I never realized how animals really make a difference in the life of a person. A creature that can’t talk back to you, can’t respond, but is fully and utterly dependent on you can actually be the sole thing that let’s you grieve the best.
I grew up surrounded by animals. As a child, I could not stand them. I wanted nothing to do with them because the animals we had (dogs), were all disheveled in some way. My adoptive mother, like she did for me, would go out, find animals who were maimed in some way, and bring them to the home to save them.
Maybe the feeling of being saved and the reminder every day was what bothered me the most.
She was the modern day Mother Theresa but for animals. We had one cat, several horses, a few cows, and about 25ish dogs. We lived on a farm, but it didn’t resembled an American farm. We lived more “on the hill” than anything else.
I couldn’t bond with any of them because to me, they were not welcoming. One of them bit my young daughter when she was around 4 years old and my adoptive mother blamed it on the child. They were stinky. Twenty five of them sitting in the large kitchen waiting for food. My adoptive mother would sit the small ones on her lap while we ate. They would pass gas at the table and their hair showed up on just about every dish. I was pleasantly disgusted by them.
None of them were trained. They couldn’t really sit on command, they would bark incessantly, and they spent 85% of their time licking their genitals in the kitchen. The other 10% would be spent licking each others genitals. And then 5% would be spent actually pooping in the grass. They were not potty trained so each morning I would wake up to find poop and pee inside the room, or on the sidewalks outside. They feared pooping on grass for some reason. I never understood it as a child.
I was turned off completely by animals.
It was not until I was a mom that I started seeing the value in animals. When my first daughter was about 12, we rented a house and with the house came a dog. The dog was dalmatian like but was more on the wild side. The owner had taught the dog to sit and give paw. She was also potty trained. In order to live in that particular apartment complex, we had to adopt the dog. Feed it, care for it. There was no mention of loving it. I didn’t. But my 12 year old loved to pet it.
When her sister came to live with us, she fell in love with it. The dog never slept in doors but had plenty of shelter space outside. If it was rainy, she could sleep under the stairs and stay dry. If it got scary out, we let her in. In the country I was in, dogs were not really seen as pets. They were guard dogs. This dog was an amazing guard dog. Her bark was one that protected the apartment; it was not incessant, and it had meaning.
Fast forward two years. Someone gives us 2 more puppies. These puppies were abandoned to some degree and so getting them potty trained was very difficult. One of them was able to learn, the other not so much. We lived with them for about 2 years before the following location would not allow animals. So we gave our dogs to someone else. Because they were all great guard dogs, we knew that this person would benefit from having them as she lived in an area that was not guarded.
Then we moved to a gated community and after a year of living there, I started to miss having a dog. I never wanted a dog as a “pet” but I just wanted to have a dog.
So in June 2014 my wife and I decided we wanted to get a dog. I explained how getting a dog in this country was not about coddling it or making it “a part of the family”. Dogs in the country we lived in were to guard the house, not lay on the bed, or really even be in the house.
We found Lilly in 2014. She was tiny. Our daughter immediately said that she was part border collie but even the vets were not too sure.
Lilly was obnoxious as hell. She scratched the bathroom door, she ate and bit the screen windows, she chewed just about anything she saw. But she was so smart. It took about 3 weeks or so to potty train her (like really potty train her). All she wanted was to be close to us.
When our daughter did homework, she would sleep under the couch. When I went to work, I threw her in my back pack, jumped on my motorcycle and took her with me to work. When my wife got up in the mornings, she took her on walks. When we all needed to leave for some reason or another, she stayed in the back yard-waiting patiently for our return.
A couple of times we left the area for a few days and had someone bring her food and water. They would sometimes film their interaction with her and she would wag her tail but you could tell she was sad we were gone.
Lilly is a very protective dog. She was and is an EXCELLENT guard dog but also an EXCELLENT pet. She even likes to swim with our kid!
I never thought I would say that. I never thought I would bond with an animal.
I had some of my hardest “discovery” days while my wife was at work and our kid was in school. Lilly and I would spend hours just lying on the floor. She would cuddle up next to me, right under my armpit. And I would cry myself to sleep.
As I listened to her breathe in sync with mine, I knew that sometimes strange was happening. She was listening to my pain. Though she could not answer my questions, she could feel my pain. And I had a lot of that.
I remember when Lilly would wait for us to comes home. When she heard our car pulling into the drive way, she waited for us patiently.
The time had come when we decided it was time to move to the South. For a brief moment we thought about leaving Lilly with another family. But this puppy had grown on us. She was part of us. She knew who WE were. She knew how we smelled. She knew our voice, our walk, our talk.
She knew everything about us.
There was no way she would easily adapt to a new family. But we wanted her to have a yard to run around in. We didn’t want her to be stuck in an apartment. We wanted her to have other dogs to play with, and to get to know. We wanted her to have siblings.
As we began to pack up, and do our yard sales, Lilly got more and more nervous. We knew she was nervous because she began peeing in the house more and more. We knew she was potty trained, but she still couldn’t help herself. As she saw things be put into boxes, and suitcases, she would wag her tail nervously, she stopped eating, stopped drinking. She just wanted to sit beside one of us at all times. My wife would go into the bathroom, Lilly would follow her.
I would go and clean my motorcycle, Lilly was there with me, while I cleaned it.
Lilly knew something was up and she didn’t want to be left behind.
When the van came to drive us down South, Lilly went into a fit. She began chewing furniture like a mad-dog. She ran in circle….and there were times she went and got her leash. We had been training her to walk on a leash for a couple months before the move in case she were to come with us but we were also looking for possibilities of her being in a nice yard with a great family.
Lilly was not having the move unless SHE was part of it.
I dropped my car off at a friend’s house and had already sold my motorcycle. The van drivers packed up all the stuff and my family-and Lilly! Because she is and will always be part of the family.
She struggled with getting in the van but made it. During the entire trip (about 5 hrs), she would not sit down on the seat or even lay down on the van floor. She was so nervous. But she was so good. She didn’t do her business inside the van at all. We stopped the van a couple of times to let her out (with the leash) but she would not go. You see, Lilly had been trained to go in a certain spot and now the retraining had to begin.
When we reached our destination, she continued to be nervous as hell. She didn’t go to the bathroom for about 3 days because the area was not familiar to her. Finally, she made a mess all over the apartment. But she didn’t get into trouble, we understood that it was her nerves and that she needed to readjust.
We moved to a second apartment about 3 weeks later. She was a nervous wreck AGAIN! She didn’t want to be left behind. We kept telling her that if she was going to be left behind, we would have left her on the North Coast where we knew she would have a nice yard, and friends to play with.
But she was not having any of that.
After finally adjusting to the present location for 3 weeks, we made our final move where my daughter and I would stay until we figured out our next step. My wife was due back for work in the USA and I was going to home school our daughter until the adoption had gone through. Lilly was beside herself. We were only moving about 35mn away from the current apartment but she was so afraid that we were going to leave her that she began hyperventilation, stopped eating, and stopped drinking.
When we reached our temporary final destination (WITH LILLY), she was finally able to relax a bit.
And she did.
We spent about three months there and then moved to the United States. Did we bring Lilly with us?
The days leading up to the trip were horrible for her and us. She crapped everywhere, she wouldn’t eat, she barely slept.
In the three months before leaving, she managed to swallow a needle and receive emergency surgery, along with getting sick. But she pulled through.
When we arrived in Boston, she was just healing from her stomach surgery. She was thin, disoriented, but recognized my wife immediately.
We have now been in the US for almost 2 years and moved once. She struggled in our first location but loves the one we are in now. She had her first snow experience in our first location and loved it!
Lilly and I spend a lot of time together. I was the main trainer for her as she got older. I taught her to walk beside me without needing a leash, how to use an electric collar, how to play fetch, and so many other fun things.
But this dog is a creature of habit. If we teach her to go in one location, she rarely changes-she sticks to that one spot.
As she got older we got confirmation that she definitely is part Collie and we think Lab cuz of her chest. Well, confirmation as in-Google! Cuz you can’t go wrong with Google!
Since being in the USA, I’ve had more Downs than Ups. But Lilly makes me feel better. When I start to get worked up, and anxious, she seems to sense it and comes to my office in the apartment and sits down. She nudges me to pet her. Maybe she is needing some attention, or maybe she feels that I need some comfort. So I pet her and talk to her. We have a strangely beautiful bond.
She gets me in so many ways.
Recently I’ve been having some real strange dreams. The one I had last night was another flying dream but this time Lilly was flying with me and somehow I lost her. And then I was on a raft and then she was on shore barking and trying to get in the water. The raft was floating out to sea and I could hear her barking in the distance.
I woke up in tears, startled. I looked for Lilly and couldn’t find her. Then I looked over and she was sleeping peacefully on her bed. My wife woke up and we both got Lilly to sleep at the foot of the bed. I pet her for a couple of minutes and then went back to sleep.
I don’t know what it is about pets but they help heal some of the loss we adoptees experience. Lilly’s anxiety reminds me of what it feels like to not be sure if you will be sent back to the orphanage. Or if your behavior will cause you to be left behind.
Nothing was ever clear in my adoption. So many lies. So many half-truths. I spend my existence wondering who I can really trust….who is someone I can actually believe.
I realize more and more that the only people I can believe is myself and my wife. The only thing I can believe in is Lilly.
Lilly does not lie to me. In fact, she depends on me so much that without me, she won’t survive. This is why when we all leave for work/school, she won’t eat her food until we are back because she is not sure if we will come back and she does not want to starve.
I’ve never seen a dog act in this fashion. When I am home, and she knows I will work from home, she will eat her food. But when we all leave the house, that food goes untouched until at least one of us are back.
Will she always be this way? Will she always have to wonder if we will come back for her?
Sometimes I wonder what will happen to her if we all got into an accident. I can’t even imagine. I told my brother and sister-in-law that if something ever happened to all three of us at the same time, Lilly would have to go to them.
I hope they take good care of her. She is such a great animal. She is such a great friend.
I know those who have pets or who have lost a special pet will understand this post.
There is something about a pet that keeps us going. There is something about a pet that keeps us alive.
Lilly gives me hope and keeps me moving forward in times that I don’t feel strong. I have to stay alive for her because we have a special bond. She saves her food to make sure she has it in case I’m gone. So I can’t leave her.
Adoptees can benefit from having a pet because there are many feelings we have that we can’t share with people because people will always judge us.
But our pets, even if we forget to feed them, or take them out, they keep their promise.
They love us unconditionally!