Monday, August 20, 2007

Once in a Blue Moon Life Gives You a Second Chance

Have you ever lost something so dear to you that you wished you could have it back for one more day, for one more hour even, knowing that this wish would never come true? On Saturday, against all odds, my dad's wish came true. Lulu is our family's black lab that we got back in 1993 from my college roommate. Born on Halloween 1993, she was just a pup when my mom and I drove out to Asheboro to get her, then back to Chapel Hill where my mom spent the entire night at my apartment cradling Lulu in her arms. Lulu will turn 14 this Oct. 31, which makes her an old dog--98 if she were human (that is, if you believe in those things, not everyone does). So when my dad told me the sad news on Saturday, Aug. 11, that he believed Lulu walked off into the woods to die, I believed it too.

Our house in Boone sits up on four acres and is completely buffered by trees. In fourteen years, Lulu has not once ever ventured out to the nearby Highway 421. That is, until Friday, Aug. 10. Lulu is old and now deaf, but she still gets freaked out by loud thunder storms. My dad knows this and went out to call for her on Aug. 10 when a fierce and loud thunder storm blew through Boone. He called and called but Lulu never came. He called and called on Saturday, but Lulu never came. There's an old wives tale that suggests that old animals often know when it's their time to die and sometimes walk off into the wildnerness to rest in final peace. My dad was convinced this is what happened to Lulu when I saw him on Aug. 11 at SwillFest. My dad and I decided then and there not to tell Daniel that Lulu was missing until after the party. Daniel would surely be deeply affected by this news and why ruin a very good time? My dad didn't tell him on Sunday but finally broke the news to Daniel on Monday, that, by then, Lulu had not come home for four days.

Daniel has always been the one of the three of us that has gotten most attached to our three family pets. He and Sheila had only days earlier taken Lulu on a long walk at Boone's greenway and he just couldn't believe that she was ready to die. Had anyone searched the four acres in case Lulu was trapped or, what no one wanted to face, dead? Yes, my dad called and called for her, but she's deaf and he just couldn't stand the thought of her out there on her own needing help. He and Sheila did search the property last Tuesday without any luck. But then something happened on Daniel and Sheila's street that changed the course of the search and rescue efforts. A neighbor was posting his own missing dog sign when Sheila mentioned that her boyfriend's dad recently lost an old black lab. A black lab? He had just seen a black lab at Animal Control. A black lab with a red collar? No, Lulu didn't have a red collar, she didn't have any collar, but Animal Control--Daniel would go there as soon as he got a chance. By the time he got to Animal Control on Friday, they were closed so he made sure he got there as soon as he could this past Saturday, 8 days after Lulu had gone missing.

Sure enough, Lulu was there, wagging her tail, even looking a few pounds heavier. What a happy reunion! She had walked all the way to the ASU football stadium from my dad's house--probably about 2.5 miles or so--and had been picked up by Animal Control. Since she had been there for so many days, it was almost time for her to be turned over to the Humane Society to be put up for adoption! But let's face it--how often does a fourteen-year old dog get adopted? And we know what happens eventually to dogs that don't get adopted.

Lulu was rescued because Daniel (and Sheila) refused to accept the fact that she'd gone off to die. My dad said that in a case like that, where a loved one disappears, there's never one exact moment when the grief begins but it intensifies day after day. It had definitely begun, however, and he'd decided to keep only one of her favorite squeak toys. He lay in his bed last Saturday morning imagining how much Lulu loved getting treats and how he loved to squeeze her ears and hear her start to rumble. He thought, "If I could just sqeeze her ears one more time." Once, for a change, he got his wish.

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