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Finding Lola

It was spring of 1980. A beautiful late afternoon in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. I'd driven over to The Huron Valley Tennis Club on Cherry Hill Road, near Plymouth Road to park. It was a good spot to start a planned ten mile run. About a quarter mile down the road I passed by the Humane Society shelter, closed for the day. I'd not gone very far beyond it when an explosion of barking erupted from the woods at the side of the road. A pack of dogs burst from the trees, some barking and others growling fiercely. They caught me off guard and I instinctively shouted and reached for the nearest stick or rock to defend myself.

Lola — unconditional love with black fur and the sweetest heart imaginableWithout any real confrontation, the 'attack' abated as the dogs turned and ran off into the woods. With one exception. A small black puppy looked up at me. It didn't run. I knelt down and picked him (her?) up. Within minutes it was asleep in my arms. "Now what do I do," I wondered. I hadn't even got my run in. The shelter was closed, so I took the dog back to the car and headed for my apartment back in Ypsilanti.

I gave the little dog a bath, dried it off, and put a red bandana around its neck. Then I went to class. We sat together in the back row, trying not to draw attention. Which worked, until the barking started. We spent the rest of the class listening to the lecture while sitting on the hallway floor outside the door.

Unable to decide whether this puppy was a boy or a girl, I decided to name it Lola, acknowledging both the title and the theme of one of my favorite songs. Lola turned out to be an accurate choice. She was a female. The next day I drove to my girlfriend Trish's cabin in Hamburg, north of Ann Arbor. She agreed to take in Lola, who would become the inseparable life-long buddy to Trish's German Shepherd named LD (for Lucky Dog, discovered as a puppy in a junk yard).

Lola and LD survey the Badlands of South DakotaSoon, I followed Lola and moved into the cabin. Over the next several years, the four of us would sleep together and travel together around the state and around the country. On one trip, we traveled nearly 6,000 miles in two weeks, first south through the panhandle of Texas, and to the southeastern Colorado city of Cortez to visit Trish's brother. Then, up through Utah, Idaho, and Oregon to see my brother in Tacoma, Washington. And then back across the country to Ann Arbor. Between those trips, I took the dogs running with me whenever I could on the dirt roads and trails of Brighton Recreation Area.

LD in the hills above Mt. Rushmore, South DakotaWhen Trish and I broke up in 1983, I moved out of the cabin. We agreed that it would be best if Lola stayed at the cabin with LD. She'd have room to run free, but more importantly, she'd be with her best friend.

One thing that never changed though was the bond that I had with Lola. It didn't matter how much time would pass between when we saw each other — whether it was a month or a year — Lola's reaction to seeing me or hearing my voice was the same. She became the canine version of a jumping bean. Her tail would wag hard enough to fall off and she smiled. I knew she was smiling. I think she never forgot how much fun we'd had running together, traveling together, sleeping together.

Nap timeAs we all got older, I saw her less frequently. And when I did, those excited leaps weren't as high as they used to be. But I knew she felt the same. I did. Several years before she died, Trish told me that someone had shot Lola with an arrow on the state land behind Trish's place. Lola nearly died from loss of blood. She survived that and lived to be nearly 16. In the end, she was unable to out-run the car that took her life.

I will always remember her as that little black puppy I found while running. My Lola cola.

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