My heart is breaking, but I cannot waste this opportunity to beg you: please get your next pet from a shelter. There are so many amazing homeless pets that need you. There are so many amazing homeless pets that will make a great fit for your family. Go save a life. Trust me: there is magic in those cages.
I donated to The Sato Project in Leeloo’s name, which helps Puerto Rican street dogs just like her find homes. If you’d like to donate in her name, too, it would mean the world to me. They are an incredible operation will offer other satos the opportunity she got: to live their lives with loving families. (Given the current state of the island, your donation will be very appreciated)
You can also adopt a sato of your own – there are a lot in New York, and some all over the country. I highly recommend them.
Leeloo Dallas Marlow
2004 (probably) – 2018
Leeloo Dallas Marlow died on Wednesday.
Leeloo was one and a half years old (probably) when I adopted her from the SPCA of Connecticut on 25 February 2006. She was scared and curled up in a corner, but became happy and animated when introduced to our older dog. She kissed him enthusiastically on the face and then sat down next to him, looking up expectantly at us as if to say, “Can we just get on with it and go home now? Clearly, I am your dog.”
“Clearly, she is your dog.” the shelter workers said.
On the ride home, I asked my partner if he could remember the name of the supreme being in the movie The Fifth Element. “That’s her name!” he said, but, since smart phones weren’t invented yet, we had to wait until we were home to look it up on the back of the DVD case.
“Leeloo!” I said, “of course! Leeloo Dallas… multipass! That’s pretty good, right?”
The name was perfect, the dog was… well…
During our first week together, Leeloo climbed over the baby gate that kept her out of the kitchen, overturned the garbage, and covered the entire room with trash looking for scraps of food. We couldn’t be mad. Her survival skills developed from spending her first year as a street dog in Puerto Rico (a “sato”) had kicked in. Thankfully, this never happened again as she got used to being fed and loved regularly.
She did, however, discover a Costco box of dog treats in the basement and tore it open. When no one was looking, she’d slip downstairs and gorge herself. We were baffled as to how she suddenly got so chubby. This was also the summer we put a fence around the front yard. We carefully measured the space between the last fence post and the house to make sure she couldn’t get through.
After discovering her Milkbone caper and putting an end to it, she slimmed down instantly, and became thin enough to slip through the fence we had specifically measured to her width. She managed to escape once before we fixed it.
Although Leeloo hated baths, she loved swimming, especially if there was mud or sand on the bank to roll in after a dip. She would use the swim-roll-sunbathe method to get as completely and efficiently filthy as possible.
I’d stand there laughing as she flopped dramatically on her back and rolled in dirt, and everyone at the dog park would look at me like I was crazy for letting her, but I could never bring myself to make her stop. It made her so happy to be so gross.
She also liked to roll in any poop she happened to find in the park. That I *did* try to stop, but she got so quick about flipping herself directly into steaming piles that she was usually hopelessly covered before I could intervene.
Other loves included running as fast as she could up a hill, paddling after ducks in a lake, roughhousing with our older dog Matty, and getting guests to feed her by giving them the saddest eyes ever. She was gentle with small children, and let them pet her ears, put their arms around her neck, and kiss her head.
Leeloo had a penchant for eating whatever was semi-edible that she found on walks, including dead birds. I’ll never forget the feeling of turning around on a day by the lake to see her sprawled in the dirt (of course) munching on a decayed sparrow, wings spread out of both sides of her mouth, golden eyes going from blissed out to wide with surprise that I would object to her snack choice.
“What?” she seemed to say, scrambling away from me trying to make her spit it out. “It’s good!”
She also hated when I brushed her teeth, because of course she did.
Her weirdest quirk was to creep up quietly while I was working and stare me down, silently, without moving or blinking. At first, I thought she was being creepy, but now I think she was simply taking me in, and maybe marveling at us. Occasionally, she would break the stare with a wink, and I’d wink back… just in case it was a sign. “Can you believe it? Can you believe we we were so lucky to find each other in this whole wide universe?”
I’ve always wondered what she named me. She certainly had no idea what I named her, as she never actually responded to her name – she just new to come running when her big brother did, and after he died, she only responded to clapping.
We’ve spent the past twelve years together – exactly one third of my life, Marley pointed out – and at 14, she lived longer than anyone would have guessed, which makes me feel like I’ve won the lottery. I’ve had 4506 days of wonderful, quirky, gross, neurotic love; two states, four apartments, two other dogs… two husbands! All of it covered in dog hair.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Leeloo. You’ve been the best dog. I am going to miss you for the rest of my life.
Last year, I commissioned the Haiku Guys to write a poem about Leeloo that sums her up nicely. I’ll leave you with it.
“the moonlit jaguar
padding softly through her life
proving real live love
– for leeloo”
p.s. I am okay. Truly. For one, she lived longer than I thought. When you sign the adoption papers on a dog, you know your time is limited, and I got over a year of bonus time according to every “how long will THIS size dog live” chart I consulted. I’m also a very pragmatic dog owner, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m happy and excited for her: no more pain. Arthritis has been taking over her body for a while, and it got bad very suddenly over this weekend. At the same time, a cancerous tumor, discovered two weeks ago as a small peanut sized lump that we would “keep an eye on”, has grown over the past 14 days to the size of a plumb. It could not have been clearer that it was time, and I’m so grateful the decision was so obvious.
If you’d like to cheer me up, I’d love to see photos of your dog!