Vera Bradley (Lala) is a brindle Cane Corso, or Italian Mastiff, rescued from a Dallas, Texas shelter after she was dumped just 10 days before her litter arrived. She would be eligible for adoption after her pups were weaned and homed. She was scoped out online and ultimately adopted by a couple of ladies—a mother/daughter team—one in her 50s and the other in her 80s, who had both recently ‘retired.’
The definition of retirement for these two is very far from the average scope of retirement. To manifest their vision, first the homes they had next door to each other in Arizona had to be sold. Once that hurdle had been cleared, the search was on for the perfect property in Maine. Yes, I said Maine. After several months of searching, they landed on the ideal spot in Thorndike. They got right to work remodeling the property to have two separate homes and created an impressive, shared craft area that included a kiln, quilting area and art center.
The goal was to plant lavender, enjoy a robust harvest, and build a roadside stand to sell their goods to passersby. In a short period of time, Over the Hill Lavender Farm was established—ahead of schedule and surpassing all expectations. Everything was going as planned, except now that the ladies had things set in motion, they wanted to share this 16-acre farm with a dog. And not just any dog would do. It had been a couple of years since their English Mastiff had passed away, leaving a great big dog-shaped hole in their lives. A friend suggested to Heidi an online site and she eagerly logged on. The minute she saw Vera Bradley, she seemed the perfect fit. On January 9th, 2020, Vera Bradley had seven huge puppies. The puppies were each named for a Vera Bradley print… Daisy Paisley, Cat’s Meow, Indiana Rose, Berry Merry, Firefly Garden, Camo-Cat, and Pretty Posies.
When the sweet mama was ready to be adopted, she already had a home with Heidi and her mom. While Heidi and Pollyanna waited for Vera Bradley to become available, it was time to explore names. “We began thinking about dog names,” Heidi recalls. “Since she was an Italian Mastiff, I looked up lavender in Italian. It was Lavanda or la lavanda… and so came the name ‘Lala!’ Our Lavender Princess.”
Heidi traveled out to Texas to pick up Lala and bring her back to their idyllic lavender farm. It took a while to get her accustomed to that new life, but she was good company for the ladies as they made their way through the ups and downs of farm life.
Lala did a lot of watching from her perch on the porch, but eventually found her way to the rows of lavender, following the ladies everywhere they went. She took it upon herself to pounce on every cricket that crossed her path. She carved out a spot on the tiny porch of the roadside stand, socializing with whomever happened by. Lala found that when couples came, it was often the men who occupied the rocking chairs, while the women shopped or picked lavender. She decided it was a sure bet to get some head scratches if she lounged with the men folk. She made a flat patch of grass between the two lavender chairs where Heidi and Pollyanna rested after a long, hard day. When winter hit, she donned her lavender skirted fleece and kept the ladies company while they toiled in the potter’s shop or created beautiful quilts and felted ornaments to sell. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice. Her job was mainly to nap by the fire.
The enterprise has expanded to include soaps and lotions made from their crops of lavender, calendula and mint. The catnip crop is purely for working into handmade cat toys. The offerings in the roadside stand have expanded too. Many brightly painted ceramic pumpkins don the shelves, alongside adorable gnomes and tiny houses to build villages. Locals and passing travelers can’t get enough of the Over the Hill Lavender Farm homemade goods. And Lala can’t get enough of farm life.
When Heidi had knee surgery—or rather three knee surgeries—Lala stayed by her side during recovery. That is, when she wasn’t shadowing Pollyanna, who was doing double-duty with the farm chores. It isn’t exactly a life of leisure for anyone—human or canine—on the farm. She might have thought she was going somewhere to be petted and coddled. Oh, there is plenty of that to go around. Between the two ladies and their visitors to the roadside stand, Lala gets plenty of adoration, cooing and petting. But if she thought she would have a life of leisure, she had another think coming. No moss grows on the Over the Hill Lavender Farm.
There is also a corner of the property that yields vegetables for household use. Recently, when Heidi sampled a beautiful red pepper, she saved a slice for Lala. Lala liked it so much that when Heidi turned away, she finished the basket. When she goes out for a potty break, Lala gets the zoomies, zipping around in joyful circles, and when she rolls over on her back, she reveals a heart-shaped spot in her fur. She snores. She has no tail—just a nub, which is the cutest thing when she wags it. She pushes things around with her stubby nose. She doesn’t like other dogs, but she’s crazy about people. She barks at deer, but they ignore her. Okay, so she’s not perfect, but she is perfect for the life that fate had in store for her, and she has found a fantastic home at Over the Hill Lavender Farm.
Heidi agrees and says with pride, “She has come so far. We are so lucky that she found her way to us.”