Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lily of My Heart by Rebecca Forrest

We had a dog that died of cancer. She was our sweet Lily girl, a black-and-white and speckled border collie.

Lily lived a courageous life. She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was about two years old. From then on, she got two insulin shots a day and had hundreds of blood tests.

She was wonderful through all of that. She never flinched from her shots, and if we were late in getting one to her, she’d remind us. She might have been looking forward to the treat she got after each injection—the only treats we could give her.

In addition, Lily ended up with intermittent seizures. She even got good at letting me know when one was coming, so I could often get her outside in an open grassy area where she (and the carpeting indoors) would be safest.

But all through that, she was a fun, demanding, mischievous, playful, and affectionate girl. She loved to chew on the toughest toys—she destroyed Kongs regularly. And she also liked the difficult puzzle toys that smart dogs thrive on. One of her greatest joys was to unwrap presents on Christmas and eviscerate a bunch of plush squeaky toys.

She went on for more than nine years with her diabetes. She was with me through the loss of my husband Steve and the long lonely years that followed. And she was with me when I met and fell in love with Virgil, now my husband and best friend. I think she loved Virgil as much as I did.

Finally, late in November of 2008, Lily had what looked like swollen glands in her throat. When we took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, but the outlook was good.

However, she was almost unable to tolerate the chemo treatments. After the second treatment, when she was dreadfully sick, we said “That’s enough.” We couldn’t put her through any more. Fortunately, the chemo had been partially effective at reducing her tumors, so she recovered enough to go on for a couple of weeks.

As December progressed, I bought and wrapped presents for her and for our other dogs, 12-year-old Alex (a black lab) and 10-year-old Glory (a red fawn greyhound). Lily was slowing down, but still seemed bright and willing to go on a little further.

We really hoped that she would make it to Christmas day so that she could unwrap her presents. Each day, we weren’t sure. But the days finally passed.

On Christmas morning, we had all three dogs and Lucy, our tabby cat, in the living room with us by the tree. Lily and Alex each opened multiple presents. (Glory and Lucy prefer to observe.) Lily bounced around, shaking the toys, and going first for the juicy squeaker. She and Alex flung white fluff all around the room, until it looked like there had been a snowfall. Oh, they had such fun. Lily played and played, going from one toy to another.

Virgil and I didn’t even think of opening our own gifts or even having breakfast. We stayed in the living room with the animals for hours, until Lily was finally worn out. She fell asleep in a nest of white fluff and torn-up toys.

Well, that was Lily’s last good day. Two days later, we had to let her go. Oh, how we both miss her. She was my heart dog. My sweet Lily Minkle.

I do think she would be proud to know that we have since opened our hearts to two greyhounds, brindle Logan and black Zelda.

I’ve included some pictures of Lily in my arms as a puppy, Lily and Alex together, red fawn Glory, tabby Lucy, Logan, and Zelda.


Mareike said...

What a heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing it with us. My 15 year old sweetheart got diagnosed with lung cancer 3 weeks ago. My heart is breaking, while I'm trying to do anything I can to keep him happy and comfortable...I too am hoping for one last Christmas. Your post really touched my heart. Thanks.

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