Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
Growing up on a property, we always had dogs. Some we rescued after they were illegally dumped by good-for-nothing owners in the nearby national park, others we bought cheaply from locals. They were my constant companions and fearless adventurers, ready to run for hours after our motorbikes, hike for kilometres over rough terrain, send snakes away that ventured too close to the house and have a pat. I was already an adult by the time that I moved out of home in 1999, facilitated financially by my PhD scholarship. Of course I missed the farm dogs terribly living in the city and seeing them only on weekends. It took us a year to move from an inner city apartment to a nearby house with yard and it’s true that one of our motivators was to allow us to have a dog at last!
We wanted a black labrador cross because my parents had a 1 year old black lab cross and we admired her sweetness, stoicism and vitality. We scoured the newspapers and finally found a black lab cross puppy for sale 1 1/2 hours drive away so we set off to meet our puppy with warm expectations. We fell in love with Lily instantly with her adoring nature, glossy and soft coat, and sense of fun.
We took Lily to the beach every day to run and swim, to puppy training to learn obedience and sociability, to parks, and to my parent’s farm to spend every weekend so that she grew up having two homes, one with abundant space to roam and play, and smelly things to roll in and eat! Quickly we made friends through Lily and we started having play dates. At the time if you had said to me that we were practising for having children I would have told you not to be silly but in retrospect that’s exactly what we were doing! Lily’s easygoing nature with people, instant rapport with my parent’s dog, and love of being at the ‘farm’ meant that we could leave her with my parents while we went adventuring (3 1/2 months in 2003 was the longest time) without fretting about her.
Within three years we decided to get a second dog as a companion for Lily, so we bought a chocolate labrador who we named Sophie. They got along perfectly well and had a great time together. Sophie was more of a delinquent and had myriad health problems probably because she was pure-bred but also because she would literally eat everything in sight and then need her stomach pumped and some colonic purging by the vet.
Sophie did not adjust well to moving interstate and the birth of our daughter, and developed lots of problematic behaviours, culminating in attacking Lily in the house so after hearing my distress about the blood spurting on the walls and fighting dogs in the lounge room next to my baby, my parents kindly offered to care for Sophie on their farm for a short time while we adjusted to parenthood (and give the neighbours a break from the barking). Sadly Sophie was bitten by a snake shortly after arriving and died from that. We were devastated and wished that we had never sent her away.
Lily became the friend of every visitor to our house and she eventually slowed down on the licking which was a relief to everyone! Lily was wonderfully gentle with our children and became very attached to them, choosing to sleep on the floor next to my daughter’s bed and spending lots of time with our children every day.
Lily lost a lot of weight earlier this year and started wheezing badly when breathing, especially when excited, so we stopped walking her. She was already deaf and now there were times that we would come home and Lily wouldn’t be at the door or gate waiting for us. I noticed big lumps in her lymph glands and in early November the vet confirmed our suspicion that it was very advanced cancer and she had, at most, weeks left to live. Lily quickly deteriorated and by last weekend she was blind and staggering around. She still loved being patted but now needed her food to be held to her mouth, to be carried around, and was clearly bewildered and scared. We made the exceptionally difficult decision on Monday to have her euthenased. Our lovely vet came to our house to do it and my husband and I held Lily while she quickly and (hopefully) painlessly died. We are now grieving and at odd times tears leak from my eyes. Today I donated her bed, coat, food, toys etc. to a labrador rescue group that we once helped in the hope that they will benefit someone else.
Good bye Lily. We will always love you.