Lilly started slowing down at Christmas. Or anyway, it started to show more when compared with Christmases past: She didn’t jump into the chair with me, she didn’t offer to steal the cat’s or the other dogs’ food. She couldn’t make it all the way around the pond on the after-feast walk. She failed to resist being picked up when I hoisted her the rest of the way back to the house.
There were more bad days, when her arthritis kicked it up a notch, when she slept until noon and woke up only at my insistence that she get outside. She stopped trying to boss the world around, didn’t offer to bark when the doorbell rang. Her toys went unsavaged. She woke me three and four times a night to go outside --- at the same time that her reliable continence grew, um, unreliable. Her appetite faltered, she grew finicky.
Everyone knows how a dog story ends.
To me, Lilly was the best dog in the history of pets. She snored louder than any full-grown man and was so ugly that it was adorable. Full of character and optimism, she was both endlessly forgiving and breathtakingly flatulent. She was an ambassador of small dogdom even in the strange vet’s office as they administered the sedative and then the overdose of anesthetic.
We buried her between two apple trees on the Would-Be farm, on what we’ll call Small Dog Hill. When the double rainbow appeared right afterward, I felt less surprised to see it than simply grateful.
A rainbow. Of course. Easy saccharine sentiment, yes, and lazy theology most likely, but a comfort –– just like Lilly herself.