60: One-Eyed Lily

60: One-Eyed Lily

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

One-Eyed Lily

Fun fact: Many dogs lift their legs to pee higher because urine scent sprayed above the ground, such as on a fire hydrant or pole, carries farther, better marking their territory.

I arrived one morning at the Humane Society where I volunteered as a dog walker. An old black German Shepherd lay on the office floor, curled up on an old blanket. She’d been brought in as a stray and put in the office to spare her the stress of the chaos of the kennels.

Her information sheet really didn’t say much, other than the name they’d given her, Lily; her age, just “senior”; and her status “stray.” Only she knew where she’d come from, but she looked like it had been a long, hard road.

“Can I walk her?” I eyed her uncertainly.

“Sure, go ahead,” the desk clerk said. “We’ve had her out a few times.”

I grabbed a leash and signed her out. “Come on, Lily!” I said in my most cheerful, happy-dog voice. “We’re going for a walk.”

Of course, she didn’t know her name yet, but she knew I was talking to her and struggled to her feet. Most German Shepherds ride low in the back, but Lily looked as if her hips could go out at any moment.

When she looked at me, I gasped. “Oh, my gosh! She’s only got one eye.”

But when I looked more closely, I realized her second eye was there. It was just very small and sunken. The vet said it was probably the way she’d been born.

Lily slowly followed me outside. We plodded up the hill to the free-run pens, where I turned her loose. For a moment, she stood there, back end drooping, with no life in her face. Finally, after a few moments, she wandered off and stood with her nose in a corner.

I tried to toss a ball for her, but she just stood, head down, and watched it roll away. “Oh, Lily, what are we going to do with you?”

I clipped the leash back on, and we took a little walk, shuffling along so she could sniff the bushes. Finally, I brought her back to her blanket in the office. “See you in a couple days, Lily,” I told her, but her head was already down on her paws again.

For the next couple weeks, I made a point to stop and see Lily, and take her out for a bit. She started to make the effort to stand when she saw me. She walked a bit stronger, it seemed, and I thought I saw some glimmer of interest in what we were doing.

But nobody seemed interested in her.

With so many healthy young dogs and puppies needing homes, few people stopped to look at a broken-down, old, one-eyed dog. After a while, it became clear she was not going to be adopted.

The Humane Society dog trainer had spent his career training German Shepherds for police work. Lily was breaking his heart. He’d noticed my bond with her. “She can’t live on the office floor forever,” he told me. “Would you maybe be interested in fostering her?”

I wasn’t even an approved foster home, but my heart said “yes” before my brain had time to kick in. Twenty-four hours later, I had myself an ancient, one-eyed foster dog.

My daughter Kika went with me to pick her up. I put a blanket down on the back seat, and together we hoisted Lily up onto it.

Kika laughed. “Look at her! She knows she’s going home.”

Lily lay across the seat, tongue lolling, grinning from ear to ear. Her one good eye was bright. For the first time, she seemed like a happy, optimistic dog.

Kika and I drove home in high spirits, laughing and feeling good about our rescue mission.

We pulled into our driveway about twenty minutes later, and I opened the back door to let Lily out. That’s when we realized she’d soaked the blanket — and the car seat, too. It was an omen of things to come….

When we got into the house, I expected Lily to explore, but she went no farther than the kitchen and adjoining family room. She didn’t sniff, like most dogs in a new place would. She just walked in circles, wearing a big smile.

“Look how happy she is!” Kika said.

I’d have thought she was appreciating her new surroundings in her own way if she hadn’t walked right into a corner and stood smiling at it until we finally pulled her out and turned her around.

Okay, so she had some dementia, along with her one eye, sinking back end, and maybe incontinence. We were in for good times.

But Lily smiled — oh, how she smiled. And we just had to smile back.

We set up a crate in the family room for her, lined with soft blankets. She went right in, beaming like a proud new homeowner.

From then on, that crate was Lily’s home base. She divided her time between curling up there, walking in circles… and smiling radiantly at the corner.

Lily had been billed as house-trained, but we never saw any evidence of it. In fact, she seemed determined to “hold it” anytime we took her outside or tried to walk with her — only to let it fly as soon as we stepped back inside.

All I could figure was that Lily was — literally — house-trained. She only wanted to pee in the house.

Nor did she respect her own crate, as any dog expert will tell you dogs naturally do. Every morning, I pulled soaked bedding from the crate and threw it in the washer. Every day, I treated stains in the area rug (and finally gave up and hauled it out to the curb).

After several weeks, I had gotten no calls about possible adopters for Lily, so I went online and looked at her listing. There was my one-eyed girl — with a banner across the photo that said: “Adopted!”

Kika thought that was hysterical. “They got you, Mama! They really saw you coming!”

The shelter later explained that’s what they mark on unadoptable animals in hospice foster. After that, when anyone asked about our “new dog,” my insistence she was “just a foster” rang a bit hollow.

“How long are you fostering her for?” a friend asked.

I hesitated, lips twitching at the joke on me. “Till she dies.”

Lily’s tongue hung out in a wide, panting grin. She got the joke, too.

We had Lily eight months, until her back end sank so low she could no longer get up and down the steps to our back yard without a boost. And she was much too heavy for me to do that, especially several times a day. Lily never lost her smile, but her body was quitting on her.

The day she left us, my daughter Maria and I sat and petted her while the drug took effect, and she slipped away. In that moment, eight months of soggy bedding and destroyed carpeting didn’t even come to mind. All I saw was her happy smile. It had blossomed from the moment she’d left the shelter, seemingly knowing she’d be safe, fed, and loved, with a roof over her head, a corner to stand in, and blankets to pee on.

The vet tech held me while I sobbed. When I left, I told the shelter, “No more fosters.”

A month later, I got a call. “What if it’s a very little foster…?”

And that is how we got Spike.

~Susan Kimmel Wright

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