I am so excited to write this post and introduce the newest member of our family: Lola Noel. Mostly just called Lola, or any variety of ridiculous nicknames that she’s already been given: Sweet-n-Lola, Lola’s Chicken & Waffles (a spin-off of the restaurant here in Phoenix), Mamacita Lolita, etc.
This sweet girl came to us in a whirlwind from China, and her story is a wild ride – buckle up! Jacob and I both have wonderful memories of golden retrievers growing up; my family had a golden / lab mix named Bowie, and J’s family had a golden named Louie. His brother and sister both have young golden retrievers, and the more time we spent around them the more we became convinced that we wanted to welcome a member of this sweet, loving breed into our home.
I briefly considered a breeder, but I just couldn’t do it. Our family has always gone for rescue pups, and it just didn’t feel right to me to get a puppy from a breeder – no judgement to those who do! It just wasn’t the right move for us. My dad’s teller at the bank (that’s a small town for ya!) had adopted a rescue golden, so she sent me the information for the organization they used and we started the process of getting approved to adopt with Arizona Golden Rescue. They are very thorough – after applying and becoming a member, they do a home visit to evaluate whether our home was golden-proof. We spent hours cleaning and agonizing over their visit, but I guess we had nothing to worry about, because we were approved that very same night!
Knowing how beloved this breed is, we thought it would be a while before anything came up. Our home evaluator mentioned that they were bringing a group of dogs from China in the spring, so if nothing had happened by then then maybe one of those dogs would be a fit. We settled in for what we thought would be a long wait…
And then, on Tuesday night, just three short days after we were approved, I got a late-night text from the rescue: they had a 6-year-old golden girl who had just landed at LAX from China and was on her way to Phoenix. The family who was supposed to take her backed out at the last second, and she needed an immediate home. All we had to go on was one blurry photo, and that she was a “favorite” from the shelter she had come from.
I don’t even know how to explain how we knew – you’d think there would have been some hesitation, some thoughts of “Hmmm, I don’t know, is this right?” But we kind of just looked at each other and said, “Should we?” The answer was a unanimous YES.
The next evening, a transporter from the rescue drove her over to us, after she spent the day in a foster home and we spent the day at work not being able to focus on anything else! When she jumped down from the car, I was in shock. She was tiny (the smallest golden I’ve ever seen!) and so, so frail. She was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and yet she came right to us, tail wagging and we said hello to our new fur baby.
I have tears in my eyes writing this, because I don’t quite know how to explain how special she is. Quite frankly, this sweet dog has been through hell. Here is what we know: she was used first as a breeding dog. At some point, she had a C-section and has a huge scar on her belly. This may have been why she was no longer used for breeding; or maybe she got too old, we aren’t sure. But from there she was sold into the meat trade (fair warning, that link includes some pretty tough things to read. Animals Asia is not the organization we were involved with, but they provide a good write-up of the dog meat trade in Asia). She was saved on the way to a slaughterhouse, and brought to a rescue shelter. In the shelter she sat for two years, with little to no hope of being adopted. In the larger cities in China, households are only allowed one pet, and it must be less than roughly 14″ tall, so the larger breeds have a very hard time being adopted.
I still don’t know how she was able to make it on that plane to LAX, but she made it. She sat through quarantine and then nearly 48 hours of travel in her kennel. I was feeling horrible for her being squished in there, but the rescue explained that she likely had spent those last two years in a similarly-sized space. Understandably, she had some defensiveness around her crate; it was likely the only home she’s known.
When she first arrived, she just paced all through the living room and kitchen; she never stopped moving unless she went into her crate to power nap until she started pacing again. Her anxiety was high and she had a bit of a limp on her back left leg. She and Dani were off to a bit of a rough start – both girls can be a bit possessive of their space and their things, so we’re working on that.
But slowly her walls started to come down. Within a week she wasn’t even touching her crate (though we left it open, ready for her if she needed to feel secure), instead she slept on the rug in the living room or on a dog bed in the kitchen. She paced a lot less, and instead started to run around and play. She loved going on daily walks with Nemo and Dani. She got curious, and even took some nibbles of the Christmas tree! We’re working on that, too 🙂 She visited the vet and though she was about 10-15lbs underweight, she got a relatively clean bill of health – the vet even said she might be younger than six, which made us so happy. We’ll take any extra years we can get!
Unfortunately, her small limp took a turn about a week after she had been with us. Overnight, she stopped eating and stopped putting weight on her leg. Jacob rushed her to the emergency vet while I went to work, again too distracted to get much done. It turns out she had ruptured her CCL, a ligament in the knee. It’s an incredibly painful injury, and one we know all too well. Nemo is just finishing up his last few weeks of healing from his second CCL surgery this year. The vet estimated that it had been injured before, but because of her small living quarters and lack of exercise, it had never fully presented. Once she came to us and started having space to move around and regular walks, it didn’t take long for the ligament to completely rupture.
Luckily, we are well versed in this injury and in a few short months, she should be back to relatively normal. We’ll then start to reintroduce toys (slowly, to make sure there are no aggression issues between her and Dani), go back to our daily walks and really see her at her full potential. In the meantime, she is on pain meds and resting a lot to prevent further injury. Just after Christmas she’ll have surgery to repair the knee and we’ll be able to spend lots of time with her over New Years to help her start recovery.
I can’t express how lucky we feel to have her in our lives. It was a crazy, whirlwind situation that I’m honestly still processing. How did we go from, “We should get a golden!” to having her in such a short time?! But we wouldn’t change a thing. Despite all that she’s been through, she couldn’t be more loving and trusting. We will do everything we can to live up to that trust and show her that she is home, she is safe, and we will love her until the end of her days, however long we are blessed with.
We love you so much, Lola girl. Welcome home!