Early in my career, when I had a little extra money and a lot of extra time, you’d often find me haunting the “local.”
That each bartender knew my order and address should tell you what I did with that time and money.
It wasn’t obvious to me I was on a dangerous path until the police knocked early one Sunday. A party at my apartment hadn’t ended well.
That was not a happy time; that was chaos.
The good news was I sobered up long enough to meet a girl and move in. The bad news was we shacked up because I couldn’t afford the apartment anymore.
Our second act of domesticity was adopting a puppy. Lulu was a 10-week-old, black-and-white husky with a bellybutton hernia and bad attitude. Still, she melted our hearts. Suddenly, I didn’t care about carousing, there was a little lifeform needing me at home (and invariably a mess to clean).
We had warning signs early that she wasn’t like “other dogs,” though. A vet cured the hernia, not the attitude. Lulu was never at ease despite the K-9 kindergarten, walks and treats, but we continued hoping for a resolution.
While the girl didn’t last, the dog did. I crammed Lulu into the front seat of my SUV and travelled to Kelowna in 2006. She wasn’t sure about the heat, but the off-leash parks were a hit.
While I had to warn some owners to keep their distance, she quickly became the most popular dog in the park, playing with pit bulls and poodles equally.
Until age two and doggie puberty, as one trainer called it. Suddenly, nobody was good enough to get between Lulu and I. She ruined a few dates until I met my wife, who wasn’t about to let a dog get between us. Lulu and I quickly fell in love with Erin.
To Lulu, though, it meant another human to protect. One of our first outings, Lulu badly bit a woman at the dog park who happened to get too close to Erin. Most people would’ve been smart enough to have the SPCA find Lulu a rancher who needed land cleared of bobcats.
Not me, I was determined to fix her. We trained for hours with almost everyone, and Lulu began to show glimpses of the dog I knew she could be.
Given the right circumstances, Lulu would’ve jumped through a flaming hoop and bowed to the crowd. Most days, though, she would ignore me and find a neighbour to harass. By safe count, she nipped or bit six people and fought with twice as many dogs.
To show you how much most people love animals, each of Lulu’s human victims accepted blame.
We were past the point of worry when our first daughter arrived nearly four years ago. We thought Lulu would immediately detect an interloper. Instead, Charlotte became her newest charge. Two more babies in three years and Lulu only became a prouder big sister.
While the walks became less frequent, (who can control a 64-pound guard dog and chase after toddlers?) Lulu remained fiercely loyal. Too fierce, too loyal. As Charlotte learned to open the front door, we envisioned Lulu tearing after some poor, unsuspecting little boy or girl come to play.
My wife kept asking me to talk about what we should do. I became ultimately defensive. “We aren’t giving her what she needs,” Erin would say. “It might get better,” I thought.
It didn’t, and our stress levels climbed.
With failing hips, hormone pills, eye drops and a checkered past, there were few options for an old girl like Lulu. Rescues won’t accept dogs with such poor chances of adoption.
Truthfully, had we found her another owner, Lulu would’ve just found her way home again. Five years ago, Lulu took off after three coyotes near Dilworth Mountain. I thought she was a goner, but she survived the coyotes, six lanes of Highway 97 traffic and was waiting for me at home.
I hope she’s at peace now. I hope she’s off somewhere fixing fences with my grandpa, with young hips and clear eyes. I hope she forgives me for giving up on her because that’s what it feels like I did.
As I write this, it’s been about a week since I walked out of Tri-Lake Vet Hospital alone, and I can’t describe how much I hurt. Charlotte keeps asking me if I’m still sad, and I say I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling sad. If it wasn’t for that little black-and-white puppy waiting for me, I don’t think I would’ve ever made it home.