Lola loves Oscar.
Lola is a black pug, the size and shape of a bowling ball. She has the chest of a nightclub bouncer, and bandy dwarf cowboy legs. She has those googly bulging thyroidic eyes and a face like someone has squashed her. Most of the dogs in the park fear Lola and her baleful, unprovoked aggression. She gallops asthmatically after them and bites their ears and tails. You can hear her menacing panting as she closes in for the kill, flopping her whole body on top of her protesting target.
"She doesn't know her own strength!" says her elderly lady owner proudly oblivious. Everyone else rolls their eyes and moves quickly away, pulling their dogs with them.
But when Lola sees Oscar something magical happens. Something about Oscar's spindly limbs and speedy circling, his pharaonic eye make up and cowardliness speaks to Lola. Her googly eyes widen with desire; she wants to fly like Oscar, to defy gravity. She slows to a hunter's stalk, measured, deliberate. Then she pounces, running as fast as her stumpy little legs will carry her, jerkily following Oscar as he swooshes away like a racehorse, half playful and half terrified. She is surprisingly fast, barely seconds behind him as he swerves and jumps and gallops off. She's tenacious. We watch them chase each other around the open space at the entrance to the wood; it's comic but also rather beautiful. Each time they circle past us, Lola is panting more heavily, rasping and sweaty. Oscar's eyes bulge and his muscles ripple. His legs go too fast for his body and sometimes he loses his footing.
When Oscar collapses in a heap, flat, skinny and pale like a crêpe, Lola stands four square on top of him, staring down intently at her prey. She isn't sure what to do with him now she's caught him. She gives his ear an experimental nip; Oscar squeals and wriggles free, and they're off again, palamino racehorse and wheezy black shetland pony.
Eventually Lola's owner forces her to stop, worried she'll give herself a heart attack, burst open that weightlifter's chest with the effort. Lola pulls on her leash and whimpers as I escort Oscar away. We're halfway across the wood when I hear the heavy breathing again; she's slipped her lead and stands a few feet away, squat and intense, staring at us. I can hear her owner shouting, ineffectually for her, but Lola's mind is on other things. She makes yet another dash for Oscar, who easily eludes her, scooting off in a flurry of gangly legs. I catch her, and escort her back, her gaze intently fixed on Oscar, who trots alongside at a wary distance.
I love it when we meet Lola. I'm not sure why, but she makes me oddly optimistic.