Thanks to everyone who left a message regarding Lulu, on twitter, instagram, facebook, and here on this blog. Over a thousand well-wishes received. Thanks so much. It’s nice to see my gal was so well-loved.
On the other hand, at times like these, it’s hard not to second-guess, decisions made and not made. So it was with my previous pugs and, despite the suddenness of her passing, so it is with Lulu.
I often refer to Maximus as the BEST dog. And he really was. Although stubborn in his refusal to go for lengthy walks and possessed of an affinity for food that often lead him into trouble (he once ate an entire take-out container of curry fussili he “rescued” from the garbage while we were out), you couldn’t ask for a sweeter, gentler, friendlier, laid-back pug. When we would return home from trips and swing by our dogsitter’s place to pick him up, we’d invariably find him, sitting side by side with the house cat, sunning on the back porch. He was wonderfully patient with kids, playful with other dogs, and loved nothing more than climbing into a stranger’s lap.
After Max received his cancer diagnosis, we tried everything we could to help him, but it was clear that he was fighting a losing battle. He lost weight, his previously prodigious appetite waned, and he looked generally unwell. It’s always a struggle to choose when to let go but I recall the moment Maximus followed me out to the backyard and then dropped onto his belly, looking up at me with plaintive, weary eyes. I decided it was time.
In Max’s case, it wasn’t the timing of the decision that troubles me to this day but the fact that he was trembling when we brought him in to the vet. It’s something he often did when visiting the vet, out of fear a borne from previous trips. But this time, I thought, he had good reason to fear because I was bringing him there to die. In the end, he went peacefully, but the fact that he passed away, fearful, still haunts me.
I like to say that Jelly was my longest relationship at 16.4 years. She was my first pug and the opposite of Maximus. Whereas Max was easy-going and affable, Jelly was impatient and demanding, free with her barks and bossy attitude. At doggy daycare, they nicknamed her The Ref because of her penchant for jumping in whenever two other dogs started mixing it up. In some ways, she reminds me of Suji. They’re so much alike in many ways that I think that if the two had been alive at the same time, they would have downright hated each other.
Jelly suffered from a host of ailments in her later years, everything from hip dysplasia to spinal issues, but, in the end, it was a string of infections that ravaged her kidneys that proved too much for her little body to handle. I remember seeing her go downhill and deciding the time was right, only to have her bounce back for several weeks. The next time, I waited, and when it was clear she wasn’t getting any better and she started crying through the night, we brought her in. She too went peacefully, but I’m still reminded of how bewildered she looked in her favorite pink bed as the vet techs fussed around her.
Bubba was originally intended to be a present for my ex’s brother but, after falling in love with the little guy, I decided to keep him and we got her brother a toaster oven instead. I definitely got the better deal. Bubba was neurotic, fearful of everything from skateboards and bikes to other dogs and parking lot entrances. Sure, he was my dog in the beginning but, after Akemi moved in, he became her’s. She doted on him and he became so attached that he would never leave her side. When she would go out, he would cry himself hoarse. I’d often come home from work to find the two of them sitting together – her working, him contentedly snoozing.
Bubba was incredibly healthy until almost the very end. He developed a cough and, what at first we assumed to be pneumonia, turned out to be cancer. I was working on Dark Matter’s third season at the time, away from home for much of the day, so I left Akemi to monitor his condition. She knew him better than anyone and she would know when it was time. And she let me know, texting me while I was on set, shooting one of our latest nights. In Bubba’s case, he was clearly having trouble breathing, so there was no second-guessing the timing of the decision. But the night did offer one of the saddest photos I’ve ever taken of Akemi saying goodbye to her favorite boy.
Lulu was different. She could be aloof yet loving, obstinate yet playful, patient yet extremely determined. Although scrappy in her early years, she grew disinterested in other dogs outside of her immediate pack family, preferring instead the company of people, guys in particular. She was a bit of a flirt, at times capricious with her affections, but a tough cookie who always backed her pack-mates and proved a great companion to Suji, especially when she was first settling in.
Lulu was also different in that, unlike the pugs, her passing was sudden. She’d developed a cough that we’d been treating with antibiotics and her condition seemed to improve in that regard. Still, it was clear she was having trouble breathing (an issue she’d struggled with through most of her life), so we’d purchased a bronchodilator for her. It was the first thing we used as we, at first, assumed she was struggling for breath, but when her pupils started flicking rapidly from side to side, I knew it was something far worse. We whisked her up and rushed her to our bet, only two blocks away, but were too late to save her.
All signs point to a stroke and, as others have suggested, it was fairly quick and perhaps preferable to the suffering from an extended illness. But I still can’t help but wonder IF we’d gotten to the vet sooner, IF we would have taken her to the vet immediately upon our arrival from Montreal for a check-up, IF it would have made a difference.
Lulu’s passing brings to an end that old gang of mine. And one of my best memories I have of them was at bedtime, how they would all sleep on my side of the bed – Bubba tucked up against my left side, Lulu right up against my right, Maximus down by my feet, and Jelly on the pillow beside me. It was tight, not always exactly comfortable, but they were great times.