Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lessons from Lilly

Lilly 1995
I used to have a pretend dog. Shasta was her name. I would pretend to walk her, talk to her about my Mom when Mom was in the room--dogs are handy for indirect communication--I  snuggled up with her on the couch to read. She didn't eat much but she served her purpose. I really wanted a dog, but at the time I had returned to the parental nest. It wasn't feasible, until I got married.

The other resident of the master bedroom and I got Lilly when we returned from our honeymoon.  A black and white Shih Tzu, Lilly was the runt and only girl of the litter. Sitting on the kitchen floor of the breeder's house, puppies barking and running all around me, Lilly came and laid her head on my leg and sighed. That was it for me. She picked me.

Lilly is 16 now. Still living, still playing (sometimes), still teaching me. I've learned a lot of lessons from Lilly. Here are a few:

1. When someone comes over get up and greet them. You don't have to lick their toes or nip at their ankles, but show them you're happy to see them: smile and hug.

2.Communicate. Tell people what you need when you need it. A friend of mine used to dog sit for us and the first time she did it, I was zooming out of her door to the car when she said "Wait, wait, how much should I feed her? When does she eat?" Stopped in my tracks, I turned and said "she'll tell you." I had to explain that one, of course, but Lilly tells us when she wants to eat by making growly sounds at her food bowl. She'll stand across the kitchen, stare it and make a little noise. If we ignore her, she'll eventually give us a short, high pitched bark. That bark is like the "right now" Mom used to add to a command.

3. Comfort people when they're hurting or sad. In 1999 I was terribly sick--Epstein Barr Virus, ovarian cysts. About to drop my basket, I collapsed on the kitchen floor. No one was home. I was in pain. Hurting and feeling sorry for myself, I sobbed and sobbed. Lilly nudged and pushed and licked and encouraged me until I had the wherewithal to get up and call the doctor. She stayed right by my side and has since.

Lilly, Christmas this year
There are many more lessons Lilly teaches; those are a few. Today Lilly is teaching me about patience and aging. She is deaf (mostly) and though still trim, not as agile as she once was. She doesn't jump up on the bed or sit up high, cat-like on the back of the couch anymore. She's also starting to having bathroom issues. Every time I get frustrated (when she has an accident on the floor or on the porch) I have to stop myself. Seriously. How do I want to be treated when I start to fail? How do I want to treat my parents as they age?  We had hard lessons ahead, but if I pay attention, keep my eyes and heart open, Lilly will teach me.

1 comment:

  1. Tears spilling but not with out a little smile coming from somewhere within me. Thank you Lee Ann for putting it all into words, she (Lilly) has taught us all life's critical lessons. Love you...m

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