A beautiful sunny afternoon, the cicadas singing, and I am bathing Lily. She seems a little cowed when I pull out the hose and tie her up to the porch railing, bracing herself for the spray of water, the shampoo which I lather into her short caramel-colored fur. She looks at me as if to say, “why” and I tell her that it’s to get rid of the smell of something she’s rolled in―smelly dirt, maybe the remnant of a dead rabbit―and that it will be over soon and “you, my beauty will smell wonderful.”
She is the perfect dog for me after raising two strong-willed male children. Sweet, gentle, willing to do almost anything I ask. I had always wanted a yellow Lab, maybe after reading Old Yeller and having some sentimental version in my mind of what Labs are like―loyal, steadfast, a companion and protector―or in my case, protectress―until the end.
She is truly my dog. I don’t have to say I got her because the boys wanted a dog; they’re grown now. No, I wanted a dog for the love and companionship; to ease the loneliness of my life as a writer, a woman alone. And the thing is, with her by my side, I am never lonely.
She is also the smartest dog I’ve ever had. Chin up, ears perked, eyes alert, she listens to my every word and picks up on them right away: sit, listen, good girl, puppy dinner, let’s go for a walk, bedtime … and upstairs she bounds into my room.
I look at her now lying on the deck, drying in the August sunshine, one paw tucked under her chin, keeping an alert eye on her backyard for the errant squirrel or baby bunny that she loves to chase.
Lily and I bonded when she was just six weeks old.
A certain serendipity accompanied her entrance into my life at the tender age of sixty-three. Our black Lab, Lucy, had died just three months before. As I visited friends who had a sweet black Lab named Millie, their dog made me miss Lucy even more.
Lucy had been my son’s dog. She bonded early with him; dogs do that when they know who is responsible for them being there and it was Daniel who had begged me one spring day to go up to the middle school with him.
“Mom! The principal has Lab puppies in a laundry basket in his office and he is giving them away! Can we just go and look …” and at my slight frown … “please, Mom? Just look.”
Right. Famous last words.
About a week after the dinner with Marcia and Norm, the phone rang.
“You still looking for a yellow Lab puppy?” Marcia asked. And so, one phone call changed my life―and Lily’s.
I stroke her head, consider her expressive brown eyes. “What do you say, girl? Time to go inside and do a little writing?” Without hesitation, she follows.
Susan G. Weidener is a former staff writer with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has written two memoirs and a novel based on a true story. She teaches memoir and fiction to adults and facilitates the Women’s Writing Circle in suburban Philadelphia. Susan lives with her yellow lab, Lily, in Chester Springs, PA. Find her online at http://www.susanweidener.com/