A tribute to Lilah 2009 – 2023

Sweet Lilah, with the soulful eyes.

Sweet Lilah, with the soulful eyes.

Lilah died from hemangiosarcoma in April of 2023, just four months after we lost Jasper from the same horrible disease. As with Jasper, we had just enough time for family to gather and say goodbye. 

The stories of Lilah and Jasper begin the same way—in life and in writing.

I had just lost my terrier Rosie to cancer. She was only four years old, and I was devastated. Pasha, my 13-year-old Keeshond mix, was showing his age and I knew his days on this earth were numbered. I couldn’t imagine a life that had zero dogs and so, still grieving Rosie very hard, I searched on Petfinder, hoping to adopt another pup so I would have at least one dog when it was Pasha’s time to go. I came across a black puppy from the rescue group Husky House. I had heard that black dogs were harder to adopt. That was as good a reason as any in my bereaved state. She was called Beauty, as in Black Beauty.

“Littermates:” Jasper and Lilah

On my visit to meet Beauty, as I came around the corner of the foster’s house, I heard this big Rottweiler-sized bark; I was so surprised to see it come from the mouth of a small black puppy. A bigger dog was galumphing by her side and he let out a little princess bark. I learned quickly that the princess bark dog was named Spike—and I decided both of them needed better names, and with that I realized that both of them were coming home with me.

We replaced the name Spike with Jasper, as he was no more a Spike than I was Ernest Hemingway. Lilah had glossy black fur— Border Collie and black lab mix—and a tail that curled like a furry banner over her back. She was a great combination of beauty and brains; I named her Lilah, the Hebrew word for “night.”

You can read more about how Jasper and Lilah came into my life in my story “The Sound of Home” in the book Second-Chance Dogs, a collection of stories edited by Callie Smith Grant.

Adopting Lilah and Jasper together was the best thing for both of them. Lilah gained confidence in her brother’s presence. And Jasper adored his sister and loved being with her, outside in the yard, just sniffing and watching the world of nature in our back yard.

Like any dog bred to herd, nothing escaped Lilah’s notice. At first that was a challenge for her, because it made her hyper vigilant, afraid of new things. I called on my go-to trainer, Anne Macaulay, of On Good Behavior. After we went through some basic training, she recommended that Lilah and Jasper take classes in agility. I couldn’t imagine Lilah being around so many new and scary things on the field. But Ann was right, and, it was exactly as she suggested: Lilah found her confidence on the agility field. You can read an entire story about Lilah becoming brave here on my blog. Lilah learned to trust me; she came to understand that I would never put her in a situation that would make her uncomfortable.

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While Lilah’s confidence grew over time, there were still a few things that unnerved her. We live near a quarry—near enough that we could hear the warning  tones, and feel the blasts rocking the house and rattling the windows when they came. Lilah learned to associate the tone with the blast, and she would shake in anticipation. We got on the call list, so we could be notified when they were going to blast; this enabled us to keep Lilah inside, turn on a noisy fan or music, and distract her from the first tone to the all-clear. Lilah also didn’t like wind; we got her a vest to wrap her in, and that helped on windy days. I would ask her if she wanted to wear her shirt, and she’d wag her tail and walk over to me to put it on her.

Lilah dog in comfort vest

Lilah wearing her comfort shirt.

The only other thing that Lilah didn’t like were flies, buzzy little things that had no business being in in the house. She didn’t mind them outside, but if there was a fly inside, Lilah would hide in one of her safety caves. I made sure there were plenty of places to serve as caves in our house. A bed under my desk. A soft, dark crate in the corner by my desk. A bed tucked in the corner between a bookcase and the wall, behind the cat tree.

Lilah in one of her crate caves.

Lilah in one of her crate caves.

Lilah was so smart, and always knew how to get what she wanted, and she would most often do so in very gentle and subtle ways. If our terrier, Tucker had a toy that Lilah wanted, she would grab another toy—which she didn’t really want—and play with it, prancing around the room and tossing it in the air like it was the best toy in the universe. Tucker could never help himself in that situation; he would drop Lilah‘s desired toy to grab and play with the one that she had, which looked like ever so much more fun. Lilah would then pick up the toy she really wanted and trot away with it, leaving Tucker a bit puzzled as to why the toy he was now playing with wasn’t quite as much fun as he thought it would be.

Lilah and Tucker. She thought disemboweling a stuffy toy was undignified.

Lilah and Tucker. She thought disemboweling a stuffy toy was undignified.

Lilah was a quirky dog. When we went places in the car, she would lie in the footwell—not the seat, never the seat. We used to say that Lilah was part dog, part cat, and part goat. She loved to hop up on things: that was the goat part. But she had cat-like personality. She liked to be petted, but only on her terms. And if she had enough, she would get up and walk to another part of the room or another spot in the house. There was no judgment. She just was done being peopled.

Lilah sometimes like to keep herself to herself.

Sometimes Lilah like to keep herself to herself.

That said, Lilah was a phenomenal judge of character. She could tell when someone was a good person, a mensch. A few people who exuded centered calmness earned Lilah’s highest accolade, which was for her to lay at their feet, on their feet. I could count on one hand the few people who earned that honor.

Lilah loved her brother as well. We often referred to her as Dr. Lilah, because by watching her, I could always tell when something was wrong with Jasper.

Lilah and Jasper often lay next to each other, bodies touching. They were always close.

Lilah and Jasper often lay next to each other, bodies touching. They were always close.

Besties, forever

Besties, forever

When he was in the early stages of an ear infection, Lilah would start sniffing his ears and licking them. I began to trust her instinct and would bring her to the vet whenever she started being interested in his ears; we could catch ear infections before they became a problem.

Lilah licks Jasper's ear very light

Lilah cleans Jasper’s ear very gently.

When Tucker joined our family, Lilah learned to love him as well, and accepted him as brother, taking him under her care. With Tucker, Lilah was usually the one to notice if he was injured, a not-uncommon occurrence with my peripatetic terrier. 

Normally protective of her space, Lilah would let Tucker curl up next to her, and even rest his head on her back. 

Tucker often used Lilah as a pillow. She didn’t mind. “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.”

Lilah learned to like the cats as well. There was one moment when we had just adopted Athena and Dawn—our first cats—when Lilah leaned over and gave a kitten a little lick, and gently put her mouth on the tiny head. Then she looked at us as if to say, “I wasn’t going to eat her. I just wanted to taste her.“ And then she wagged her tail.

When Calvin was a kitten, Lilah would let him play with her, not ever commenting on the pointy bits.

Lilah was a dog with a sense of humor. She would sometimes walk up to one of the cats—usually Athena—and just nose her gently. Athena would let out a disgruntled “Merp!” And Lilah would walk away, wagging softly with a smile on her face.

And Lilah did smile. When she was in a particularly happy mood, she would show her teeth in the sweetest expression. 

Lilah's smile

Lilah’s smile

Lilah's smile

Again

 

Lilah's smile

And again

Her smile.

Her smile.

She took care of those teeth too. She loved to play with the stuffed animals—and particularly like the ones that had whiskers. She would gently nibble on them as if she was flossing her teeth.

Lilah "flossing" her teeth.

Lilah “flossing” her teeth.

As a black dog, Lilah felt the heat more than Jasper, and later, Tucker. In the summer, she would find a cool, safe spot under a rhododendron. Jasper sometimes joined her there.

Lilah cooling off in her rhododendron cave.

Lilah cooling off in her rhododendron cave.

Unlike her brothers, she did not mind water; the boys didn’t even like getting their paws damp. If they were playing a chase game in the summer when I had the baby pool out, Lilah would jump into the pool, using it as a home base, as she knew that neither Jasper nor Tucker would willingly step foot in that pool, unless there were high-value treats involved.

Lilah loved the pool; the other dogs, not so much

Lilah loved that pool. She would jump in and walk in circles to cool off on hot days. She stuck her snout under the water and blew bubbles out through her nose. When she lifted her face up, water would stream down from her tidy snout. The same thing would happen after she drank from her water bowl; when she was done, Lilah would leave a droobling trail on the floor as she walked away, always, always softly wagging that tail like a flag, like a banner, held high above her.

Dog in pool

After blowing bubbles in the pool

When Lilah felt too warm in the house, she would lie at the bottom of our stairs in the front hallway with her body on the cool tile, and her head resting on the bottom stair. She always looked so comfortable there, and we learned to stop over her so as not to disturb her.

Lilah thinks this is comfortable.

Lilah thinks this is comfortable.

Lilah also loved winter, particularly when it snowed. She’d prance outside and revel in the white stuff. It didn’t matter how deep it was; she would pounce her way through it. Just like she’d stick her nose in the pool in the summer, Lilah would shove her snout in the snow, and when she pulled back, her face would be covered with white patches.

Lilah loved the snow.

Lilah loved the snow.

The only thing she she didn’t like was when snow got caught in between her paw pads, so I would trim the fur between her toes, and she’d wait patiently for me to finish. Lilah loved snow so much that  after the snow began to melt away, she would find whatever tiny patch of it was left—no matter how small—and would lie or sit on it, in pure contentment.

Lilah on small patch of snow.

Lilah would find the last patch of snow in the yard and claim it as hers.

Lilah in the snow

Lilah in the snow; tail high, with a sweet prance.

Lilah. Love.

Lilah. Love.

Lilah making friends with a snow dog

Lilah making friends with a snow dog

Snow always showed up bright against Lilah's dark fur. I though she looked like a chocolate donut with sugar sprinkles.

Snow always showed up bright against Lilah’s dark fur. I though she looked like a chocolate donut with sugar sprinkles.

Lilah was very sweet and very gentle. When she needed to teach either Jasper or Tucker doggy manners, she would chastise them with a sharp bark, and then apologize with little soft chitters, whispered in their ears, accompanied by a low wag of apology. She was the sweetest of pies—and I told her that every night when after I whispered in her ear how much I loved her.

Lilah and Halley

Lilah and Halley, after Jasper died. They grieved together, sought comfort in each other.

I miss Lilah terribly. I miss her deep, soulful eyes. I miss her wag. I miss her drooble face. I miss her smile. I miss her sense of humor. I miss her kindness and her gentleness. I miss her at the bottom of the stairs. I miss her curled up by the couch. I miss her sitting on the ottoman and staring out the window with her snout resting on the windowsill, leaving little doggie nose prints.

That face. Those soulful eyes.

That face. Those soulful eyes.

Lilah, outside

Lilah, outside

My sweet girl

My sweet girl

Lilah left noseprints on the window in her favorite spot—and in my heart.

Lilah left nose prints on the window in her favorite spot—and in my heart.

Because of the love she had for Jasper, I take a small amount of comfort that she died four months after he did, so she didn’t have to miss him for very long.

3 dogs

When there were three. G-d, I miss them.

 

Lilah, my sweet girl, I miss you.

Lilah, my sweetiest of pies, I miss you.



4 Comments on "A tribute to Lilah 2009 – 2023"

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  1. My heart breaks for you. I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Lilah. She sounds like she was such a unique and special dog. So sad that you lost her so close to Jasper. Been there.

    Sending love and hugs.♥

  2. Charles Huss says:

    It looks like she was a wonderful dog. Losing her and Jasper so close together must have been very difficult.

  3. There’s always been something about Lilah that grabbed my heart. That face … those eyes … they felt like home. Sending you love, Susan.

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