life lessons thanks to my dogs, Lily the Ridgeback

This Is What “Just a Dog” Looks Like

just a dog

Her name is Lily.  Some times I call her Lily Monster, Lily Bear or Lily McGilly.  A lot of times I call her Mama.  Most of the time, though, I just call her my best friend.

just a dog

A year and a half ago I met this floppy eared, big pawed, round eyed beauty.  She wasn’t meant to be mine but she made her way into the deepest part of my heart like it was nothing.  At the time, my life felt like it was falling apart and to many degrees, it was.  To spare you the details, I can tell you this: where I wanted my life to go and where it actually was going were gravely different.  When you plan for a life that just isn’t possible it’s no surprise how quickly the wind can come out of your sails, leaving you feeling very broken.

Rather than picking up the pieces of this broken dream, I found it easier to keep stepping on them, over and over again, until I was numb to the pain.  Yes, my sanity was in question at this point.  Yes, not many people knew what was going on.  Yes, that time still holds rank as the hardest experience of my life.

And yes… this Rhodesian Ridgeback named Lily stayed by my side the whole way through it.  Laying next to me, night after night, as I would cry myself to sleep.  Resting her sweet head on me as my restless mind replayed all of 2012.  Comforting me when I felt, for the first time in my life, the real, honest ache of regret.

just a dog

She offered a light when all was dark.  Comic relief when it felt like all I could do was cry.  And a loyal companion when loneliness became something I came to know all too well.  I can’t say she took away any of the pain I felt, or any pain I feel today, but “when I am sad there is no greater comfort than the silent devoted companionship of my dog.”  I’m not sure who first said that but I know, with certainty, just how true this is.

just a dog

It didn’t take long before I couldn’t remember life before Lily, nor did I ever want to imagine life without her.  The squeals I hear when she greets me after 2 hours or 20 minutes, her refusal to step foot in the rain yet play like a madman in the snow, stealing as much food as she possibly can get away with, and the sweetest snuggles you could ever imagine are cherished terribly in my house and heart.

To most people Lily is just a dog, a gorgeous dog, but dog nonetheless.

just a dog

To me, she’s someone I trust.  And I’m someone she trusts.  She’s who sleeps under the blankets with me and follows me to the bathroom every morning.  She’s my sidekick when I’m cooking or cleaning or running to the store.  She’s the reason my heart grew exponentially a year and a half ago and the reason I will lose a piece of myself when she leaves this world.

When life offered two scared but sweet, sensitive souls a chance to love one another we became each other’s family.  She was just a dog but I tell you, I’ve never had a better friend in my life.  I love her beyond measure!  And I am so grateful to have such a wonderful companion by my side.  Life won’t always be easy but I read somewhere that loving someone deeply gives you courage.  And that’s exactly how it feels to love my Lily.

just a dog

Oh, and if you’re wondering, life has completely changed since August of 2013.  Things have gotten a heck of a lot better but of course they did, because as most of us all know, life is so much better with a dog. :)



  • Caroline Wildfeuer

    February 21, 2015

    I can completely understand. I cry and laugh with a dog by my side.all they’ve stolen is my heart. And 5 he only way they will break it is by leaving this earth

  • Annik

    February 22, 2015

    Very nice writing Ashley! And a dear topic to my heart <3
    I quoted the citation you make reference in your last sentence last week on my fb page….

    Lao Tzu ― “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

    With love from Ekhaya and me in Switzerland and Becca over there in the light

  • Douglas Burnum

    February 22, 2015

    What a great write, Ashley. My Bella was a pup when she was adopted by me, and through the most difficult time in my own life she helped me live, and then thrive amid it all. She had her own struggles being frowned upon as a bully breed, but she is my definition of kindness, and loyalty, that I’d want to reflect in my own life.

Comments are closed.