On several occasions now, I have made reference to Lilly the Dog. I have probably not properly established her identity. Lilly came into my life after a trip to the Indy Humane Shelter in early May, during which I swore I was “just looking” and “not going to be too hasty.”
A trip to the Humane Shelter can certainly break your heart. God bless those volunteers and employees who go there every day and clean out cages and try to give love to too many animals who all have a consuming need for one person’s love and attention. As I walked through the dog area, every cage I passed held a dog demanding my attention, body-slamming the cage, barking at an ear-splitting level; using every resource at his or her disposal to get my attention. Too much.
But the dog in the second-to-the-last cage at the end was different. At first I thought she might be sick, because she just laid on her dog bed and looked at me. Didn’t move. Didn’t wag her tail. Maybe she didn’t like people. What kind of dog doesn’t like people? I was fascinated by this dog that was completely ignoring me. Her cage told me her name was “Dusty.” What a dreadful name for such a pretty dog. According to her paperwork, she had been transferred here from another shelter. Lord only knows how long this dog had lived in a cage. I asked to take her outside.
Once she got out of the cage, she came to life. She ran in circles for a few minutes, dutifully went potty, and then came and sat right down next to me, put her head on my knee and gazed adoringly into my eyes. Her look said, “Do not toy with me. Either take me home or walk away right now.”
Uh oh… Yep, I was a goner.
So, long story short, Lilly (because who would call a dog Dusty?) lives with me now. And we’ve had our challenges. There was the mattress pad that somehow provoked her into shredding it while it was still on the bed. (I returned home to a very creative down-alternative sculpture.) And there was the time I foolishly left my beautiful sky-blue Michael Kors tote bag on the floor. (I returned home to make-up, Kleenex and nail files shredded all over the floor, but the tote bag was unscathed. I think she was just fascinated by nail bag; possibly working on a pawdicure. Truly a dog after my own heart. )
But because we live in an apartment, and because the only time I’ve ever been known to run was when I was about to miss a flight, the one thing she couldn’t do was just cut loose and run. Which I imagined she must have been quite desperate to do after months in a cage. But until I was sure she was properly socialized with other dogs, I was afraid to try it. Until this morning.
Lilly and I met our Dog Whisperer, Michelle, at a dog park about fifteen minutes from here. No one else was there. After some instruction from Michelle about proper dog park etiquette, I took off her leash and told her, “Okay! Go! Run!” She stared at me as if I had said, “Here… eat this chicken breast and orzo off of this plate. I spent the last half-hour cooking dinner just for you.” She could not believe what she was hearing.
And then she started to run.
And she ran and she ran. And the look on her face was pure, unmitigated joy. It nearly brought tears to my eyes to see the joy on that dog’s face. And I thought to myself, maybe I should get out my phone and video this moment, so I dug out it out of my bag. And as I was watching her, running straight toward me, tongue flying, ears flapping, wearing this crazy-happy dog grin on her face, I hear Michelle saying something about not locking my knees.
The next thing I know my phone is flying through the air and I am ass-over-teakettle, eating grass. And my shin is in pure, unmitigated pain, and again, I’m on the verge of tears, but for a very different reason. I believe the term I’m searching for is hematoma.
Michelle reminds me that she TOLD me not to lock my knees and helps me up. I limp over to a nearby bench. Unfazed, Lilly continues to fly. It was worth a hematoma to see that dog fly. So now we’re back in the apartment. I have an ice pack on my shin and Lilly is crapped out on the floor, sleeping and dreaming. She makes funny little whimpering noises periodically, and I know she’s reliving the first time she flew. And I can’t wait to take her back.
But next time I’m sitting down.