When I first moved to Boston the summer after college, I didn't know a soul. I had gotten accepted to a handful of grad schools and decided I'd give Boston a whirl; I had spent some time there as a kid and remembered it as a swingin' city.
I love moving to new places and making new friends, so life couldn't have been more perfect when I arrived at Logan Airport that balmy July day with my suitcase in hand, ready to take on the world ... er, the sprawling New England city. A few months before, my parents and I had bought a tres chic two-bedroom apartment on Commonwealth Ave. for me to live in, so once I landed I hopped in a cab and headed "home". It was on the first floor of an older 4-story, red-brick building, complete with a real stoop. (In California we don't really have stoops -- the only one I was familiar with was Carrie Bradshaw's in Sex and the City.) Hardwood floors, bay windows in the living room overlooking the street below, a black and white-tiled kitchen just like out of the Clue boardgame. I felt like I had stepped onto the set of some 1940s post-WWII flick, and half-expected Gene Kelly to come tap-dancing through my front door, leering at me on his way in. Needless to say, I was delighted by all the old-world charm that evaded so much of the architecture in my home state.
I got to work painting my bedroom walls a warm shade of "Tuscan Sunlight", my living room walls two different shades of olive, picking out decor and reveling in the fact that I, yes I, now had an actual stoop. (This fact didn't settle in until a few months later. Even then I would sneak the occasional peek out my bay windows, make sure my trusty stoop was still there and smile.). Shortly after I arrived in Boston, I began meeting some pretty cool cats in my apartment building and at school, many of whom are still my good friends today.
All was peachy keen till things started getting ... well, let's put it this way: I don't do well by myself at night in large dwellings. Once-charming kitchens begin looking ominous by moonlight after I've watched The Sixth Sense, and turning out all the lights in a big, lonely apartment with nothing but the errant creak keeping me company (and freaking me out) as I lay frozen in bed doesn't bode well with someone who possesses such an overactive imagination. The problem was (and always will be) that not only am I a tad superstitious, but I also believe in ghosts. (Unfollow me now if you must, but bear with me otherwise!)
I know it's ridiculous and so juvenile, but I'm terrified of spirits, the paranormal, ghosts -- basically anything that has to do with the dead. Couple that with the fact that I love a good scary movie and/or book, and well, that's a cocktail I probably shouldn't mix but always end up sipping. Usually when I'm sitting alone at 1am with nothing to do. Call it masochistic, but sometimes it's just fun to freak yourself out ... right? This is much easier to do than you'd think in a building built in the 1940s. Sometimes my mind would get the best of me: Who lived in this apartment before me? And before them?? What if something horrible happened in this very foyer?! All of a sudden, that stoop wasn't so endearing anymore.
So went my first few weeks. I hadn't planned on getting a roommate since everyone I knew in Boston was already in a lease, then it hit me: Why don't I adopt a dog? Note: I didn't just adopt on a whim solely because I was petrified of being alone at night; I had grown up with a poodle in my family and had been planning on getting a dog sometime after college. But the night I had to muster all my courage to get a cup of water from the kitchen, hoping I wouldn't run into the creepy twins from The Shining asking me to come play with them, I knew I needed a dog. Stat.
During high school I volunteered at the SPCA, so it's always been important to me to adopt homeless dogs. Right away I found a solid organization who rescued dogs of all shapes and sizes from the putrid confines of (what should be illegal) puppy mills. There is much to be criticized about puppy mills if you aren't familiar, but I'll write about them soon, I promise. Anyway, I called the foundation, who told me they'd be rescuing a group of poodles soon among other breeds, and they asked what color/age/sex I wanted after they ran a background check on me. I told them I wanted a white female poodle and that I would take an older one (since the puppies always find homes more easily).
About two weeks later, I waited in the organization's driveway along with countless other families who were waiting to pick up their dogs. A large U-Haul pulled in shortly after -- it had driven through the night from North Carolina after sweeping up dozens of abused dogs from a puppy mill -- and once they opened the truck bed, displaying the many cages of confused animals, we all watched and waited anxiously.
When they handed me my Lola, she was a pitiful sight. First off, her name wasn't originally Lola, it was Ms. Say It Ain't So (basically a breeding name akin to nothing more). Naturally she did not respond to Ms. Say It Ain't So (would you?), and had been severely abused. She was a toy poodle who came to me completely shaved from her recent vet visit and was obviously malnourished, as her ribs showed through like two small washboards.
The foundation told me that she had lived her entire four years of life in a cage since birth, and had been used to produce litters in horrific, inhumane conditions. All she knew was crate wire below her paw pads. She had never been treated with love, was terrified of humans (especially men) and had obviously been hit -- probably by a man -- more than once. How anyone could hit a 10-lb. fluffy thing is beyond me. She had no clue how to walk on a leash, had never been house trained, never walked on grass, and never been in a car -- save for her 14-hour U-Haul ride. Everything was new to her and though it took me a good three weeks to begin building her trust, it was worth every second of my patience. I slowly taught her how to walk on a leash, quickly house-trained her, and even got her to love walking up and down that stoop as much as I did (milkbones helped -- with her, not me). I wasn't scared of my apartment at night anymore. Being with Lola and educating her in the ways of love, gourmet cooking and The Beatles miraculously took my mind off anything Stephen King-esque.
Flash forward to now, and Lola Belle Watkins is my partner in crime. She's quiet, well-behaved and sometimes a little too shy, but that's okay. Love often says I spoil her too much, but with all the bad stuff that's happened in her past, she deserves to be spoiled. She's going on nine years old this year, and she's become a definitive part of my family. After grad school, she and I moved back to California -- where my whole family fell in love with her -- and subsequently to DC, where sometimes (when he thinks I'm not watching) Love spoils her even more than I do. If that's possible.
Here are some of my favorite pictures of her:
Story time for the kiddies. Love recounting his day to Lola and Moneypenny, our recently adopted cat. They seem to approve.