Adopted Dog Helps Pet Mom Overcome Loss

Lola’s hugs and companionship helped Sharita find healing and hope.

Sharita + Lola

After the loss of her husband, an adopted dog named Lola became the constant companion Sharita needed most. With doggy hugs and daily walks, they’re forging a new beginning together.

"I would come home from work, hearing about Lola’s puppy antics, smiling inside when I saw the pure joy on Michael’s face at having her at his side. Forgotten was the chemo, the pain, the uncertainty of what lay ahead… we reveled in those big brown eyes that gave us unconditional love and happiness."

In April 2019, my husband Michael asked me to take him to the South Suburban Humane Society to look at the animals. Michael had cancer, and the last several weeks had been rough on us. We both loved dogs, so it sounded like a good idea. For an hour or so, we forgot about our battle with an insidious disease and got lost in the wonder and joy of being surrounded by animals. We made furry new friends until it was time to go. Michael stood looking into a pen where a scared, skinny little pup lay toward the back. She looked so pitiful, with a demeanor that said, “Why bother, no one will want me.” Michael turned to me and said, “I want to take her home.” At first I griped, thinking to myself, “How will I be able to be a caretaker for Michael and handle a new puppy?” But I relented when my beloved husband gave me one of his looks — the one I could never say no to.

As we completed the adoption papers, we learned that the pup had been found wandering the streets, malnourished and afraid of people. She was so skinny you could practically count her ribs. I kept asking Michael if he was sure about this. Without a doubt in his mind, he looked at me and said, “Yes, and I want to call her Lola.” At first, I thought he was joking, because Lola was his term of endearment for me. I truly didn’t understand it at the time, but I gave in, no more questions asked, and Lola came home with us. For one month, Michael, Lola and I were a perfect little family. I would come home from work, hearing about Lola’s puppy antics, smiling inside when I saw the pure joy on Michael’s face at having her at his side. Forgotten was the chemo, the pain, the uncertainty of what lay ahead… we reveled in those big brown eyes that gave us unconditional love and happiness.

Almost two months after Lola came into our lives, my darling husband lay in my arms, in our bed, and peacefully passed away. The utter grief and loss I felt for the next few months was indescribable. I could barely move, eat, or think. All I could manage to do was to take care of little Lola. She never left my side, and on those days when I could not get out of bed, she curled up next to me, putting her paw across my chest as if giving me a hug. On those dark days when my grief ravaged mind convinced me to give up and die, my heart reminded me that Lola needed me. All we had was each other. Michael gave me a final gift: a sweet and loving companion to lead me through the darkest time of my life. We rescued Lola, but in the end, Lola saved my life.

Each year, Petco Love Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Sharita won South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights, Illinois a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.