My Gross Angel

I have a dog named Lola. The name doesn’t suit her; she’s not coy or mysterious. She’s cute, but she’s the opposite of fancy, and I think we can all agree that Lola is a name for someone fancy. She’s scraggly, anxious, and needy. Like all dogs, she wears her heart on her…paw.

When I brought her to live with me, they’d been calling her “Bola” because of how she’d roll herself up into a little ball to rest. “Bola” can also mean “boil,” as in, on the skin, the idea of which grossed me out so much that I had to change it. “Cola” would have been cute, but in addition to soda (as in, Coca-Cola), it means “tail” or “ass,” neither of which seemed like a polite name to give a companion.

So Lola it was.

We don’t know a lot about Lola’s past, but we do know that she must have been abused by some pretty scary and mean people, and we know that they must have been men. Years later, it still takes at least three or four visits of consistently displayed calm, positivity, and earnest desire before she’ll let a man go anywhere near her. She won’t bite, she’ll just run away in panic, looking to me for protection.

Lola follows me everywhere. I am her goddess, her queen. If I leave, I’m told she spends a few minutes whining about it. She’ll settle for my partner and my daughter if I’m not around, and she seems to like our housekeeper almost as much as she does me; the days that Ana comes are the only ones that Lola’s not glued to my side. When I come home, she celebrates as if I’ve just returned from the dead, even if I’d only stepped out for five minutes.

Sometimes, this annoys me. I like being accompanied, but I’m one of those “introverted extrovert” types that enjoys a bit of space from time to time. When I try to be an absent millennial zombie, scrolling through my phone or even reading on my computer on the couch, Lola comes and pushes my hand with her little nose. “It seems you’re in the mood for petting something. I would like to remind you that unlike the phone and the computer, I love you. Your gadgets won’t snuggle you back or adore you. Choose me.”

Often this happens when I’m quite busy – I’m usually quite busy – and it exasperates me. Having dependents means that you are always needed; it means that your time is never exclusively your time. This is simultaneously exhausting and magical, a dynamic that can draw out your humanity while also making you feel resentful.

But when I feel like shoving Lola to the other side of the couch, I remember the child version of myself. My sister and I were obsessed with dogs. We’d had dogs at different points in our childhood, but neither we nor anyone in our family knew how to train them, so we never felt we had the “right” dog.

We’d often find strays on out-of-town visits somewhere that would follow us around and beg our parents to take the dog home with us. The answer was always no – they had plenty of other things to take care of – but we dreamed of a dog who would adore us, who would not only not run off as soon as the door was opened in search of adventure, but who would always come when called, who’d be by our sides constantly, who’d bow to us as royalty, gaze up at us with affection, spend every waking moment looking for a way to express to us its love.

So when Lola annoys me…when she won’t leave me alone, when I’ve discovered that in her anxiety or because it was raining in an extra terrifying and wet way outside she’s once again peed on the sofa or a pillow or the carpet – hey, I’m not perfect, either – I try to remember that she’s literally a dream come true: my very own adoring, disgusting angel who would move heaven and earth just to sit at my side.