This is the story of a cocker named Lily, but that’s not where the story started. For 30 years, four brave dogs paved the way for her. For me it was an eternity, but at the end of the road, it will be the blink of an eye. And in those 30 years, these four dogs taught me to love all animals great and small, and created an era all their own – Life Before Lily.
In early August, 1979, a yellow lab named Chip was waiting as my parents brought home a serious commitment – me. True to the breed, the dog was loyal, true and a boy’s best friend. Before I could walk, he happily allowed me to sit on his back and beat on his head with plastic measuring cups. Later, we would spend countless summer hours side by side in a tattered brown recliner watching the Price is Right. I could almost hear him cheer when contestants hit that dollar. I didn’t know what life was like without him – and then one day when I was 13, he was gone. I kept his collar for years, and I know he’s still with me.
A summer trip to the pound yielded a truly unique looking mutt. Having never had a puppy before, I couldn’t understand how this black and brown oddity could sleep so much. He was quickly dubbed “Schlaffey,” a made up German-esque word that means “sleepy” (sort of). As he got older, his black faded to brown and his body seemed to grow horizontally, rather than vertically. The best we could figure was he was half Dachshund and half German Shepard, if that’s even possible. And despite his compulsive need to steal baseball caps and guard them with his life, he was a very good dog.
To be fair, Gracie wasn’t my dog, but she might as well have been. A 90 pound Rottweiler that belonged to my college roommate, the beast often slept in my bed, on my lap, in my car – anywhere I was. I once caught her standing on the hood of my 1985 BMW 318i, trying to devour the nozzle that shoots out windshield cleaner. I quickly forgave her as she may have saved my life with her body warmth in that same car stuck in a blizzard. I was afraid of her for a long time, until I showed her who was boss. She became a protector, TV buddy and friend – the third roommate who taught me to love ALL dogs.
Murray was a foster dog. An aging Cocker Spaniel, he taught me that I could handle a dog in my adult life. He was the first dog I was ever completely responsible for. A great dog with the personality of an old man, Murray might as well have been human. Riding in the car, he had his own seat. When it rained, he wanted to wear his rain coat (I’m not one for dressing dogs, but I could refuse him). Most importantly, Murray convinced my wife and I that our dog would be a Cocker.
Mid February, 2009, we got the call that Murray was to make the trip to live with a new family in San Diego. That left our house dog-less, but we’d had our eye on a special little lady we hoped would come and fill the void. A shy cocker who’d been recovering from a broken pelvis whose sad eyes betrayed her fear of new people and situations. A dog who needed a second chance. It was a grey day in February that we picked the dog up from those at Camp Cocker who saved her.
That was the day everything changed. That was the day I started my life with Lily.
Josh Gloer is a writer living in Los Angeles, CA with his wife and their Camp Cocker alumni, Lily. If you would like to comment on Life with Lily, please feel free to email Josh at: firstname.lastname@example.org