On a recent Sunday morning, I happened to be looking out on the deck when I spotted Lily, our first shelter dog, lounging on a cushioned bench. I don’t know if it was the way the early morning sunlight cast shadows across her face or the expression she had when she heard me at the slider.
Whatever it was, it caused the most unexpected thought to pass through my head. As I was looking at her enjoying a little Lily-time alone on the bench, I thought “Sheesh. She could easily be a finalist in an Ugliest Dog Contest.”
No sooner had that thought passed, it was replaced with “But, she’s still the most beautiful girl to me.”
In the moments that followed this little mental dialogue, I thought back to how she came to be with us, what she’s meant to us and why it is that she is this beautiful, yet strange, little princess.
Lily has been with us a little over four years, which means that she is nearly nine years old: Or young, depending on how you look at those things. As a small breed, she is likely a little over half-way through her lifespan. Most dog people will agree, a dog’s lifespan is too short and goes by way too fast.
She arrived at Noah Project in late January of the year my wife and I began volunteering at the shelter. She was surrendered by a woman who’d had Lily since she was a puppy. In fact, she had paid over $500 for this little designer dog. But, this woman now had a child, was a single mom and had no money to care for Lily.
Lack of proper care was quite obvious from the condition Lily was in upon her arrival at the shelter. She weighed barely six pounds, her teeth were crooked and severely stained and her coat was such a matted mess it required a total head-to-tail shave. But, despite all this, it was clearly evident that Lily had been loved. She was friendly, affectionate and eager to be on someone’s lap whenever she could.
She had been the center of attention for her whole life, until recently, and was now being forced to learn a different kind of life: Life in a shelter, where the hours go by in lonely confinement and where there is only occasional contact with people who are usually too busy to spend any more than a minimal amount of time with any one dog.
Neither my wife nor I thought this was fair to Lily. She’d been a loved member of a family her entire life but, due to circumstances beyond her control, now found herself alone, disconnected and afraid. She also was, very clearly, a special dog in that she had an engaging personality and was very well behaved around people and other dogs. She seemed like she would make a nice fit with our two dogs Pudg, a Lhasa, and Baxter, a Maltese-Shih’tzu.
So, without giving it another thought, we adopted her.
Lily is a Malhapoo, which is a Maltese-Lhasa-Poodle mix. She has the classic underbite of the Lhasa, the silky coat of the Maltese and the legs of a poodle. She has the charm of all three put together.
The Malhapoo is not a recognized breed, the closest being Maltipoo, so it’s not surprising that Lily is truly a one-of-a-kind girl. Or, maybe, it’s the multiple personality syndrome that sets her apart.
“Silly Lily”. For no apparent reason, she’ll roll and thrash around on the couch for a few seconds, then sit up with her hair looking like mine does after an entire night of working on it with a pillow, and have an expression that says: “Huh? Did you see that?”
“Leaping Lily”. She must have rubber in her paw pads, because she can leap nearly two feet straight up, from a standing four paw stance. And, she’ll do this repeatedly, like a rubber ball, throwing in the occassional three-sixty for style points, when she’s excited about going for a walk or getting a treat.
“Psycho Chick”. Being the only female with nine “brothers”, Lily doesn’t put up with any nonsense and expects to be treated like the lady she isn’t. This is especially true when she’s trying to get a little beauty sleep. Whether she’s curled up next to me, or my wife, or alone in a corner of the couch, if one of the boys bumps into her while rough-housing, they immediately find themselves on the wrong end of a hissy-fit. Lily is up and on them in a blur, batting at them with both forepaws and yelling like a raving lunatic. It only lasts about five seconds before the boys make their escape and Lily curls up and goes back to napping, but it’s quite the adrenaline rush for those few seconds. The only thing that gets hurt is an ego or two.
Mostly, though, she is simply our sweet, gentle, affectionate and playful Lily. She loves everyone, young and old alike, and especially likes it when company drops by. That usually means there is an empty lap with her name on it.
And, yes, she really does get along well with all her brothers. When Lily feels like playing, she’s non-stop energy for as long as the boys can keep up with her.
Her most endearing trait comes when she feels compelled to show her affection. She’ll climb onto your chest, so that she is almost nose to nose, then she’ll gently place a paw on the side of one cheek and give you a kiss on the other. It’s heart-melting 101.
Lily has come a long way since landing at the shelter as a scared, skinny, unkempt young lady. She’s returned to being healthy, happy and too beautiful for words.
So, why did I briefly entertain the thought that she was ugly? The only answer I can come up with is that, for those few brief seconds, I was like most every other person. I saw the dog, not the years of affection, friendship, dependability, loyalty and companionship that she has given us. Like too many people do when looking for a dog, I only looked at the surface. I didn’t see the total being that was deserving a life of safety and love, while blessing us with her devotion. I didn’t take in the whole being that is Lily.
I apologized to Lily for my insensitive and shallow human-ness. In return, I got from her what only a non-judgemental, gracious, unselfish, unconditionally loving creature could give: A gently placed paw on one cheek and a kiss on the other.
Love your dogs. Treat them like family. Keep them for life.
If you would like to receive an email alert whenever a new article related to West Michigan Dog Rescue is posted, please click on the “subscribe” button near the top of the article. It is free and anonymous. Thank you for reading and sharing this article. If you have story ideas related to West Michigan Dog Rescue operations or events, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please help be a voice for the voiceless.
To read other recent articles related to West Michigan Dog Rescue, just click on “Thom Reisterer” at the top of the page. On behalf of all the abused and abandoned dogs in our area, thank you for keeping their hopes alive.