If you've been keeping up with us from the beginning, you know that Lilly and I have been through our fair share of trials and tribulations over the past four months. For 14 weeks, I've used this column to cover topics such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism, fear of adulthood, assuming responsibility and, in our most harrowing ordeal, Lilly running into the woods and remaining missing for five hours. If you'd never actually met us in person, I couldn't fault you for thinking we lead somewhat of a gloomy or cheerless life.
But of course, these are just the moments I've chosen to write about, and because fear and sadness often strike stronger emotional chords than happiness, I've relied somewhat too heavily on the less optimistic memories. I think that, consequently, I haven't provided a completely accurate picture of our daily life together.
Last Saturday, I received the news that my cat back home, Marshfellow, had passed away peacefully at the age of 12. I took Marsh home as a foster cat my sophomore year of high school, and within a day, I knew that I was going to keep him, that returning him to the shelter was simply not an option. For the next six-and-a-half years, I grew closer to him than any other pet my family had adopted. He was a big boy (at his heaviest, he clocked in at just over 24 pounds) with smooth white fur, and countless nights in high school saw him falling asleep nuzzled into my lap. I was looking forward to going home in two weeks and hearing him meow curtly when I walked in the door, as if to say and where have you been, Mister?
The point is, while Marsh helped me through my fair share of tough times, I would hate for people to only remember the sadder moments when recalling his legacy -- they were greatly overshadowed by the instances of joy he brought into my life, the little quirks and behaviors that defined his character, that made us go, well, that's Marsh for ya.
So, in that spirit, I want to use this last column to ignore the strife and hardship of the semester and look back on all the beautiful things I've come to adore about Lilly. My mom is the master of remembrances -- a lifelong Girl Scout and avid Pinterest board creator, she has been known to fashion intricately designed scrapbooks to commemorate the trips our family has taken together. Most of my attempts at crafting similar projects have resulted in hot-glue burns and scattered mounds of glitter.
I can't do arts and crafts. What I can do is write.
So, what follows -- in not only my final column, but my final piece ever written for The Miami Student -- is my personal version of a scrapbook for Lilly: a transcribed collection of the moments, images and memories with her that have made the last four months so filled with joy. I hope that, as you hunker down at King and prepare for finals week, they bring a smile to your face as well.
Lilly's army crawl. Despite her tiny frame, she sports the muscles of a Marine drill sergeant, and those who take her on a walk for the first time are often caught off guard by the gargantuan force with which she can yank on the leash. A couple months ago, Lilly spotted a groundhog in our backyard, and ever since, her first order of business when I take her out back to use the bathroom is to make a beeline for the hole it had disappeared into to check if it's back. When she inevitably senses resistance on the leash, rather than pull up, she decides to double down on her pursuit. With her nose to the ground, she slinks methodically across the lawn, legs forcefully bent, her stomach grazing the tips of the grass, as she pulls me to the spot with all of her might. If only she could display the same sort of determination when getting into the bathtub...
Lilly's ears. In addition to her goofy waddle, long snout and relatively small size for a shepherd, Lilly's floppy ears make me convinced that she has dachshund in her. Additionally, like her short-haired coat, her ears are incredibly smooth. I don't know what it is about smooth fur on animals that makes me so happy, but every time I pet her, I feel like a raver on ecstasy suddenly discovering how amazing their silk shirt feels. Whenever anyone stops to pet her on our walks (read: often), they'll always exclaim, "Oh, she's so soft," and I'll routinely reply, "Feel her ears. They're even softer." Furthermore, the happiest moment of my day is when I return from class, open up my front door, peer back through the hallway and into my bedroom and see her sitting in her crate, her once-floppy ears perked straight up in excitement at my arrival.
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Lilly's nighttime routine. Throughout the day, Lilly's enthusiasm level resembles that of a puppy (she's three-and-a-half. One of the reasons I opted against a puppy was not wanting to put up with that much energy. Alas, here I am...). Luckily, come nightfall, she can turn it off, and she's actually a pretty heavy sleeper. What this means is that every night, right around 10 p.m., she starts giving me "the look," as in what are we still doing awake? Often, in an effort to nudge me toward bed, she'll stand up and trot into my room. She'll then pause. When I don't follow her, she'll trot back out and give me "the look" again before turning around and heading back. Rinse. Repeat. My roommates have even turned this into a little game, watching her as she walks back to the bedroom, staring her down when she turns around and laughing when she inevitably skips right back out to the living room.
Lilly's various noises. Lilly being my first dog, I've been blessed with a furry companion who doesn't bark. Ever. I've had her for over four months, and in that time, at least, she hasn't uttered a single woof. That doesn't mean she's silent, however. Among her cadre of doggie noises, we have the growl, which she exhibits forcefully whenever a male dog tries to get some; the whimper, a rare audible expression of her anxiety; the snore (remember, I said she was a heavy sleeper); and the sigh, which is never split into smaller exhalations but rather reserved for one big harrrrumph, to which I always reply, "Me too, sweetie." Of course none of these is as common or as adorable as the grumble, Lilly's favorite noise. Its versatile translation ranges from "You are taking too long to get ready for the walk" to "That biscuit was delicious. I could use another."
Lilly's acrobatic abilities. Because Lilly's only bathroom incidents have occurred when she's loose in the house and I'm not home, I always put her in her crate before leaving. But, if I'm just running out for a moment, maybe to take the garbage out or grab something from my car, I won't bother. Watching me leave without her (is he going to the park with another dog?), Lilly begins to panic, and in an effort to see where I'm going, she'll leap up and place her paws on the sill of our front window so she can stand like a person and keep an eye on me. Every time I exit the house, I wait to hear the little click of her nails hitting the window.
Lilly's poop. I'll keep this brief for the more squeamish among us, but Lilly's bowel movements are something to behold. I even considered writing a column titled "On Feces" at one point, but in one of my better moments of editorial judgment, I decided against it. What blows me away is that Lilly is not a big eater -- it's usually a process to get her interested in her dinner. Yet, every day at the park, she'll produce something I would be impressed to see from a human being. It defies the Law of the Conservation of Feces, which states that poop cannot be created nor destroyed; in other words, what comes out must have first gone in. Yes, it's gross, but I can't help but feel overwhelmed with fatherly pride whenever I see her jog to the far corner of the park and squat.
Lilly's twitches. Every evening before bed, Lilly will sit and let me remove her collar for the night. Then, when I settle back into bed, she'll hop up onto the mattress, make herself comfortable, clean herself and fall asleep. Once she's really out, she'll occasionally start twitching slightly, her nostrils flaring back and forth and her leg kicking out to the side, I'm assuming in pursuit of the squirrels of her dreams. When she does that, I'll look up from my book or phone, watch her and smile. For a dog with this level of anxiety to feel comfortable enough to fall into such a deep slumber right next to me, well, it tells me that she's happy in her new home. And I'm happy she's here.
Of course I could go on, but for the sake of my editor's blood pressure, I'm going to cut the word count here. That's all for me and Lilly for now. When I hit send on this document, my career at the Student will officially be over. While I'm ready for Lilly and me to move on to bigger things, the thought of parting ways with this publication that's been my home for the past four years -- through my many ups and downs -- leaves me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. But I know the paper's in good hands. And though the thought of the unknown once filled me with crippling dread, I know now that wherever the next chapter takes me, someday I'll find myself among a similar community, an equal group of friends I won't want to leave behind.
And when that day comes, I know I'll have countless more moments to add to Lilly's scrapbook. Thank you, and farewell.