Shortly after Simon and I married, he wanted a dog. I was okay with the idea while he was adamant. We visited a local no-kill shelter where we could take our time making a decision. I found a docile dachshund mix that liked to be cuddled. Simon found a hyper chihuahua mix with a recently repaired broken leg and gigantic under bite. We politely argued why each of our choices was better. The dog I chose really didn’t care for Simon while the dog he chose was equally enamored with both of us. Simon won. We brought home the dog with the broken leg and massive under bite who happened to be born on the day we got engaged. We even looked up the Hawaiian words for under bite since we had just returned from our honeymoon and still had islands on the brain. We came up with Lalo Nahu, Lalo for short.
Lalo filled a lonely spot in our hearts that first year of marriage while we worked opposite schedules and rarely saw each other. Simon would take her on long walks or let her frolic while he played ultimate frisbee. I became a regular at the local dog park and fraternized with other pet parents on the weekends. Taking care of a living thing bonded us. We would plan day trips with Lalo in mind and bring her along whenever we could. Our friends were gracious to tolerate our love and excitement for that little dog. Once we moved to California, Simon enjoyed even more outdoor activities with Lalo. He took her to the beach and camping. We also set up frequent play dates with Lalo’s best friend, a white chihuahua mix named Marzipan.
It sounds ridiculous, but that darn dog eased us in to parenting humans. No longer could we sleep in until noon on days off. We had to take our pet out for potty breaks, feed her, and keep her active. When I was pregnant with our son, Lalo’s animal instincts kicked in to high gear. The closer my due date approached, the more protective Lalo became. She would literally follow me into the restroom, sit by my feet, and stare intently at me while I took care of business. I would laugh and say to her, “What are you going to do – deliver this baby yourself?” When we finally brought our son home, Lalo was all about it. She would notify us if he seemed upset and we hadn’t tended to him quick enough. As he became a toddler, she developed a distinct whimper that indicated he was getting into mischief.
Lalo repeated the same protective behavior when I was pregnant with our second child but seemed a little floored once we brought our daughter home. It’s as if Lalo was thinking, “You mean there are two of these things now?” When our daughter was about 18 months, she decided to quietly wake up earlier than usual and just smear her poop all over her crib. I have never heard or seen Lalo act so distraught. She kept running into my bedroom, running back out, and howling. I’m not sure if she was genuinely concerned or just tattling. Either way, I was able to stop the situation before it got even worse. One day, our gardener left the gate open. Lalo took off and was nowhere to be found for almost 24 hours. We were devastated. At 6am the following morning, I got a call from my dad. Lalo had showed up at my parents’ house two miles away. We retrieved her and she never escaped again.
When I was pregnant with our last baby, Lalo was getting tired of the game. She would still catch my glance to see if I was in trouble but was much less motivated to get up. When we arrived home with that third kid, I’m almost sure I heard Lalo say out loud, “You have got to be kidding me.” She was never hostile toward that child but certainly was indifferent by that point. Lalo spent the last few years hanging out on her dog bed and periodically barking at the kids if they got out of hand.
Lalo’s health began to decline a year ago which prompted Simon to get a second dog, Goomba. Having a playmate perked up Lalo’s spirits – she was clearly wasting away physically but happily ate and played alongside her new buddy. The past few days it was obvious that Lalo was done keeping up with Goomba and the rest of the family. She stopped eating and wouldn’t get out of her dog bed. When Goomba started holding vigil and wouldn’t leave Lalo’s side, I knew it was time. My dad took her in for me. I can’t face death again right now. It may sound ridiculous, but I hope dogs go to heaven. I want to believe that Lalo and Simon are hanging out again. He loved his furry kids almost as much as his human kids.
It was a great run, Lalo.