Lexie’s first love


Lexie and Lili on top of pillow mountain.

Long before Charlie, Lexie had another love in her life.

Lili was a barrel-shaped black-and-tan cocker spaniel, with a penchant for licking anything. Hence the nickname Lili the Licker.

I rescued Lili from my former partner’s relative, who could not care for her anymore. Before I got her, Lili spent a good portion of her first year cooped up in a bathroom; after I brought her home I would often find her curled up in front of our toilet.

Lili stands guard at base camp.

The bond between Lex and Lili was fast and fierce. They followed each other through the house, and cuddled up together on the couch for a nap. Together they both learned what it meant to go camping, and the freedom of chasing wild animals through the woods.

And then there was what I’ll call “The Kissing Game.” Aah, yes. At first guests would find it charming. “Oh look, they’re kissing!” they would say, pointing at Lex and Lili’s makeout session. But after a few minutes, the mood would turn awkward. The feverish licking continued. And then, a couple minutes more — and they would still be going at it like a couple of teenagers, um, in heat.

“Go get a dog house,” I would cry out, pulling them apart, as my guests averted their eyes. Clearly I needed to have a talk with the girls about appropriate behavior when we had friends over.

They loved taking walks together. In all kinds of weather. This led to various accessories, ranging from doggie rain coats to Mutt-Luk booties to keep salt from bothering their tender paws. Once I snapped the leashes on them, Lex and Lili knew only one speed: GO! I was that person, both arms outstretched, blindly following two dogs trying out for a mush team.

Lili was a delicate flower. She had allergies that would cause her to break out in terrible sores. And then there were the ear infections. It was such a terrible case, that even her allergist could not prevent her from going deaf. We tried everything, including feeding her venison I bought at a wild game shop. I’d say there were moments when her allergies would subside, but inevitably they would return, raging out of control.

Even with her smelly ears, Lili was the only one for Lexie. She never turned her nose, and always snuggled in a bit closer.

Lili and Jilli wait for a summer storm.

What many people don’t know is that Lili was an expert crooner. The moment I walked out of eyesight, whether out into the front yard or into the next room, Lili would start winding up. It went something like: “woo-wooo-Woo-Wooo-WOO-WOOO-WOOOOO!”

The first time I heard her howl I thought she had broken a leg. My heart raced as I ran back into the house, only to find her happily panting. It was the beginning of a lifetime of false alarms. Fool me once, fool me a thousand times!

Lex and Lili were like an old married couple. They waited for each other before climbing the stairs to go to bed. They ate at the same time. They peed in unison on walks. Their bond was unbreakable.

Our last photo together.

So when Lili died, I was unsure if Lexie would survive.

For days, Lex curled up on Lili’s smelly pillow. She moped, and didn’t eat. She lost weight. But eventually she started showing interest in the world again. A year passed, and I’m sure she was convinced she would finish her days as a spinster.

Then Charlie came along.

Love is tender and unpredictable. And love has found Lexie again.

Lili would want that.

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Give a dog a bone


Charlie is bummed. The pool is closed for the season.

Charlie struts through the yard, drops his bone at the pool and contemplates his reflection. Orange and yellow leaves float in the water, signaling an end to a season.

I’m watching this from the kitchen, and I’m surprised when Lexie bursts through the dog door, and in a half-gallop tackles Charlie. In an instant, they are a blur of fur, paws kicking up dirt and fallen twigs. I grab my phone, and run outside. I can’t believe Lexie, at 14-plus years old and hobbled by kidney disease, is leading this race. She zooms by my legs, almost taking me out. I turn on the camera, and capture the rare burst of energy.

It’s autumn, and the crisp air and shorter days show no effect on Lex in this moment. She’s dancing like a doe in pursuit, and Charlie is working hard to keep up.

Matt remains in the kitchen, brewing his own special surprise: soup. Better yet, it means soup bones for a couple of unsuspecting pups. Tonight it is a beef barley, accented with morel mushrooms from our personal stash.

Lex chews her first bone.

After finishing our bowls, we ceremoniously lay a bone in front of each dog. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how Lex would respond. I had never given her a real bone before. She’s timid at first, gently sniffing it, then she lays down with it between her paws and starts chewing. She remained in that position for a good half hour.

I should mention Lex has been eating again. She eats in a frenzy, clumsily grabbing mouthfuls of her wet dog food, small bits sticking to the tip of her nose. After cleaning out her bowl, Lexie nudges Charlie from his puppy food and she finishes his kibble. Despite this, she remains for the most part fairly frail, and significantly underweight. Still, I know these feedings have given her amazing bursts of energy.

By the end of the night, Lexie snuggles her sleepy head into my lap. She opens one eye, then content I am still there she slowly drifts off. Her paws twitch and tremble, and I know she is chasing a rabbit into a hole. I run my fingers over her small frame, so thin that I can feel her spine jut through her fur. Lex jerks, and growls through her closed mouth. She’s got that rabbit cornered.

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Love Story: My name is Cupcake

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Today’s Love Story winner — and recipient of an Our Furever Family mug — is a Jack Russell terrier mix named Cupcake. She lives in New Jersey with her mom Genevieve Petrillo, who is a children’s author/poet. Mom had a German Shepherd … Continue reading