I brought her home last July, a frightened angry little old blind French Bulldog, turned out by the person she had lived with since she was a puppy. He didn’t even know how old she was, maybe 10 or 11. She had traveled with him across country, he said, from New York to California and back, and in her bag, I found a fancy coat and fancier leather collar, but it was clear that her glory days were long gone. She had lost her sight three years previously, and she never got out any more, spending her days alone in his apartment. She could hardly walk, but she could still use her teeth, and she tried valiantly to sink her teeth into me when I bent down to greet her. Her owner promised to send a donation for her care, but he never did. He never asked about her. LouLou was no longer his burden, she was mine.
We became unlikely allies, LouLou and I. It’s no fun for a homeless dog to have to make a new life for herself, especially when she’s reached an age when she should be napping, when a stray sunbeam on her back will put her straight to sleep, snoring gently on the floor, oblivious to whatever it was she was doing before the sunbeam hit. LouLou deserved a quiet life. She didn’t deserve to be uprooted and moved two hundred miles away to the suburbs.
My dogs and I did our best to make a home for LouLou, and it didn’t take her long to decide she liked us. Grudgingly of course, but she liked us all the same. She stopped trying to bite me after the first couple of weeks, although she never stopped trying to bite everyone else. She harbored a secret crush on my Pug Clovis, and I would come home from work to find them curled up together in a dog bed, her blind face pressed deep into his fur.
I can’t pretend that LouLou was cute, because she wasn’t. Mucous dripped continuously from one nostril, and feces leaked out the other end while she slept, causing her no end of embarrassment when she woke in the morning. As she got older, she became more agitated, moving restlessly around the house, before ending up face first in a corner, barking frantically for help. I set up a portable crib in my office, next to the computer, and there she spent most of her day, her beloved Pug tucked in to her side. I wrapped her in diapers, and washed both ends every morning, but she still managed to smell awful. Her teeth were rotting, and her mouth stank, but she got her full complement of kisses anyway. She loved having her belly rubbed. Once I figured out how to keep those diapers on her all night, she loved joining my dogs and me in my bed at night.
LouLou loved a party, whether it was a Pug meetup, where she was the honorary Pug, with instructions “NOT TO TOUCH!”, or a trip to the French Bulldog Club of America Nationals, or a family get together, or a even just a road trip. Every now and then, I would see her sail happily past, tucked under the arm of a friend or a family member, someone entirely oblivious to her awful reputation for biting. She never tried to bite these newfound friends. She never bit the Pugs either. Everyone else was fair game, from the veterinarians that tried to examine her, to well meaning French Bulldog lovers at the national specialty. Lou spared nobody.
She began to fade away in those last few months. She slept more, and when the weather grew warmer, she even began to disappear. Fifteen minutes of hunting for her in the yard would finally find her tucked under the hostas, invisible unless I moved the leaves aside, perfectly still, her eyes wide open.
One morning, she was so confused and so sad, that I made an appointment to euthanize her. Five minutes later, she came trotting out of the kitchen, barking at me for her breakfast, and I canceled the appointment. A few weeks later, I made another appointment, and canceled that one too.
The end took me completely by surprise. I took her to the veterinarian, along with my own two dogs, for her annual checkup. The veterinarian was horrified at her condition. Down to 17 pounds, hacking out a dry cough, and circling aimlessly around the room, LouLou admittedly did look awful, but I had somehow missed it. To me, she just looked like LouLou. I didn’t think she wasn’t ready to die, and I certainly wasn’t ready to let her go. Now, in hindsight, I realize that the veterinarian was right, and I was wrong. LouLou was ready to die. She was dead in my arms before the syringe had even drained into her leg. And as much as she tried to sink her teeth into the veterinarian, and all three veterinary technicians, she never once tried to bite me, even then.