When Alexander died I was five and for the first time understood what death actually meant. My father brought his ashes home from the vet, all white with mottled gray and black specks, just like his fur used to be. I remember thinking "that is not my dog," and to this day I still find no association with empty vessels and the cherished people they once held. We scattered the symbolic remains of Alexander in the front yard and for weeks I was sad. Very sad. So sad in fact that my parents became concerned and felt we needed a new dog.
Daddy took us to go see puppies. He claimed it was just took, but who takes a 3, 5, 7 and 12 year old to see puppies without deep down knowing he will end up adopting one? They were chocolate labradors, all the craze of the 80's and I'm pretty sure the basement breeders hadn't bothered to check pedigrees or lines before letting the two adult dogs copulate. It was a huge litter, maybe nine puppies, only two of them female. One of the girl pups was a real adventurer. She wasn't content to cuddle in the box with her litter mates, no, she was off climbing the wood heap or trying to eat a box of matches. This is the puppy we decided to adopt.
We named her Lillie Belle, partially after her predecessor Alexander Graham Belle. She was rambunctious ad vocal and the best cure for a five year old's depression. We had Lillie for 15 glorious years, pretty much my entire childhood. Lillie went on almost every adventure the three of us did, climbing the rocks from our seaside summer home to the harbor, racing through the fields after pheasants, daintily avoiding fallen logs in the deep woods. She'd even eat raspberries off the brambles when we went to pick those delicious little red berries.
Sometimes we'd try and leave her behind, but it was usually to no avail. In the summer my father would tell Lillie to stay in the yard and next thing we'd know she was chasing our car down the driveway. Daddy would accelerate past 30 miles per hour and though we'd loose sight of her on the short trip to the town dock, soon after parking the car, we'd hear the thunder of her paws striking the concrete and soon see her streaking towards us. If we told her to stay on the beach while we swam, she'd dive right on in and often drag one of us out, if she felt we weren't swimming sufficiently strongly.
Lillie was opinionated and loved to add her voice to any conversation. She barked more than any other dog I have met and while my parents got her in a lot of ways to rescue me, she always made it clear she was Dad's dog. She would bark loudly if my parents kissed or cuddled, push people away from my father and in her old age only wag her tail for him.
I can't say that imperatively Lillie was a great dog the way Alexander was, but she was the dog of my childhood and I will always think fondly of her opinionated, gluttonous canine self. Every girl needs a dog in her life and she was mine.
Author: Marjorie Skiba
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