⚠️ If you’re like me – you might need a tissue ⚠️
I can’t remember a time in my life where a dog, if not two, weren’t part of our family. Between dogs of my own, dogs bought for the kids, dogs the kids brought home, I’ve owned lap dogs, large dogs, purebreds, mutts, lost dogs, abandoned dogs, and of course, adopted shelter dogs.
I’ve never given what type of dog owner that I was much thought, after all, I always do what every responsible pet owner should do. First and foremost, provide shelter, food, and water, the proper emergency vet care when necessary, and all vet maintenance to ensure our pet’s well being on a regular basis. In addition to those things, daily walks, toys, and treats are the norm. That all changed, my unconscious attitude toward my beloved dogs, the day we unexpectedly lost our precious Lilly. I call it my unconscious attitude because I think until that day, losing her so tragically, I took my dogs for granted because they are always here with us…until the day Lilly wasn’t.
Lilly defined the word joy; she couldn’t help it. She was the last puppy from her litter to be adopted, and we don’t know what would have happened if my animal lover, Lauren, hadn’t brought her home. She had the biggest, floppiest ears we’d ever seen, a long body, short legs, and nothing about her seemed in proportion. Her eyes were huge and so dark they almost looked black. Shaking in the back of the cage, she looked at Lauren with her eyes, likely the same way she looked at me the day before she died. Her eyes literally begged Lauren to stop, reach into the cage, and touch her for a minute. Lauren asked if she could hold the puppy, and though her grandad was looking for a dog, Lauren came home with one.
She changed as soon as Lauren brought her home. Inquisitive. Eating. She was drinking her water, and even doing the normal puppy activities such as playing with toys. Within three days, she was ill. A trip to our vet, antibiotics, drip for rehydration, and we got her back on her feet. She never looked back. Tail always wagging, eyes ever bright, she’d greet everyone that walked past the yard. Every night she’d snuggle and sleep with my youngest daughter Lauren, and every morning she’d go from room to room and greet every person in the house with kisses.
Lilly never walked on her walks; she jogged. She loved to go around the neighborhood and check everything out. Everyone that met her friends, neighbors, our vet, and guests all said the same thing, “that dog just looks happy,” and she did. Lilly loved life.
Aside from when we first brought her home, Lilly had never been sick a day in her life. At four years old, she was full of life, vibrant, energetic, loving, and everything you would want in a family dog. With three other dogs in our home, Lilly was often forced out of the way as the other dogs rushed toward the door to greet us when we came home. Never pushing her way in between the others, she would wait patiently to finally be greeted herself by whomever it was that had walked through the door. To say that her absence is noticeable in our home is an understatement; that said, I never dreamed in a million years that such a beautiful little misfit could teach me so much when she left us.
I will not share the horrific details of Lilly’s passing, it is too sad, but I will say that had I known that day was going to be the last day that I was going to see her, I would have never left. My oldest daughter plays college soccer, and she had a game. We try very hard to make all of her games, and that day was no exception. We were to be gone one evening and back the next day. Before we left, Lilly was acting as if she’d eaten something that hadn’t agreed with her. She threw up once, had no fever, and put herself in a quiet spot. I told my youngest daughter, Lauren, and my dad to keep an eye on her, let her rest, and if she weren’t back to her usual self by the time I got home, we’d call our vet. I bent down and looked Lilly in her eyes. “What’s wrong, Lilly?” I asked as if she’d answer. I swear her dark eyes looked at me that day in a way that I will never forget — almost straining to communicate, to tell me something, likely that she was in pain. I must have missed it then, but looking back, I will never forget the look on her beautiful face that dreadful day.
We’d been on the road for less than ten minutes when my dad called and said Lilly was up and moving. I felt so relieved. I called once I had arrived at my daughter’s game, and dad told me that Lilly had jumped up to her regular spot on the couch, and again, all was well.
Unfortunately, by six o’clock that evening, everything had changed — my youngest daughter’s voice, hysterical on the other end of the phone — Lilly had collapsed. Frantically, from out of town, I called our vet. Our vet notified the emergency room that my daughter and dad were bringing Lilly in. At first, the doctors thought Lilly would be home by Sunday, two days later, but tragically she passed before I made it home the next day.
The grief that our family felt, indescribable pain, was indeed that of losing one of our family members. We were/are devastated. We’ve lost dogs before, old age/natural causes, but Lilly was so young, full of life, and truly special. To lose Lilly unexpectedly changed me. It gave me a new appreciation for our loyal four-legged companions.
Losing Lilly taught me to stop, slow down, and to take real-time to be with our fur-babies. I thought I was doing that already, but losing her made me wish I’d spent more time with her. It was a terrible reminder to pay attention to how genuinely our fur-kids do miss us when we’re not around, and how much they enjoy the times we include them in our daily lives – simple things such as a conversation, they love it when we talk to them. A walk or a snuggle on the couch. I used to take it for granted that my fur-babies would be around and live long, healthy lives; I don’t think like that anymore. You just never know what can happen or why.
Though Lilly is not present to hear my words, I still tell her good morning every day. I find myself looking for her in what used to be her favorite spots; Lauren’s bed, her favorite chair, and where she’d sun herself by the pool. Thanks to my girls, we once again have four dogs in our home. Bringing home another shelter baby, hoping it would help ease my grief, I now have a baby named Cash.
I didn’t think for one second I’d be ready for another dog; I was wrong. Cash, well, he’s not Lilly like at all. He’s onery – total handful, but I think Lilly would have gotten a kick out of him. He was supposed to be small, but he’s going to be huge, just like his personality. Since he keeps me on my toes, he has helped me tremendously with the healing process. Reminders of Lilly are still all over our home, and she will always be a part of our family. I don’t know why Lilly passed like that, but I am so glad that we had her for the short time that we did. I think she would have approved of Cash, and I’d like to think that she knows how much she is still loved and missed. Cherish those fur-babies – they’re special.
Copyright © 2020 Amanda M. Thrasher