Our beautiful, happy girl lived full out until the last 60 seconds of her life, and then she passed away suddenly in my arms.
The last 60 seconds of Lily’s life were the only warning I got that something was wrong.
She walked down the hall toward me, acting like she might be sick to her stomach. I guided her to the kitchen, wrapped my arms around her and asked her if she was okay, and then laid her down gently as I felt her legs give out.
Three more big breaths and she was gone.
I know there’s a blessing in saying she lived a good life right up until the very last minute, and then left quickly without suffering. It also would have been nice to have had some warning.
There is no easy way to lose a dog.
If I could play you a slideshow of the 11 years before yesterday, you’d see a stream of pure happiness, play and affection. Lily had a remarkably good life, one that wasn’t marred by the hardships and traumas that the other dogs we’ve brought into our family have experienced. She will be remembered in so many stories, and all of them will end in laughter. She was always ready to play, and she never passed up an adventure. But she was just as eager to settle down for a good cuddle, too.
Many of Lily’s stories also end with, “She was so naughty!” But you have to understand that her particular style of naughtiness wasn’t a source of frustration—it was something to be admired. She came into our world like a 5-pound whirlwind, deviously scheming up some of the most complicated, expensive acts of destruction I’ve ever seen in a dog. I am perversely proud that my baby girl chewed off every cement board corner of our house, stripped young trees of their bark and once ripped out all the wiring on the underground sprinkling system. I don’t remember her bothering with normal activities like chewing shoes or pillows—that was too mundane for her style. She preferred things like rolling jack-o-lanterns down the driveway—just to watch them get crushed by cars.
She also was sweet, and thankfully mellowed out later in life. She loved two things the most: her big brother Tyler, and my son, Aidan. Lily would hardcore ditch anyone and anything to spend time with her “boyfriend” Aidan. The day she died, I had told her, “You get to see Aidan one week from today!” He was away at college and hadn’t seen her since August. Going home for Thanksgiving will be very bittersweet now.
I am thankful that I can look back at the last weeks and not spot any signs that I missed. I wouldn’t want to live with the idea that I could have done something to prevent this. I am thankful that we braved the snow and cold to take the walks she loved the last days of her life. I am grateful that I made the effort to cut trails through the property because going on our daily “adventures” was one of her favorite things. I am grateful that I tucked her in every night, telling her I loved her and that she was the best baby girl. I am grateful she didn’t suffer. And I’m so thankful that she was our princess for almost 12 years, although no amount of time would have been long enough.
Every death has taught me something. Duke and Tyler taught me how to live those last days in presence and joy, saving the grief for after they’re gone. Lily is pushing that lesson further. Even when you don’t know that your dog is dying, live in presence and joy. Take the walks. Give out the treats. Say “I love you” every night as you tuck them in. We hear it over and over—live every moment like it could be your last. It’s an idea that is easy to dismiss when you always think you have more time. Lily’s gift is to show us that our next breath isn’t a given. Choose presence and joy today, like it’s the last day you may ever have.
Go get ‘em, Baby Girl. I know you’re pestering Tyler so hard right now, but I also know his playful little sister was one of the great joys of his life. Georgia is grieving, missing her constant outdoor adventure partner. And Archie…you might be interested to know that he guarded your body after you were gone.
You will be so missed, Lily, it’s hard to even comprehend right now in the hours after your sudden death. I’m so glad you didn’t suffer, and we’ll use that as a reminder not to suffer over your loss. I know we didn’t get to say goodbye, but I also know we never really have to say goodbye. You’re always in our hearts and we’ll be watching for you in our dreams, beautiful baby girl.