Our Lola appears to be deep in sleep on her favorite corner of the sofa, her head resting on out-stretched paws. But to our sorrow, this is not sleep.
The vet just left our home. Lola’s passing was tranquil. The last whispered words she heard from her ‘mommy’ were, “I love you.”
Lola, one of our beautiful Dobermans, came to us at two years of age, nine years ago when a dear friend, who could not keep up with a high-energy breed, asked us to adopt her. Truth be told, Sabrina and I – as well as the rest of her Dobie pack – gave Lola a good life, a gift she returned in pressed-down measure. She loved us unreservedly; what could we do but respond in kind?
She would joyously sprint with her pack around our front yard. Mischievously – on our runs up and down the driveway – she would hide, patiently wait for one of her mates to run by, at which point she would launch a mock-ambush. Hers was a calm, loving spirit, yet she never relinquished her Doberman vigilance. True to the in-bred Dobie creed, the more she loved her home, the greater her need to protect it.
Then, one day, her hind leg started to swell. Then came x-rays, removing fluid from the joint for diagnostic analysis; words like ‘arthritis’ and ‘sprain’ and ‘cartilage damage’ were floated as possibilities until the diagnosis became unequivocal: metastatic bone cancer; the nature and diffusion of which made each treatment option more cruel than the disease’s inevitable outcome.
So the day arrived, and our baby ‘sleeps’ on the sofa.
I wonder at the origins of pet-love in us humans; and I come to the unsatisfying conclusion that it is but one of the many unsolvable mysteries woven about our existence. It’s a normal, human urging to wonder why. This compelling love of human for pet – and its reciprocity – is no small thing. We are often surprised to realize how deeply in us it runs; how our hearts could have been so thoroughly – and so mysteriously – stolen.
In my search to understand this attachment, I have read much. Some authors cite our pets’ utility; others, chemistry; but I grow restless and unconvinced by reducing such bonding solely to chemical formulas and oxytocin-release.
So why do we love our pets, and so grieve their passing?
I come finally to this: I don’t know. It may merely be that the suffering heart seeks answers in an attempt to impose understanding on loss [as if that will somehow hasten the metabolism of our pain]. But then, perhaps I’m not supposed to know; perhaps I could not grasp even a Heaven-sent explanation. Maybe solving this mystery would undo its magic.
In this, love is like the warmth of morning sunlight, it can be – and perhaps is most – enjoyed without an understanding of solar physics.
Fare thee well sweet Lola – you are forever missed.
– Lucky Garvin