Tag Archives: Lily

5 Years & 100 Days

FiReaganve years ago today, we brought home our Lily girl.

We had lost our bulldog two months prior, and I finally felt like I was ready to open my heart again to a new dog. We got pre-approved by several rescues and set to searching for our next pup. I scrolled through page after page of dog photos until two caught my eye, both from the same rescue. I reached out to the woman who runs the rescue and we set up a time to bring our two dogs up for a meet and greet.

When we arrived, she brought out the English Mastiff first. He was big and lumbering and sweet. He was only a year old and beautiful enough to have been a show dog. He tackled Eric to the floor and they rolled around playing for a while.

After about 15 minutes, Peg asked if we still wanted to see the other one. We did, so she brought her out to us. Her profile online said she was a bull mastiff, and while her face had the right markings, she was small and had the jaw and hind quarters of a pit bull. (I can’t blame rescues for not wanting to announce that online given how many people would skim right over because of mistaken beliefs about pit bulls.) She seemed a bit shy, but she made her way over and it was clear she had recently had a litter of puppies (and mostly likely several litters over the course of her short life given the state of her belly). She had scars on her face and legs, but she was sweet, ducking her head low in hopes of an ear rub.

Peg noted that she was picked up from a high-kill shelter in Mississippi with a litter of her pups, all of which had been adopted already. Wherever she came from, she clearly had had a rough life. She was cute, but had nothing to make her stand out. She was a sandy brown with a darker brown face. The only reason she caught my eye online was that in her picture she was curled up in a tight ball sleeping on a couch and it reminded me of another dog we had loved and lost.

Peg asked if we needed some time, and we conferred for a few minutes, and all agreed that the girl belonged with us. There was something in her eyes that just spoke to us.

I had to travel early that week, so we agreed I’d come back Wednesday night to pick her up. When I arrived, she was waiting with her foster parents, who were sad to see her go. I opened up the back door of the car and she jumped right in. Peg turned to me and said she was sure we were going to pick the English Mastiff boy. But she was happy with our choice – this little girl – now called Lily – deserved her own home.

That was five years ago.

Today is also a big day for another reason. In May, Lily was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and though it was only stage 1, they told us she had no more than three months to live. By God’s providence, the neurologist we brought her to happened to be doing a research study with Mt. Sinai Hospital on the very kind of cancer Lily has, and they’d been waiting for an early stage case. They accepted Lily into their study, and two weeks later, the Mt. Sinai neurosurgeons performed brain surgery on our girl. They weren’t able to get all the tumor, but they got most of it. She was in more than a month ago for a follow up MRI and the tumor had not grown at all. And today marks 100 days MORE than the three months we were initially given. Praise Jesus! I’m counting each and every extra day as a blessing from God.

I’ve always said that my first dog, Oscar, was my dog soul mate. And he was. He got me through some really difficult times, and we were two peas in a dysfunctional pod.

But this Lily girl is a close second. She has marked my soul in ways I can’t even put into words. And yet, there’s nothing remarkable about her. She’s got plain looks. She’s smart enough but certainly not the smartest one we’ve had. She’s sweet but she doesn’t prefer me – she’ll pretty much curl up in any lap that’s willing and available. She doesn’t do any tricks. And she’s eaten more than her share of pillows when she’s been pouting. And if someone asked me what’s so special about her, I would have to say nothing. But she’s mine. And I love her.

As I was driving home today, God spoke to my heart that I’m very much like Lily. I so often wonder – and if I’m being honest, I doubt – why God would love me. I’m nothing special. I’m not beautiful by cultural standards. I’m smart enough but certainly not a rocket scientist. I don’t have any special talents. And again, if I’m being honest, I’m not all that sweet. And most days I’m pretty terrible at doing the things that Jesus did (and told us to do).

But none of that matters, because I’m His. And He loves me.

Sometimes that just hits be like a sonic boom. Today was one of those days. I love when He uses our dogs as a means of speaking to my heart. Because it helps me understand just a little bit better the mystery of His love for us. And the more I grasp how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ for me, the better I can reflect that love back to an ever-increasingly wounded world.

Alone Time

ImageAnyone with kids knows that sometimes they need a little one-on-one time. Growing up with two sisters, it was rare to get time alone with one of our parents. But when we did, we definitely savored it.

Dogs can be the same way, and it seems we’ve always got at least one who is needier than others. Lily’s that one for us right now.

 

Recently we housed a sweet nine-month-old puppy while she was being transported from Alabama to Maryland. Her final foster home couldn’t take her right away, so we got to spend two nights loving on a sweet, neglected girl.

 

But 48-hours of loving on a new dog left Lily with her nose decidedly out of joint. As soon as we bent to pet our visitor or pay her any mind, Lily would run off to hide in another part of the house. There was some serious pouting going on.

 

So as soon as the puppy was on her way to her new foster home, Lily spent some time waiting at the window to make sure she was gone for good. And as soon as Lily was satisfied that the interloper had, indeed, left the premises, she bounded into my lap full force. She licked and kissed and cried with the sheer joy of having regained her title of house baby.

 

So I decided to take Lily for a walk by herself so we could get a little alone time.

 

I love walking all three dogs, but those walks are short and slow to accommodate our old man. So my one-on-one walks with Lily are a treat. We can take a long walk at a steady clip. And, to be honest, my walks with Lily help ground me. I’m not worried about which dog is walking where and who’s stopping to smell a mail box, so I can just walk and be.

 

These walks are also my time with God. Being outside connects me to Him in a way that just doesn’t happen anywhere else. So I savor that time being outside, just communing with my dog and my Father.

 

And during this walk, I realized that, just as Lily needs some one-on-one attention sometimes, so do I need this one-on-one time with my own Father. It’s time for me to reconnect and be reminded that I am loved.

 

And when we got home, Lily settled back into her normal routine, secure in the knowledge that she is loved as well.

Auto-matic Behaviors

ImageOne of the challenges of having rescue dogs is that you rarely get anything close to a real history on them. This is the sum total of what we know about Lily:

  • She was dropped with her litter of puppies at a high-kill shelter in Mississippi.
  • She was heartworm positive.
  • She hadn’t received any vaccinations.
  • She has scars on both her face and legs.

That’s it.

So you’re left to put the pieces together based on observed behavior.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • She loves food. All food. Anytime. All the time.
  • She hates the cold.
  • She loves lying in the sun.
  • She can jump a 4’ fence.
  • She loves to sleep.
  • She’s very protective.
  • She loves to cuddle.
  • She has a strong prey drive. Especially for squirrels. And black SUVs.

Yup. Black SUVs. When we first began walking her, Lily chased pretty much every car that drove by. But once she got comfortable on her leash, it shifted to being almost exclusively black SUVs. Which can lead one to imagine all kinds of crazy scenarios about what might have sparked this fixation.

We’ll never know the cause of her behavior. But we have to live with the consequences.

When a black SUV drives by, Lily chases it. She doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about what she’ll do if she catches it. She just does it.

And it’s dangerous.

Because Lily will never win in Dog v. Car.

I do my own version of chasing cars. I just do it in my own mind. I chase thoughts around in my head. What-if’s. What then’s. Whatamigoingtodo’s. They spin and churn and roll around my brain and I chase chase chase chase them. Until I’m so wrought up I can’t even think straight.

My automatic behaviors may not be as dangerous as Lily’s, but they’re just as destructive.

God tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him. And I’m working on it. But I have to admit, I haven’t mastered it yet. Just like Lily hasn’t quite gotten past chasing those darn black SUVs.

Lily and I are quite a pair. But I’m hopeful and trusting that God’s going to help us both overcome our automatic behaviors in time.

 

 

Collateral Damage

Lily in the sun

When Lily first joined our family, walking her was positively ghastly. She dove hard after nearly every single car that drove by, and it took every ounce of strength to keep her on the sidewalk and moving forward.

But we have been working hard with on her leash skills, and she’s made amazing progress. So much progress, in fact, I had nearly forgotten about those crazy lunges after moving cars.

I was given a reminder this past weekend.

It was a beautiful day and Lily was walking like a champ. A squirrel darted past us as soon as we walked out the door, but she left it alone after a quick look its way. We walked by the two Chihuahuas next door without so much as a sideways glance. We even passed a small boy on a bike, which still tends to be a challenge for her to resist.

Perhaps resisting all those smaller temptations had used up her willpower, because Lily let loose when the USPS truck quickly pulled up to the mailbox next us. She. Went. Nuts.

And the next thing I knew, Lily dove at the truck, knocked me off balance, and I was down on the sidewalk. The result: torn jeans and a badly skinned knee.

Lily didn’t intend to knock me over. I was simply collateral damage. She lashed out and I was hurt as a result.

Unfortunately, I’ve been creating some collateral damage of my own lately.

Due to some unfortunate circumstances in my life, I have been turning into ANGRY GIRL. You know, the one who’s perpetually scowling and snaps at you for no good reason. I hate that girl.

The fact is, sometimes circumstances stink. Sometimes they’re downright rotten. But I have a choice in how I respond to those circumstances, and it hasn’t been pretty lately.

Jesus tells us we will be known by the LOVE we share. Even in yucky circumstances. Even to people we feel have wronged us. Even when the very last thing we feel is sharing love.

It is required of us to LOVE others. Everyone. Always. No matter what. That is my testimony and that’s the only way that people will know I love Jesus. Not by the cross around my neck. Not by the music I listen to. And not by the Bible verses I can spout. By the LOVE I show to those around me. Every. Single. Day.

I am far from perfect. I am a work in progress. And that’s okay. But I’m praying that I can stop allowing my testimony to be collateral damage and I can start being an example of the love I’ve been shown by my God.

And if any of you see ANGRY GIRL, do me a favor, and tell her she needs to take a hike.

Routine Changes

ImageRoutine changes are rarely routine.

Shortly after we adopted Lily, we realized she could jump our 4’ fence. From a sitting position. So we decided to replace our 4’ fence with one that’s 6’ instead.

No big deal, right? It’s just a fence.

Wrong.

At 14, Chico needs to go out frequently, so we have a dog door that opens to the backyard. So the day of the install I worked from home to ensure we didn’t have accidents in the house.

That was the plan at least.  

All day long the dogs whined and paced at the back door. I’d walk them, but as soon as we got in, they were at the back door again wanting to go out. We went for our third walk of the day around 3pm. I took the dogs into the house, and I went back to get the mail.

Three minutes later I walked into the house – and someone had pooped on the kitchen floor. Seriously? THEY WERE JUST OUTSIDE. What was going on with them?

Like kids, dogs thrive on routine. And what seemed like a small change in routine to us had completely thrown the dogs for a loop.

I can relate.

This week my work world was rocked. Hard. And while the change could certainly be defined as “routine” – in that it happens every day in the world of work – it felt earth-shattering to me. And I’ve been doing my own human version of whining and pacing at the back door.

Fear. Worry. Anxiety. Fretting. Those have been my companions this week.

But unlike my dogs, I don’t have an excuse for fixating on my circumstances. We are told to “be anxious for nothing”, and I need to start living out that command.

Each day I am being confronted with situations, big and small, that require me to trust that God has my back. Each day I am being taught that, while we never know when life will throw us an unwanted change, I can choose how I respond.

Instead of pacing and whining, I can pray and trust.

And that’s a much better option than pooping on someone’s floor…(sorry, I just couldn’t resist)…

Food Fights

Image

There’s a battle going on in our house these days, and it’s all about food.

When Chico joined our family nearly three years ago, he was known for being a chow hound. He had eaten pies, jars of peanut butter, and just about anything he could swipe off a kitchen counter. He even learned how to pop the tops off cat food cans to get the tasty contents. So we got used to keeping the counters clear of food.

But old age and bad hips have ended his food burglary days. So we were vexed when we came home two weeks ago to an empty bread bag on the living room floor. If it wasn’t Chico, and it clearly wasn’t Coco (pictured to the right), then that left our lovely Lily as the culprit.

It’s been clear from the start that Lily loves food. We don’t know her full history, but we do know she was heartworm positive and underweight when she and her pups were abandoned at a shelter. So she likely wasn’t fed regularly. That said, it’s no surprise that she gets excited about food.

Although she doesn’t beg, she will sit nearby while we’re eating. Just staring and drooling. A lot. It’s like a faucet is running out of her mouth onto the floor. But until last week, that was the beginning and end to her obsession.

So we’ve started putting the food away again. No big deal. But this week we came home to David’s antibiotic pack, which he had left on the counter, on the floor. One large white pill had been removed and left on the floor (mostly intact) with the rest of the packet. Clearly she got one taste and spit it out – thank goodness.

She hasn’t lost weight, so we know she’s getting enough food. But clearly she wants more.

And apparently she’s willing to take some risks to get it. Yesterday morning she decided she would try to steal Chico’s food from him – while he was still eating it. Chico may be old, but he’s no easy win. And he wasn’t going to give up his food without a fight. So we had a dog tussle before I’d even had time to get a cup of coffee.

Frustrated, I pulled them apart and scolded Lily while I let Chico finish his breakfast. As I was asking her why she was looking for more food when she already had her breakfast (I’m not the only one who talks to my dogs, am I?) – I was struck by the fact that I could ask myself the same question.

Dang. I hate when that happens.

Because the truth is, I am obsessed with food. I spend an incalculable amount of time thinking about food. What I have eaten. What I haven’t eaten. What I want to eat but shouldn’t. What I shouldn’t have eaten but did. And that’s my dirty little secret.

I have lost and gained the same 15 pounds over the past 15 years. And it’s all because of my food obsession.

It needs to stop.

Not because I need to lose 15 pounds. Or even because it’s not healthy. But rather because food has become an idol for me.

And that’s not how I’m supposed to live.

So although I’m not sure how this is going to play out, I’m committing to myself and God that I’m going to kick this once and for all. It’s not going to be easy, but I know that God will help me if I let Him.

In the meantime, I’m going to cut Lily some slack and trust that we’ll get through this one together.  

Storm Brewing

ImageWe used to joke that there’s no better barometer than a bulldog. I’ve had three, and all of them were terrified of thunder. So any change in barometric pressure set off a series of behaviors peculiar to each one. 

My favorite was Petunia. As the photo above shows, you could guarantee there’d be a storm within a few hours if you found Petunia in the shower. She’d seek refuge there well before there was a physical sign of impending weather. It could be sunny and cloudless, but somehow she knew. And in my 6+ years of living with her, she was never wrong.

Dogs are funny that way. They can often sense coming storms even when we don’t. And not just weather storms.

One night this week I was walking Lily and she was just off the charts naughty. We’ve been working with her diligently on her leash skills, so I was taken aback by the sudden change in her behavior. She was darting back and forth across my path. She barked at two young kids walking by and all three dogs we passed. She was leaning so hard into her leash she nearly pulled me over.

What was going on?

I had a storm brewing inside my spirit, and Lily clearly was picking up on it.

It had been one of those weeks. Work was crazy busy and I was worried and pre-occupied with some meetings that were coming up. David was sick and I was concerned about his continued cough. I wasn’t sleeping well so I skipped a couple of my morning workouts and quiet time because I had tried to catch up on my missed sleep. All of which in turn drove me to more coffee and sugar to try and assuage my growing fatigue.

All that created a perfect storm within me, and I was missing my peace and my joy. I needed to exchange my coffee and a donut for the only food that can calm the waves within my soul – God’s Word.

So I did.

The next morning I got up, worked out, showered, and got comfortable with my Bible and my journal. And I wondered to myself how it was possible that I could so quickly forget my priorities.

Food, sleep, fretting – none of that brings the peace that I long for each day. Only some quiet time with the Word can calm the storm within my soul. And it did.

It should be no surprise that Lily was good as gold that night when we went for our evening walk.

Now I just need to get another bulldog to help me predict those weather storms that keep coming our way.