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If you're lucky, a dog will touch your soul

In my life I've known two dogs who really touched my soul, who attached their hearts to me in such a way that I was able to know their souls also. Those two dogs are my dear, sweet departed Domino, and the poodle mix I found on the street a few years ago, Lulu.

In both instances, the love was slow-growing. I never really was a dog lover; I always had cats before I had kids. But here's something about having kids that makes you feel like to need to get a dog.

With Domino, he was always content to lie at my feet. He wasn't a cuddly dog; he was just always around and faithful. It wasn't until my then-husband had surgery, and we noticed Domino never left his side, that I knew there was more to Domino than I had given him credit for.

A few years after Domino died, I found Lulu and another dog wandering the neighborhood, and they were a mess. The other dog, Cleo, was little and cute and I favored her, so Lulu sort of took a back seat. After a couple of months, they both got out, ran off, and only Lulu came back, which was a miracle in itself. I discovered Cleo on the street, barely recognizable after being run over by a car about a half-mile from the house.

But the fact that Lulu found her way back still amazes me. She was old, couldn't see or hear well and really had no business knowing her way around the neighborhood, yet she managed to trek all the way back home.

After that, the attachment was pretty solid. She's the dog who follows me around the house and watches my every move. Wherever I land, she positions herself in the room so she's facing me.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed Lulu was trembling and seemed to be having trouble eating. I finally took her to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. After that came a phone call with the news that Lulu has cancer in her mouth.

The prognosis seemed hopeful, in that it is a slow-growing cancer and there would be some time. Except there was blood all over the bed when I woke up the next day, and things are a mess around the house.

Now comes the time where everything has to be weighed out. Is she suffering? Can the bleeding be controlled? At what point do you say enough is enough  at what point do you say goodbye?

I know with Domino we probably went too long. He was so stoic, and we just couldn't bear to part with him. After all, we had patched him up all those times before ... when he jumped off the cliff at Turner Falls, more than once when he got on the wrong side of the coyotes.

And full disclosure: There is another dog ... Maggie. Maggie is my kids' dog, and I never really bonded with her. She's hyper, looks out only for herself and, frankly, has an odor. I love her but I'm not in love with her, if you know what I mean. So the thought of it just being me and Maggie gets me a little choked up.

So for now, we are taking it a day at a time over here. I've made some adjustments, and an uneventful day is a good day as we see how things settle.

There's a quote I like by Dean Koontz, the author, that I believe to be true. "Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished."


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