As everyone who reads these blogs knows, Lilly is my beloved Scottish Deerhound. She’s nine years old now, pretty geriatric for a Deerhound. So these days, well, I’m becoming a little sentimental… Waxing a tad wistful.
Not that she’s definably ill or anything, and I do expect to enjoy her for a while yet. But I can read the calendar, and she’s just, you know, slower. No longer does she accompany me on pre-dawn walks, bounding up hills, excited by the prospect of seeing deer, her flaccid little rose shaped ears becoming semi-erect. My Doberman, Al, is now my sole morning mate.
As recently as a year ago she was so enthusiastic, romping and playing all day. A true sight hound, she was always eager to give chase, a beauty, her long gray coat and mane flagging. Now, my grand dame spends most of her time inside reposing on my bed, an elegant old lady.
I accept all sorts of people, mostly because people intrigue me. I’m intrinsically fond of diversity and to me individuals are like unusual flowers. But let me tell you, even by dog standards, my Lilly is unusual. In the morning she lies in bed and waits breakfast. Nothing particularly different about that; after all, she is of a certain age. But after that she holds forth, and will not be ignored. She prances into a room, takes a chair and when she wants you, get this, she’ll stick a dainty foot in the air, and just hold it there, like she’s summoning you. “She Who Must Be Obeyed” as H Ryder Haggard would say. Right away I’m there, rubbing her aging paw. It’s both a hoot and deadly serious. But utterly endearing.
When she wants something she wants it immediately, and I instantly succumb. She will snuggle next to me in bed, extending a leg across my chest. Then when she’s ready to start her day, she’ll poke, hit and bite until she gets her way, sticking her substantial snout in my face. She can be imperious. You think of a dog as a servant of man, but my Lilly’s just the opposite: she knows it’s my responsibility to attend to her every need, just as she knows she’s smarter. We’ve worked that out, too. But I embrace my servitude because it enhances me. I am a better man.
So complete, so constant is Lilly’s affection — giving my all is a given. That’s cliche but so be it … and if you’ve ever been owned you know the bond, the miasma of chemistry, gratitude and devotion, and a love that’s almost embarrassing, because it is actual love, not some bemused, inferior facsimile, a love that emanates even when we’re just sitting, tacit, unquestioned, and I’m drained from my day, having tried, once again, to do both well and good, and may have even failed at both. I can just be myself. And the thing is, she can too. Loving, yes, but also smart and controlling. That’s my Lilly. I refer to it as getting the relationship right.
Dogs have been my companions since I was a boy. I’ve had a few. They add a whole new dimension to life, and they’re always there, always reliable. I find they can bring peace to a turbulent soul. But I’ve always wanted a Scottish Deerhound, since I first read what Sir Walter Scott wrote about his Deerhound Maida. I found the breed’s looks fascinating; they resemble a rough-coated Greyhound, but are longer in size and bone, their tails nearly reaching the ground, their eyes big and gleaming. I liked the personality description: gentle, docile, friendly. Dignified bearing. About ten years ago I began looking in earnest, and found Lilly in Port Huron . She lived in a barn, was flea-bitten, had been ill, but you could still see her nobility. It was love at first sight.
Of course, as my Lilly gets older I cherish her more and more. I want as much time with her as she desires. She’s so funny. She still wants attention but when she’s done, she kinds of turns off emotionally. After she’s petted and rubbed she walks away. And you know, she never comes when I call her. But you can be sure she’ll show up when there is licorice around. I’ll have in hand some British candy called Bassetts Allsorts which contains a little piece of licorice that’s in the shape of a person called Mr Allsort. Lilly insists on getting that little piece, and would live on that alone if I’d let her, my Lilly who can be somewhat vain, standing perfectly still while I put her necklace on. Lilly, such a beautiful, elegant, feminine name. Suits her.
As author Gene Hill put it: “She is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. She has told me a thousand times over that I am her reason for being; by the way she rests against my leg; by the way she thumps her tail at my smallest smile; by the way she shows her hurt when I leave without taking her. Without her, I am only another man. With her, I am all powerful. She is loyalty herself. With her, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. She is protection against my darkest fears. And she is my dog.”
My darling Lilly.
I miss her already.