“Sweet” is the word everyone used to describe Lorelei. I’d add “gentle,” “calm,” and “quiet” to the description. But that’s not what the burglars thought when they broke into our house one day during the height of the silver theft madness. They’d entered the house through a window they broke in the basement, went to the dining room where I’d stupidly neglected to hide away the chest containing our full set of sterling silverware and made their way up to our bedroom where they ransacked dresser drawers and grabbed two jewelry boxes. The scenario I imagine is that this was when Lorelei, probably awoke in the TV room next door and made her appearance. “Someone’s come to see me,” she probably thought, yawning. The burglars fled. I know this because up on the third floor, where our daughters’ rooms were, was two hundred dollars in a wad in the top drawer in one daughter’s room and some very nice jewelry strewn carelessly across a tabletop in the other’s room. (Our older daughter, then living in a rather sketchy New York neighborhood, had brought the cash home for safekeeping; I have no explanation about the younger daughter’s jewelry except to say it was definitely nicer than most anything the burglars got away with in my jewelry box.) So I know the burglars never got to the third floor. They left hurriedly, discarding silver plate and junk jewelry on their way. The police said it was a professional job and that the silver had probably been melted down before their vehicle got off our street. They left behind a family who felt completely violated and one confused dog who probably never even got to bark at them.
Left behind prematurely by her companion Elsa, poor sweet Lorelei spent a lot of time alone. Ed and I were both super busy in our jobs, our older daughter was living in the city and coming home only sporadically, and our younger daughter was finishing up high school with all the frenetic activity that entails. I do have one picture of the dog sitting on the couch with guests around a cocktail table, looking for all the world like one of them. And she looks happy. Other pictures show her exploring the yard or lounging in the grass, so I guess she had some fun. I am ashamed at how few memories I have of her. This is probably due to the greater shame I have about the way she died.
As I said, it was a very busy time for us all. Rather than make a special trip to a pet store, we would pick up a bag of dog food at the supermarket when we did our own grocery shopping. With the food from one newly opened bag, Lorelei, always a good eater, turned up her nose and walked away. What was this about? It was a new bag, no reason for her not to eat the food. I insisted she eat it and I left it out until she got hungry enough. It made her ill and later that night she bloated. This time we knew what we were seeing. We raced to the emergency clinic where they were able to relieve the bloating and stabilize her. They recommended we take her to our own vet in the morning which we did. We discussed with him the possibility that if this happened again we’d have the surgery he and we were only just beginning to hear about – tacking the stomach to the abdominal wall so that while an animal can still bloat, the stomach cannot flip over.
We returned home and threw away the rest of the dog food. “I guess she knew what she was doing rejecting the food,” we said. It was the only explanation we could come up with. Thinking about it later, we recalled that the supermarket had been going through a major renovation and perhaps that bag of food had gotten pushed aside so that the food was old. We’d never checked the dates and of course the bag was now gone. We began buying high quality dog food from a pet store where we felt the product turnover would be faster.
I should mention something here about emergency veterinary clinics. We have been fortunate to live within easy driving distance to one wherever we’ve lived. Usually open only through the night and on weekends and holidays – when regular clinics are closed – they are a godsend to pet owners. Not only bloat which usually occurs at night, but other emergencies can necessitate a visit. But a visit there is not cheap. You go in with your credit card in hand.
I once witnessed a heartbreaking scene while waiting for my dog to be stabilized or stitched up or whatever I was there for. A man came in with a small dog that had been injured – hit by a car, I believe, and wrapped in a towel. He had several small children with him, all in tears. Hearing what the cost would be, he left the dog and went with the children out to the car ostensibly to retrieve his wallet. Instead, he got in his car and drove away. The receptionist called repeatedly, begging him to return. “We can’t treat your dog unless you give your permission,” she kept saying. I sat there silently begging the vets in the next room to treat the dog anyway. It was not as if the man was going to return and blame them for it; he was never coming back. But then my dog was brought out and I signed the credit card receipt and left. That scene has haunted me ever since. Could I have offered to put the little dog’s charges on my card? Or did they really need the owner’s permission? And, most important, how did he explain it to the children?
After Lorelei’s near-death experience with bloat, we were more careful, feeding her a good quality dog food twice day, discouraging her from exercising right before or after she ate, and of course, since Elsa, not giving her bones to chew on. But one day Ed came home from work at lunchtime, not a usual occurrence, and found Lorelei in distress. She’d vomited and was retching and trying to expel something more. This time, since the emergency clinic was closed, he took her to our regular vet who was able to relieve the gas buildup and stabilize the dog. He suggested Lorelei stay overnight so he could perform the surgery we’d agreed on in the morning. In the morning, he called to tell us that her heart had given out during the night. Poor little girl was only five years old.