My Friend Lola

I like dogs.  I don’t have one, but I’ve noticed that L.A. dog owners have a very special relationship with their pets.  In a town of highly-dysfunctional beautiful people, dogs have supplanted the human relationship.  Single girls have Facebook profile pictures of themselves posing with poodles adorned with pink bows, while guys go hiking with hulking, furry beasts that would probably get mistaken for wolves in other states.

I initially didn’t get it and found most dogs annoying.  When I ran up hiking trails, I would trip over free-running dogs who were let off their leash and felt obliged to dart between my legs.  There was also the occasional neighbor’s Chihuahua that would bark endlessly into the early morning hours.

And then I got a job.  It was a Hollywood job filled with young, driven, career-oriented people.  It’s the type of job that sucks your life away in exchange for opportunity.

  Despite the glamour, I was indifferent to my newfound career.  I set a goal to last a year, but soon found myself taking strolls, wondering what the age limit was to become a Navy Seal sniper.  Could I kill a man?  Yes.

During one particular excursion, I passed a sign that read “Amanda Foundation,” an animal shelter. It's a quaint house with a white picket fence.  It seemed like the Beverly Hills home of a B-movie screenwriter, much less that of a place that rescued dogs.

I entered out of curiosity and was informed by the front desk girl that for every loving animal owner, there is an idiot who buys a dog and soon realizes that he can’t take care of it because he’d rather pay 600 dollars a year on new headshots instead of vet bills.  (An extreme example but you get the point.)

She gave me a tour of the backroom where I saw numerous dogs housed in cages, the smaller ones doubled up to save space.  It reminded me of NYU dormitory housing, only better.  The shelter provides the best possible care and ensures the survival of animals without a home, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for them.

“How can I help?”  I asked. 

Within a span of a few weeks, I was a trained dog walker!  At any point, I could go unsupervised to the shelter’s backroom, check the board to see which dog needed to go outside, and take him for a stroll.  On my first day, I excitedly ventured into the back room and found a black and white Shih Tzu

 sitting by herself in a cage.  Her name was Lola.

Lola and I became good friends.  On weekends, I walked an assortment of dogs, but during the week I only walked Lola.  I liked her because she was previously owned by a family and was well trained.    She never wrestled with her leash, and would instinctively stop and go when asked.  She was the first girl I met in L.A. who didn't want to settle down after six months.

At the shelter, she had a private cage because she didn’t like “socializing” (as I was told) with the other animals.  Similarly, I’ve always preferred to do my own thing, and be by myself.  We were an ideal match.

As the months progressed, I noticed that I got better at my job.  I was more efficient and trivial things no longer bothered me.  I didn’t mind getting chastised because I couldn’t get an outdoor reservation at Polo Lounge and instead looked forward to taking Lola to her favorite sunbathing spot.

It finally made sense to me why people in L.A. love their dogs.  In a town where you are recycled both professionally and personally, dogs fill an emotional void, but also provide rare, absolute love.

Eventually, I hit my year mark and put in my notice soon after. I entered the Amanda Foundation and went straight for Lola’s cage – empty.  

“She was adopted on the weekend.  I thought somebody told you!” the front desk girl chirped.  

“Terrific!” I grimly smiled.  I was happy that Lola got adopted.  I could never do it because I worked too many hours, but secretly dreamed to take her home.  

I still visit the shelter, but I now make it a point to walk different dogs so I don't get attached to one particular animal: Luke, Chester, Maggie.  Like a man who frequents nightly escorts, sometimes I don’t even know the name of the dog I’m with, but it's better that way. 

I believe that people are seasonal, and they come and go in my life for certain reasons. I just never expected it to be a dog.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Amanda Foundation here is their website.

Also, if you’re interested, here is a picture of Lola I pulled off their website.

She looks like somebody stuffed her and mounted her on the dining table but it'll have to do.

Tarun ShettyComment