Lily and I met around six years ago; it is hard to tell exactly how many as years tend to fly by. We met through my friend Janine; I walk her dog Fulton. The two dog owners live near each other and Janine gave my name to Lily’s owner, Mary Lynn, who needed some help walking Lily while she was at work as a teacher.
Immediately I hit it off with Mary-Lynn. She loved her dog and I could see the feeling was mutual from Lily’s perspective. Lily was a golden retriever as white as they come. Typical of the retriever DNA, she loved being around people, greeting them and being in close proximity.
She blended beautifully into my park group. She had previously produced a few litters for a breeder and now was enjoying having a permanent home with Mary-Lynn. I am sure her puppies were quite the lookers and had her sweet disposition.
She always would sit like a human being on the back bench seat in my van taking in the view by a window, always on the left hand side – a cute trait of hers. When I would get her from her condo building I was greeted by her sniffing under the front door to their unit with such intensity and enthusiasm before I would enter. When I came in the door I was met with a full body wag every time, followed by a predictable “Whoo, Whoo” sing-song as we headed to the elevator. I never told her to be quiet as it was her thing and was “our routine”.
She had a huge fan base at the park with the regulars there. Other walkers would acknowledge her by name and tell her she was a pretty girl. I don’t think I ever heard her growl at another dog once over the many years, part of her charm.
When leaving their condo or on our return she was like an actress working the red carpet. Everyone in their building knew Lily and would stop checking their mail to come over to say hello or reach into a pocket to give her a cookie.
Lily would get freaked out by the occasional fire alarm testing in their building so she would either spend the day with me or her friend Alice in the same building. The bells ringing were too unnerving for her.
This placid girl was very clever and proved it a couple of times. One day I went in to get her and she was not in her condo. This was totally out of the ordinary. I went back into the hall and she came bounding towards me. We could not figure it out. Who had let her out? There was a man working on their floor but he swore he had not entered their unit. It was a mystery.
Well this was solved when she got out again on a day where the bells were being tested randomly without being scheduled. Apparently she discovered or had watched Mary-Lynn leave over the years how to open their door from the inside. A three step maneuver but obviously a savvy canine! She had left evidence with scratch marks on the door. After this was discovered the lock was changed so she could not bolt again.
Unfortunately Lily was diagnosed with a fast spreading mouth cancer. Mary-Lynn saw many specialists but it was decided to make her comfortable her last few weeks. Her older age and the aggressive treatments were not guarantees and it would not provide her with any quality of life.
She and I were able to say our good byes which were terribly sad but a blessing as I knew it was not sudden and was given time to tell her what joy she brought me and to others around her and have some closure. I remember the second last time I saw her, I was delaying leaving because I was feeling sad and she looked me in the eye with reassurance and then went to lay down which I felt was her way of telling me it’s ok to go and I did, feeling our bond heading out the door.
Mary-Lynn told me she would often walk Lily by a Chip Wagon by the local pet store. Lily would often want to find a French fry on the ground or sample one that was purchased. Lily left this earth eating what she loved, plus something that would not hurt her mouth, French fries! What a touching gesture from her owner right to the end. Mary-Lynn bought one box for her and one for Lily.
I happened to see Alice shortly after Lily’s death. She – like myself – had walked Lily for years and loved her too. I told Alice how she would be missed at the park and in their condo building by the residents. She told me that Lily would be missed at her church too. Alice took Lily to her church picnic for many years and she had a fan club there!
Alice mentioned that there used to be a nursery school aged boy who would play with Lily when she walked her while Mary-Lynn was at work. Years went by and when the boy saw Alice and he asked where the white dog was. This child had remembered Lily’s charming nature.
Mary-Lynn and I met after Lily was gone. I handed back her key and talked about Lily and how special she was. Through tears we connected, one of the hardest parts of being a dog walker. She kindly offered Lily’s dog bed to use in my home for any visiting boarders. It has been put to good use. One of her fabulous leashes and matching collar now belongs to another Golden Retriever named Shuga.
Our dogs connect us to so many people. I thought this tribute to Lily illustrates how one dog can brighten so many days, and people of all ages.
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