Today is the day. Our sweet senior Greyhound, the incomparable Lady Lilac, turns sixteen years old today. I never, ever thought I’d end up being the human servant to a Greyhound who lived to be sixteen years old.
When we were new to Greyhound adoption, there was a Greyhound named Suzie who lived to be twenty one years old, and I recall being amazed when I read about her. She’s a legend in the Greyhound community. I hoped that Treat would be one of those legends, but it wasn’t to be.
Lilac came to us at seven and a half years old, retired first from racing and then from being a brood mama. She had two litters of puppies, and one of those puppies is our own Blueberry, who is now a senior hound herself at nine and a half. We had two Greyhounds at that time, Treat and Hawk, who were both two years younger than Lilac. When we’d talked about adding another hound to our pack, we talked about adding a younger dog who could help take some of the burden off Treat and Hawk in our busy schedule of doing meet and greets and nursing home visits. A younger dog would be able to step in as they slowed down. Instead, we added Lilac, telling ourselves that she’d be with us for a few years and then that spot in our home would open again and a younger dog could join in.
Lilac has never been a fast-paced sort of girl. She always took things at her own pace, and that was one of the reasons we didn’t think she’d be with us for too long. Still, as Treat and Hawk started to get grey faces and show their age, Lilac’s face remained youthful, and many people were surprised to hear that she was actually two years older than them. I never dreamed that she’d outlive them both.
Two years ago, she had an episode that scared the daylights out of me. I was home from work with the flu, and I’ve never been so glad that I was sick. It looked like she was having a stroke to me, but the vet told us it was a seizure. She spent the night at the vet’s office and then returned home, the day before her birthday. I thought we were on very borrowed time with her. Her back end was noticeably weaker, but she made a lot of improvement. Before long, she was back to being her sweet, sassy self.
She’s had several of those spells since then, and they always scare me. Darned if she doesn’t bounce back every time, though. Our old lady has traveled all over the place with us, too, despite her strong dislike of moving vehicles. The fact that she made it out to Gettysburg with us this past Spring and walked all the way through the vendor area still amazes me. She’s a tough old bird, no doubt about it.
I’ve learned so many things from her along the way. She’s taught me the beauty of old age. I hope that I can be even half the old lady that she is when I get into my senior years. She lives life on her own terms. If she wants to lay in front of the fan all night, she does. She also doesn’t hesitate to tell us what’s on her mind, whether it’s concerns about Timmy in the well, displeasure over her bed or fan arrangements, or that she loves us, she’s straightforward and in your face about it. I hope that I remember not to tell those I care about what they mean to me. I’ve learned patience in spades while I live with her, learned that sometimes you just have to leap into what you want and worry about the landing later, and that sometimes while an iron will can take you far, you need to bend a little and accept help from those who love you.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t accepted Lilac’s plan and made her a permanent part of our home. I don’t know if she’d still be alive or not. I know that our lives have been infinitely richer because we took in a scraggly little used up dog. Even we didn’t realize what a journey we were in for when we adopted her. She’s now lived more than half of her life here with us. Those older dogs often still have a lot of living to do.
We’re celebrating Lilac’s big day today, and every day that she’s with us. You never know what the future will bring you, but it’s often something beyond what you ever hoped for. Enjoy the journey you share with your pets, no matter how long or short it is. Happy Birthday, Lilac!