Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Imagination Sure Can Run—Part Two

A couple of months ago (that went fast) I mentioned two recent experiences had reminded me of my active imagination. I wrote about the first experience: how I feared my neighbor was in danger (or worse, dead) when I heard her dog whining all day. Thankfully, it was just my imagination.

I’d intended to write about the second experience soon after, but that plan got waylaid by the Hahamongna Chihuahua (otherwise known as Grandpa and Ponchito the Fierce Warrior), then a trip out of town, then a litany of other excuses, including the recent sweltering heat. Now this story feels dated, but one shouldn’t suggest a part two without delivering. So, here it is.

Veronica was driving a transport of about 40 dogs to a Tucson shelter, and I agreed to take care of her pack while she was gone. It was a quick overnight trip. I only needed to let the dogs out for a break that evening and then again the following morning.

You may recall that Veronica has a pack of 10 mostly large dogs. I love hanging out with them when Veronica’s around but I was a bit intimidated by the thought of doing it without her. So we hatched a plan: Veronica would separate the dogs into 3 different groups in 3 different rooms, and I would let them out in shifts.

I got home early that day, changed and went right over.

I approached the door behind which pack 1 barked ferociously (except for little Lola).

Pack 1: (from left to right) Lola, Zoe, Cooper, and Shiloh
I opened the door and quickly turned toward the yard so as not to confront the dogs head-on. They charged at me, the intruder, but then greeted me with sniffs and licks and wagging tails. They ran around the yard and did their business.

I put them back in the house.

When I opened the door for pack 2, they flew out thrilled to see me. Even Blondie, who barked at first, warmed up to me. That was a wonderful surprise.
Pack 2: (from left to right) Domino, Babe, Blondie, and Glory

Blondie’s owners had tossed her out of their car as they drove past a pet adoption event run by Downtown Dog Rescue. At first she'd been tense and lifeless, spending her days hiding in the closet. She soon bonded with Veronica, but she didn't trust me. When I'd visited to pick tomatoes, she barked and growled at me no matter how much I tried to convince her with soothing coos I wasn't a threat.

Now she wagged her tail and jumped up to greet me. The transformation made my heart sing. She’s such a beauty, with one blue eye, one brown; I’d adopt her in a second if I didn’t have Tommy.

Pack 2, the wildest bunch, was ecstatic to be outside. I felt bad putting them back in the house after only a few minutes, so I let pack 3 out with them.

Pack 3: Kurt and Lily

But that wasn't fair to pack 1, locked in the house while the rest were outside, so I let them out too.

So much for shifts.

I hung out under the canopy while the 10 dogs wandered around doing their doggie thing. And it was fine.

But it was time for me to go. I had a deadline looming.

I corralled almost all the dogs back into their rooms (no small feat), except for Lola. I couldn’t find her. I walked all over the yard calling her. She’s so small; she could be anywhere. Eventually I found her curled up under a bureau outside. I coaxed her out and shooed her back into the house in the room with pack 1 and headed home.

Back in March I’d gotten a speeding ticket and I had signed up for online traffic school. I’d already extended the deadline once, and the second deadline loomed. It was due to be completed the following day, and of course I'd left it till the last minute. I still had hours of chapters to read and tests to take. If you attend in person, the class takes all day. If you take it online, the lessons are timed and you can’t forward ahead until the clock runs out: 45 minutes for one chapter, 30 minutes for another chapter, etc. I had a long night ahead of me.

Veronica hadn't expected me to let the dogs out again that night but I wanted to give them a second break. The hours flew by. When I shut off my computer (with still some traffic school chapters to go), it was after 11 pm.

To save time, I discarded the shift idea; I opened the door to let pack 1 out. As the dogs charged out, I went right over to the sliding glass door to let pack 2 out, and then quickly did the same for pack 3.

It was dark. I stumbled through the yard, trying to keep the dogs quiet so as not to disturb the neighbors. When all was calm I sat at the table under the canopy and let the dogs enjoy the night air.

There’s only so long you can sit outside in the dark with a bunch of dogs. It was approaching midnight: time to go home.

I herded Zoe, Cooper and Shiloh into room 1. I didn’t see Lola, so I moved onto the other dogs. I coaxed Kurt and Lily into room 3. After a few tries, I managed to herd all 4 dogs into room 2.

Now, where was Lola? I looked under the bureau where she’d been hiding earlier in the day. Nope, she wasn’t there. I walked around the yard. She was nowhere in sight.

I went into the main part of the house, where pack 1 hung out, and fumbled to find some lights. When I could see, I looked in each room, under the couch, under each chair, in the closet. No Lola.

I went back outside. Where could she be? I called in my sweetest, softest voice, “Lola, Lola girl,” to no avail.

I replayed earlier events. Had I put her back in the house? I could’ve sworn I had. Hadn’t I opened the door and watched her run through it? I certainly thought so, but I started to question my memory.

Did she run outside with the big dogs a few minutes ago? I hadn't seen her but I had turned away to open the door for pack 2, so I couldn’t be sure she hadn’t.

I assumed she was back in the house so I went back inside and retraced the hiding spots I had just checked. No Lola.

I started to panic.

I couldn’t stay there all night with 9 dogs waiting for Lola to show up. I needed to get some sleep. But what if she were still outside? She was so small and fragile. She’d be eaten by a coyote. Or she’d sneak through a little hole in the fence and end up down the street, squished by a car. Or she'd just disappear never to be seen again. Should I call Veronica? She’d had a long day. I hated the idea of waking her. On the other hand, if I didn’t call her, wouldn’t she be upset with me if she got home only to learn that Lola was missing? She’d never forgive me. But what could she do in Tucson to help the situation?

I walked across the street to my house, wracking my brains over what to do. The clock ticking toward midnight, I picked up the phone.

Veronica's voice was drenched with sleep. I rambled on about how sorry I was to wake her, that I’d felt bad for the dogs, that I’d gone back to let them out again, that it was late because of traffic school...

She interrupted my babbling.

V: Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.

S: I can’t find Lola.

V: Did you let her in the house earlier today?

S: Yes, I think so although I can’t be sure.

V: She likes to hide in the laundry area. She must be there.

S: Are you sure?

V: Yes, don't worry about it. She's fine.

S: I’m so sorry to wake you.

We hung up.

The next morning I let out pack 1 first. The 3 big dogs ran out, and little Lola pranced right out after them. All chipper, she wagged her tail, and I squealed with delight, "Lola!"

She looked at me, and her spirit instantly deflated. 

Dejected, she turned and went right back in the house.

I try not to anthropomorphize. I try not to tell these dog stories with a cloying sappiness. But if Lola could talk, I swear I would have heard her say, “You’re not my mommy!”

Damn, I was glad to see her even though the feeling wasn't mutual. 


  1. What a sweet story!!! I can totally relate to the feelings you had trying to find that sweet little Lola!!!

  2. I'm so smitten with Blondie. And your incredible sense of responsibility.

    (When we were kids, Heidi 2 would sneak in the closet and hide in Dad's shoes.)

  3. Chieftess, thanks so much. I'm glad you can relate to my "lost Lola" angst.

    Hiker, we're not the only ones smitten with Blondie. She went on a recent transport up to Oregon and was adopted in less than a week. As for my sense of responsibility, thank you. I'm just following Veronica's lead.

    Heidi 2 must've been tiny!

  4. Enough suspense to get me hooked and keep me hooked. I've got to admit, when I saw the length, I didn't think you'd pull it off. Brava!

    That Blondie is something, all right.

  5. OH my imagination works just like yours!


  6. oh little Lola girl. I was gritting my teeth. she was inside the entire time right? you have to break it down for me sometimes. oh I would be very scared to take care of lots of dogs at the same time, you are so very brave. I love that little story especially with such a nice ending. good night mommy.

  7. Girl you had me laughing out loud!!!!! I'm still chuckling! Those photos are great! They add so much to the story. Wow, what a pack! Crazy Cool! That lucky little Lola. That Last photos of her "You're not my Mommy" It makes me laugh just thinking about it. I Miss BS&L. You are such a great friend and neighbor. Lucky me!

  8. Banjo52, that's high praise coming from such a writer as yourself. Thanks for seeing it through to the end.

    Kari in WeHo, great minds think alike?

    Kristen, yes, Lola is so small she was stowed away somewhere the whole night. I'm not that brave really. Veronica, the dog rescuer, trained the dogs to be a very well-behaved pack.

    The Dog Rescuer, lucky Lola to land in your pack. And lucky me!

    Thank you for letting me know about the typo. Tucson is now spelled correctly (right?) thanks to you. How embarrassing. And I consider myself an editor. Sheesh.

  9. I love this story - all the emotional highs and lows. I know just how you feel, worrying about that little dog vs the coyotes. My last cat used to sneak out all the time and worry me sick at night. I love Zoe - she's like my previous collie labrador. Apart from Abby, the best and most intelligent dog I ever had. Hope they all find good homes.

  10. This kept me going 'til the very end, and I love the pictures! Good dialogue, too.

    Karin, don't lie, you would have done the same thing for Lola.

  11. Can't imagine my home with 10 Top-Dogs, but know that that home must be filled with a whole lot of love! Thanks for giving me 5 minutes of peace while reading your blog today. Love & Miss, Cindy

  12. awww Lola! What a little sweetie! How does she keep that pack all together as friends? If I could manage that I know I would have another dog. (only 3 allowed in my town)

  13. Bellis, thanks so much. I have two in-door cats. They've gotten out a couple of times and it worried me sick too. Zoe is an amazing dog who recently got certified to be a therapy dog. I'll have to post more pictures of her.

    Thanks, Petrea. A compliment like that coming from you means a lot.

    Cindy, thanks so much for stopping by! You're right, Veronica's house is the house of doggie love.

    Daisy Dog, Veronica is an amazing pack leader. But it didn't happen overnight. She had to work at it. And it's just temporary. She fosters most of them. I'll post soon about how the pack has recently changed.

  14. Just circling back, I think the reason some of us love Blondie is that yours is one of the best captures of dog spirit I've ever seen. Surrounded by the big fur guys, she is dancing and shining, in spite of what came before.

  15. Miss Susan, you are a friend indeed.

  16. Veronica is an amazing person with an enormous heart. She's so lucky to have someone she trusta take care of her pack while she's doing her doggie transports.

  17. Love them, thanks for the story, and the pictures!

  18. Hiker, what a touching comment and so true: Blondie was able to shine again, despite her mistreatment.

    Miss J, Veronica repays the favor over and over.

    Felicia, you know her enormous heart better than anyone. I'm the lucky one for living across the street from her.

    Melanie, another dog lover - welcome. Thanks so much for visiting.

  19. Ha
    the series dilemma. As sure as you start them, other events interrupt the thread. Still waiting to finish my "rail" series...and "Concrete Wonders"? not even I know where I left off with that one.

    I enjoyed being privy to your inner dialogue

    should I call? Should I wake her up, Will Lola end up in a coyotes mouth or on the street and on and on and on

    and the photos...a round of doggy treats on me! but about Lola, if she threw that look at me, I'd be more like

    "you ungrateful little you have any idea what you put me through?" (in a sweet soft voice of course)

  20. PA, and your series are way more layered and complex than mine. I will have to revisit both of those. "Concrete Wonders" - the title alone is intriguing.

    You're so right - doggy treats. Those dogs don't do tricks for nothing!

  21. Those photos are great. And the last one! Ha. I want that on a t-shirt so I can wear it when I'm disappointed in people.

  22. Hey Sue - I posted a comment when you first wrote this - something about how I once almost lost someone's child because he hid on I could relate! I am not sure why it didn't post. Anyway, it's a good story and great photos and I can totally hear you babbling to Veronica on the phone....and very happy to know little Lola is safe and sound!

  23. flurrious, what a great idea: a disappointed Lola t-shirt. Ha!

    Liz, yikes, losing someone's kid is even scarier than losing their dog!