The Second Best Dog

Dear Lulu,
You entered my life at a very challenging time, as I had just lost my sweet Sadie. I was twenty-three and Sadie was more than just my dog. She was the one constant I had in those first two years of my Memphis life. When she ran away it was as if I was experiencing a death in the family or the worst break-up of my life. I was so angry and sad and I promised myself I would never love another dog the way I loved Sadie. However, it was clear to me that the only way to fill the void in my heart was to find another dog... even if that dog was only going to be second best.
I couldn't bring myself to go back to Memphis Animal Shelter, where I had rescued Sadie only a two years earlier. In my grievous state, I couldn't bear the thought of choosing one dog among many that faced euthanasia. So, I decided to give PetFinder a try and there you were at St. Francis Animal Rescue & Refuge (SFARR) in Oakland, TN.

You showed up in the shrubs of SFARR, skinny and almost completely hairless, ready to deliver ten puppies. When I found your story online, all your puppies had been adopted and you were the only one left waiting for a forever family. As I stared at your photo- a pit bull mix whose pink skin shined through a little peach fuzz- I don't know why you were the one. Maybe it was my good experiences with mother dogs or maybe it was that pitiful expression that jumped out at me, but I had to have you. And on New Year's Day 2003 I had Jorma drive me to Oakland, where I adopted you and brought you to your new home in Midtown.

As I said, it was a challenging time for you to come into my life. Not only had I just lost Sadie, but Jorma and I had only just begun living together and he had never had a dog before. I don't think Jorma liked you very much those first few weeks and it didn't help that you clearly had a problem with men. Truthfully, you sounded like a rabid beast at the sound of any knock at the door, but you were especially skeptical of men. While Jorma struggled with the ferocious barking and keeping you off the furniture (his rule, not mine), I worried that the three of us just weren't going to work out. I hated the thought of breaking up over a dog, but let's face it- dog people need to be with dog people. Luckily he came around and it wasn't long before I was planning a wedding and you were tagging along on road trips. And yes, it's true, I did come to embrace the couch rules.

Within the first year, you were no longer just my second best dog. You were "our first dog." Within two years, we were a little family with a cat and another rescue dog... and soon, a baby on the way.  Now,  I'm not sure I know what life is like without a dog. I've spent very little of my 37 years without one. Hell, after only 10 years of being a parent, I can't remember what life is like without a child! 
But I do know you were there. 

You were part of our lives when we got married. You were with us when we brought Janie Kathryn home from the hospital and when we bought our first house. You've been there for graduations.
You've been there for career highs and lows. You've been there for all the birthday parties and all the visits from Santa... We've never, ever spent a Christmas Eve waiting for Santa without you. 
We've played in the snow. We've driven across the country. We've hiked mountains. We've floated down rivers and boated around lakes. The adventures we've taken are seemingly countless.

Now it's time to say goodbye and my heart is breaking all over again- a broken heart that wasn't supposed to happen because you were always supposed to be second best. I'm going to miss you terribly, Lulu. I know that there will eventually be other dogs, but they will only be second best to you- Our first dog.
We said goodbye to Lulu this morning. She was our devoted companion for over 13 years. While she was never one for affection, no matter how many times I tried to snuggle or kiss her, she never minded posing for the camera. She was positively photogenic, my Lulu. 

Old age was getting the best of her and her health had been in decline for years. As if she knew it was the hardest decision for Jorma and I to make, she allowed me to snuggle her and shower her with love until the end. Our adventurer, licker of spoons, catcher of popcorn, solemn and sweet- May she rest in peace... though I suspect she's more likely frolicking with friends in celebration of her life spent as a rescue dog


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