Woman and Adopted Dog Find Their Next Chapter Together

When Lee needed companionship and support, Nola’s warmth and caring helped Lee acclimate to life after grief.

Lee + Nola

Lee overcame homelessness, got her children settled at college, then lost her husband unexpectedly. Adopting a dog named Nola gave Lee a sense of comfort, purpose, and hope for their next chapter together.

"Caring for Nola has given me something other than grief to focus on. She’s a big cuddle bug with a huge personality. Nola has become part of our tribe, and we love her."

2020 was supposed to be our year. After three years of homelessness in North Carolina, things were finally looking up for our family when we relocated to Arlington, Virginia. I was able to secure a job and we moved into our own apartment in July. At last, my husband and I had a chance to catch our breath after years of struggling and scraping. It felt so good to have a home of our own again. We were ready to begin the next chapter of life. In August, we took our daughter Leandra to join her brother, Asho, at UNC Pembroke to start the fall semester.

My husband and I returned to Virginia eager to begin our empty nest phase. Anyone with adult children understands that this is a time for parents to rejoice and breathe a sigh of relief because we managed to raise those baby birds and now, they are taking flight. Excitement soon turned to heartbreak when exactly 30 days after getting our kids settled for the fall semester, I lost my husband and best friend to a massive heart attack in September.

I was devastated. I still am. We got through the hard part—now, this. For the first time in almost 30 years, I was on my own in a new city. I was terrified. My kids and a few close friends suggested I adopt a dog to keep me company while I adjust to my new normal. I met Nola through a friend who knew her foster mom at Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. 

As soon as I saw a picture of Nola’s sweet face, I knew I had to meet her. She, too, had relocated from North Carolina, so I figured it was meant to be. Her adoption coordinator told me that Nola recently had a litter of puppies, had some health challenges, and was considered a senior dog at 8 years old. I said, “I’m also getting on in years, so I guess we’ll grow old together.”

Sweet Nola has been with me for almost two months and I’m so glad she’s here. My kids love her, and we marvel at how much she has in common with my late husband. Her skin condition and her leg scar are almost identical to my husband’s. It seems she shares a bond with him I cannot explain. Her freight train snore comforts my daughter on those late nights when she’s missing her dad. Nola’s drawn to his recliner and spends much of her time curled up at the foot of it, basking in his energy.

Caring for Nola has given me something other than grief to focus on. She’s a big cuddle bug with a huge personality. Nola has become part of our tribe, and we love her. I know my life will never be the same. But I’m glad to have Nola by my side to help me adjust to my new way of life and “new normal.”

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share 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 Lee won Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Fairfax Station, Virginia a 2021 Love Stories award.