Meet Lula. She joined our family about 3 months ago.
She’s about 7 years old, and as far as we know we are her third family. She was nearly a year old when her previous family adopted her from an animal shelter. As happens, the family is going through some difficulties; the marriage is breaking up and their changing situation meant Lula needed a new home.
ready to adopt
In September last year, we said good bye to our dear companion Oscar. We have cried and grieved, and tender moments can still come up, but in April Ian and I began to talk about adopting another dog. First I mentioned it to a friend who volunteers at animal shelters and she gave me some advice about what to think about when adopting a rescue dog and suggested websites to visit.
I didn’t know how long it would take to find our next dog, but I trusted that when the time was right, the dog would appear. I just hoped that we didn’t have to wait too long. I thought by September or the end of the year was probably a realistic timeline for finding this new dog.
We weren’t super picky about what type of dog, but we had some criteria about what would best suit us. In sum: small and youngish. Small because we don’t have a car and so our dog needs to be able to ride public transport in Valencia, which generally means traveling inside an pet transport bag, and small enough to ride in a bicycle basket or trailer. And youngish – ideally no older than 3 – so we have many more years of love and adventure together.
The neighbor connection
Later that same week, I dropped by the downstairs neighbors’ to say hello and give them a small gift from Mexico. I also mentioned that we were ready to adopt a dog, and Juan – the neighbor – declared “Well, that’s good, because we have the dog for you.”
“Yeah, hahaha, I’m sure you do,” I quipped.
The neighbors are friendly and kind. Ever since we moved in they have been available for questions or advice; and they are thoughtful and generous, giving us little gifts now and then. They are also something of a comic duo, constantly finding the humor in things, telling (dirty) jokes. They can be clowns.
I thought they were joking about the dog, even after they started showing me pictures and telling me Lula’s story – about their nephew, the divorce, his moving from the countryside to the city, and the dogs – there were 6 in total – simply couldn’t go. The nephew had been finding new homes for them. Lula was his last dog, did we want her?
not a joke
They weren’t joking. Lula was older than we’d hoped for, but she is small, and she needed a home, and we needed a dog. So we agreed to a trial period: four days to see how we all like each other and how well Lula – a country dog from an orange farm – got on living in the city.
She arrived at our house, the next day at noon. As might be expected she was freaked out and nervous about yet another change, but with time she has become calmer about most things.
Ian and I agreed we would enjoy the time with her, and we wouldn’t talk about anything long-term until the four days were over. That was the plan.
Two days later, over morning coffee I said to Ian “I know we said we wouldn’t talk about it, and so we don’t have to, but I just wanted to let you know, I’m leaning towards keeping her. She’s great.” Ian laughed and agreed. He had fallen in love with her too. We weren’t going to rush the process, we’d leave talking to the neighbors and their nephew until the trial visit was over, but we were decided. Lula had found her forever home and her forever family.
lula the bird-dog
While Lula is a dear dog – sweet, very quiet, and calm – she is also a complete nervous wreck when left alone. On the orange farm she had the company of the other dogs, or in the final months of the divorce and big life changes, she was the constant companion of the nephew as he re-homed, one by one, his six dogs and re-organized his life.
During our trial period, we twice left her at home alone to go out and eat lunch. The first time we came home to find Lula panting and agitated by the front door. But fine. The second time we left her at home, a window had been left open and she climbed up on the table and jumped out the window and fell five floors.
Other neighbors, from around the corner, found her after the fall. They had only met Lula once, but recognized her as “our new dog”.
They were at home, making lunch, when they heard a thud and doggy yelping. It seemed like a dog was hurt in the patio next door. They knew the neighbors didn’t have a dog, so that was odd. When the crying persisted and the neighbors didn’t seem to be at home, they climbed a ladder to see what was going on in the patio next door. It was a dog, and it was Lula!
They rang and rang and rang us. For two hours they tried calling but I didn’t hear my phone.
We were just turning the corner onto our street, when the call came through. Lula had fallen from the window and when the neighbors couldn’t reach us, they did the sensible thing and took her to the emergency veterinary clinic. It was 1 May, a national holiday, so most businesses were closed.
just the facts taxi ride
I was heart-broken and scared. I also felt super guilty about her accident – who had left the window open, was it me? Bah, that question didn’t matter then or now. Instead I tried to focus on just the facts.
During the 15-minute taxi ride to the clinic, I reminded myself again and again, all I knew was that Lula had fallen. Yet thoughts ran through my head like, “How hurt is she? Will we have to put her down? Oh my god, what will we tell Jorge?” And “No! Stop. Just the facts. All I know is that Lula had fallen five floors. There is also a possibility that she is absolutely perfectly fine.” But I doubted it.
Our neighbor was standing outside the clinic when we arrived. She had a strained look on her face. My stomach dropped to my knees, but when she opened her mouth she said “I don’t want to give false hope, so get inside and talk to the vet, but it looks like she’s fine.”
The veterinary staff were astonished but it was true. Lula had fallen five floors, but like in a cartoon, Lula had stepped out our window and bounced downwards. The neighbors’ drying racks and the awnings over the windows broke her fall. That, the neighbors’ speedy rescue and the fact that she weighs just six kilos contributed to saving her life and having an easy recovery from the bruises and trauma.
The clinic kept Lula overnight for observation, to make sure there was no internal bleeding or other problems. There weren’t. The next morning we brought Lula home.
For a few weeks afterwards, whenever out on a walk, we would meet neighbors who had witnessed Lula’s rescue operation. People looked with puzzled wonder and asked – is that the bird-dog that jumped out the window? Yes, the one and only, and hopefully the one and only time she tries to fly.
One, because we never ever leave a window open when we go out. And because we are currently working with her to stay alone and remain calm. In June when we started she scratched and barked at the front door the entire 4 minutes we were gone. But now she can stay by herself 15 minutes and remain calm. So, “poco a poco” (little by little) as we say here.
And that’s how Lula came into our lives. We are tremendously happy to share our home with a dog again, and enormously appreciative of our kind neighbors.
And that’s just the beginning. Watch this space for future adventures with Lula.