Friday, May 20, 2016

17 years and four months ago, after living her first year on the sketchy streets of Downtown Los Angeles, Lulu Leh, the Best Dog Ever Made (with all due respect to other dogs) came into my life.

Today was her last day on earth. She parted peacefully, surrounded by love.

17 years and four months ago, she was rescued by a neighbor and adopted by me and Bob...though it’s more accurate to say, she rescued and adopted us, drawing us in with her deep brown, soulful eyes.

She was an unexpected combination of Norwegian Elkhound and Welsh Corgi. Her legs were impossibly short for her body, and carried a double coat better suited for Norway than Southern California. If you were standing, and she was looking at you from the ground, her paws splayed like flippers and her nose pointed up; you'd swear you were looking at a sea lion with puppy ears and a tail.

When she’d get a desperately-needed summer cut, her head and tail and paws stayed black, but the rest of her body was the silver-white of her undercoat. 

Her disposition was sweet and playful like a Corgi, but she definitely had the Elkhound huntress in her DNA; ask any small creature in her sight line.

She was welcome everywhere, and her unique appearance inspired inquiries from strangers wherever she went. Her distinctly optimistic gait turned heads and prompted smiles. She made sour faces turn sweet.

She was much beloved by her people and their friends. Among her most famous admirers were Leslie Moonves, Bill Maher, and Mel Brooks.

She traveled up the coast to San Francisco and Berkeley, and through the desert to Las Vegas; she was very comfortable in cars. She regularly romped on the front lawns of Los Angeles City Hall and CBS Television City. She celebrated her 8th birthday on Broad Beach, sprinting leash-free in the sand, in front of the homes of Pierce Brosnan and Steven Spielberg.

She attended business meetings and film screenings and art openings and film shoots and edit sessions, and always kept it professional. She was a polite overnight guest in the homes of friends.

She only barked when she heard a knock, and would stop the moment she was asked. If she heard small noises, she’d make a commensurate noise that sounded like “burf.”

She chased squirrels up trees on the CalTech campus and deeply desired the ducks in California Plaza and Echo Park. Lizards, bugs, stuffed animals, and wind-up toys were no match for her.

She frequently raced Metro trains as they sped past the Not-A-Cornfield park in North Chinatown. As soon as she heard the whine in the track, she’d take off, getting a head start that allowed her to run alongside the train until the dirt path ended. Gold Line engineers slowed their trains for the passengers who’d come to expect the black torpedo on the other side of the chain-link fence. The engineers stopped on their way back to the train yard to ask about her, so they could answer the commuters’ questions.

She walked every inch of the Venice canals, she hiked in Eaton Canyon, she walked miles around the Los Angeles ‘hoods of Mount Washington and DTLA.

Whenever she was with my amputee mother, she’d position herself next to Mom and rarely leave her side. She was instinctively protective of anyone who was physically vulnerable or emotionally bereft. She couldn’t stand to see me cry; she’d nuzzle my hand ‘til I stopped. Her smile could always stop my tears.

My ex-husband and I shared custody of Lulu; he has a whole bunch of stories to tell about her, too. We both gave her a good life. In turn, Lulu gave us the gift of friendship.

And one day, when I felt all was lost, she quite literally saved my life.

Lulu reminded me to stay in the moment.
Lulu reminded me to have fun.
Lulu reminded me to love without conditions.

Good reminders, all.

Farewell, my sweet baby girl. I will miss you every day for the rest of my life. But you’ll always be alive in my heart.

                                                                                            First and last photos by Chip Latshaw