But he was my dog. When I wasn’t there, he napped quietly on my bed until I came back, even if the house was full of people he really liked when I was around.
Almost immediately, he began to remind me of Lobo. The same head tilt when I spoke to him, the same goofy charm, the same nonchalance when responding to commands.
I started joking to friends that Lobo had been a good dog after all. He wouldn’t sit or come or stay or heel, but he did reincarnate as a poodle like I’d asked.
My friends said there was nothing unusual about dogs tilting their heads or acting goofy. And they were right. But it was fun to joke about. They really were a lot alike.
I used to walk Lobo regularly in an off leash park with a stream running through it. One day, a year or so before he died, Lobo ran into the middle of the stream, near the trail.
Much to my horror, he turned three times, squatted, and took a dump. Right in the water.
The stream was in a watershed area with strict rules about cleaning up after your dog. I ran at him, shouting at him to stop, but it was too late.
A guy who’d stopped nearby to throw sticks for his dog said, “Wow. I’ve never seen a dog do that.” Neither had I, I told him. Lobo had never done that before.
And he never did it again.
When Harry was about six months old, I was walking him regularly in a different off-leash park, also with a stream running through it.
We got to a popular stopping place, and Harry ran into the stream.
He turned once, twice, three times, squatted, and took a dump. Right in the water.
This time I didn’t shout or run. I just stood there in shock.
A guy nearby, throwing sticks for his dog, said, “Wow. I’ve never seen a dog do that before.”
I said, “I’ve only seen one other.”
I got Harry home and took a hard look at him. “Lobo?” I asked in a whisper, “Is that you?”
Harry tilted his head and wagged his tail. And never took another dump in a stream.
I quit joking about reincarnation. It was just too weird after that.
I had Lobo for six years. I had Harry for nine years. That’s fifteen years, which is a good long life for a dog. Doing that math makes me feel a little better.