essay: Lulu

Lulu                                                                                                                                                  12.10.2016


A few lines about Lulu, our much loved little red Staffy; not meant to be maudlin, just an expression of what important beings pets are.  She’s a significant and unexpected loss for Rochi and I, and writing helps.

At 5.30 AM on Mon 10 October (tenth of the tenth, our ‘Lulu remembrance

day’?) I took a very distressed call from Rochi, as Lulu was taking her last breaths in Rochi’s arms.  It was hard to be so far away in Maningrida, to not be physically there.  Lulu approached life with exuberance, in this unfortunate case her weekly very ripe bone.  She crunched them up, had done so countless times, but this time suffered a bowel perforation, almost certainly – she deteriorated so quickly.  We know about that risk of splintering with cooked bones, but clearly it can happen with any bone – a hell of a way to learn this.  We’d expected her to grow old with us, and at eleven she was pretty fit, though ageing of course. In some ways what happened is a statement of the increasing fragility of life as we age, with less resilience to stresses; you see this in old folk, who can go down quickly.

The response of the families was wonderful. Eve drove across town and stayed for the morning, helped to take Lulu on her last ride to the vet.  Kim and Ollie drove over later; everyone else phoned, sent messages (from Taiwan!), Roche sent flowers.  Alex and Theresa sent lovely words in Italian; sisters Maria and Donna are flying down to be with Rochi during the first week – so generous and loving.  I much appreciated getting calls from Tate and Kim.

Yes, I remember Lulu’s joie de vivre, which never lessened; boundless enthusiasm for daily walks (drags, more accurately), and nightly dinner time

– she always reminded us at 5pm.  I remember her off like a cannonball, ears pinned back, chasing the tennis ball.  She learned to control that ‘throwstick’ game by releasing the ball on her own terms – more readily to Rochi than to me!  I remember her pretty little face, and the intensity of her ‘feral’ look when a tennis ball, a big ball, any ball was involved.  And could she swim!  Staffies aren’t meant to be so good at that, but she could swim the length of the dog beach at Sandringham while we walked.  She had a particular and unusual beach game that she developed early; as an only child she was good at amusing herself.  She’d search for the right size and depth of rock pool or failing that just the right stretch of water, and make a splash, then keep turning circles on her back feet and barking wildly at the splash.  This figures prominently on a number of Japanese tourist video records.  I remember one aboriginal ‘sorry day’ march where she was photographed as a symbol of reconciliation, or maybe just because she was cute!  She leaped onto our bed at 5AM each morning, and especially on Sunday morning lye-ins (sometimes needed a lift, this past year).  She’d proceed to attempt to lick us awake, as mother dogs do with their pups.  She’d made the whole of 13 Carew St hers, inside and out.  I won’t talk too much about her own special sofa, her Lady Godiva-like poses, totally relaxed.  She’d gradually appropriated most of the home, filled it with her spaces.  Her presence there was a very strong one – from the moment she welcomed you at the front door; it will be strange coming home to a house without her.

Staffies are an interesting breed, closer to people than any other breeds I’ve known; very much inside dogs, well known for talking to their owners, forever wanting to engage in some form of play.  Very much ‘her own person’

but very affectionate to us, and indeed to other people; dogs who are well treated give so much, and she had a good life as an integral part of our small family. I’ve often reflected that having a close relationship with a member of another species is a sort of privilege, and something you learn quite a lot from, by osmosis.  She could be less charitable with other dogs, and became a ‘grumpy old woman’, taking on big dogs especially, should they make the mistake of sniffing her.  She wouldn’t take on another Staffy; she knew about their fighting abilities.

Lulu was an accomplished flyer, had over time grown used to being ‘pet in hold’ with Virgin, had come to tolerate her travel crate.  Going to Hervey Bay and Sydney without her will be sad, for a while.  I’ll let Barry have the last word.  When Eve told him about Lulu getting sick and dying, he responded with “Will a new dog come out of Lulu?”

Vale Lulu, lovely being, dear little friend.