The Most Amazing Photo (of Dogs I Love)

All the Dogs that Look Like Lily T. Wolf ❤

From “Here’s Where the Arctic’s Wildlife Will Make Its Last Stand,” National Geographic, January 2018 PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL NICKLEN

Lily T. Wolf in her first and only REAL snow storm, March 2015

Walking in the snow with a dog who loves snow is a kind of transcendental thing, particularly if you love snow, too. Only a couple times in the lives of my Siberian huskies was I able to share that with them, and Lily was the ONLY one who got to experience real nordic cold and a legit snowstorm. Otherwise, if it snowed in the mountains where I lived in California, a rare event but it happened, we were OUT in it as soon as it was possible.

Now I don’t have a Siberian husky, but I have Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog. She and I took our first REAL winter walk of the year this afternoon. It was a balmy 17 F (- 8 C). We took off across the golf course (who’s surprised?) and out into the big empty.

I didn’t expect to see the deer. They really are gone. One of the property owners north of the golf course is now shooting at geese and if I were one of my deer (highly intelligent deer, by the way) I wouldn’t hang around. On our return, the scent in the air was a mixture of gunpowder and piñon. Bear did not like the smell, but the sound of the shots didn’t seem to bother her.

I’d forgotten the exquisite pleasure of walking in the cold on a still, sunny day with the best companion I could ever ask for. It was really perfect.

Bear and me looking toward the place where “our” deer should be, Bear leaning against my legs to keep me safe from danger. ❤

The Outer Frail

Lily was fifteen years old when she came to Colorado from Southern California in mid-September, 2014, in a Dodge minivan with her person — the captain — and her two sidekicks, Dusty and Mindy. It was a journey fraught with dangers — like the time when, all by herself, she got out of the mini-van at the rest-stop on the Planet Mars (El Centro). Fortunately the captain of the minivan saw her and jumped out to rescue her from the two friendly but bewildered Martians who were looking at her in puzzlement; “How did a Siberian husky arrive on Mars, alone?”


Lily on Mars (El Centro rest stop), this time with life support

Lily was blind and nearly deaf. Her hips were tired from a lifetime of hikes and hunts. But when she got to Colorado, she found her power-place. Outside the small cabin in South Fork, Lily’s first Colorado home, there was a field with a trail beside the river. Never in her life had Lily experienced such wonderful smells or the coolness of the evening breeze. She woke up the minivan captain every morning at first light to go out and hunt. Some nights Lily smelled bear and coyote on the wind as she licked it with her tongue.


Lily of the Field

After a while, the captain packed everything and they went to their house in a small town. The yard was covered with soft green grass, which felt so much better to Lily than had the hot dirt and foxtails at their old place in California.

Lily spent as much time as she could outside, especially at night, because it was cold and clear. If she’d been able to see, and had the inclination to look up (but being a Siberian husky it wasn’t very likely) she would have seen more stars than she’d seen in her whole life. She liked being part of a pack and Dusty and Mindy were good and loyal pack mates. Then she met another dog named Shoe when the captain’s friend, L, came to visit. Shoe instantly recognized Lily’s advanced age, her frailness and her heroic nature. Lily and Shoe exchanged stories, and they were friends from then on.

Lily Shoe and Mindy


At Christmas time, Lily went to visit the pack in Colorado Springs and had a very happy Christmas with treats, turkey, giblets, a dog door, cool evenings and lots of love. Though there were young dogs in the pack, they recognized Lily’s advanced age — now 16 — her wisdom, humor and frailty and they were considerate and playful at the same time. Lily was happy. One of them, Satchmo, the youngest of all, kept an eye on Lily at all times and one night when Lily got herself stuck under a patio chair (she was blind, remember) Satchmo sent up an alarm and the captain went out and freed Lily. (In the photo below, he is lying with his back against Lily)

Christmas with the pack

Christmas Morning, 2014

Life was uneventful for a month or two until, in February, there was the first real snow of the year. Lily was in Siberian husky Heaven and spent hours walking back and forth in the snow in the yard.


Pulling the Dogsled of Dreams

Then, in March, Lily began having nightmares and she woke up every night screaming and crying. The captain couldn’t comfort her and neither could Dusty who stayed with her all the time. After a while, it was clear to the captain that Lily’s mind and spirit had become frail and that Lily was suffering. They got into the car and this time the captain came home alone. Dusty and Mindy read the story in the scent on the captain’s clothes.

Dusty missed Lily very, very much and so did the captain, but there was no way to bring her back. After a while, the captain began looking for a new dog, a young dog, to keep Dusty company. She found one at the local shelter who looked at her with Lily’s blue eyes. The dog had been born around the same time as Lily died, so the captain thought, “That’s my dog,” and she was right.

Lily RIP

I thought I’d write the end of the story. I took Lily to the absolutely wonderful vet here in Monte Vista, Dr. Crawford at Alpine Veterinary Hospital. I’d told the receptionist this morning that I wasn’t sure but what Lily might need to be put to sleep, so when I came in, they were ready. The place was empty; a coincidence, but I was relieved. I know what was happening was written on my face.

Lily had lost 12 pounds since our last visit in October; not a good sign. The Vet Tech (awesome guy, too) took us to an examining room. I sat in the chair and lifted Lily onto my lap and held her as close to me as I could. I didn’t have her when she was a pup and this was the first time I’d held her on my lap. I felt her relax in my arms and I wasn’t going to let go. Dr. Crawford came in and talked over all the options with me. “It won’t work very long,” he said, “but you’d have her a little while longer.” I honestly did not want Lily to experience any of this hell again, and we both agreed that as Lily was often terrified and almost always disoriented, we’d do the kind thing before she got worse. I did not want to set her down or let go of her. It must have been a pretty interesting picture. They moved the furniture out of the way and brought a clean quilt to put on the floor. Dr. C gave Lily a tranquilizer and soon Lily relaxed. At that point, I set her on the quilt and got on the floor with her.

Dr. C explained every single thing he did and though I’d been through this already many times in my life, I was grateful for what he was doing. He got on the floor with Lily and me. He let me help, which I appreciated. We talked about Lily’s life when she was “real” and all the things we’d done together. The Vet Tech had also had many huskies and he agreed they were wonderful. But, he said, “I couldn’t take it no more,” meaning what I was going through.

Lily went peacefully in my arms with kind men and a clean quilt and a quiet room. No one was dry-eyed, but we collected ourselves and Dr. C said, “We’ve been through this too. It’s just so very hard when it’s a dog who’s your friend.” I appreciated that because while I think the “Furbaby” thing is cute, my dogs have not been babies to me. They’ve been partners in crime, my equals, my friends. Furreinds as my friend L says. They both gave me big hugs and I went out and paid.

That was a shock. In San Diego that procedure was usually around $300. I paid $63. That is the difference between living in an economy where animals are a necessary aspect of most people’s lives vs. an environment where animals are life enhancements.

I came home with Lily’s smell and the smell of death on my clothes. Mindy and Dusty were busy smelling me and learning the whole story. They were excited for a while, but they’ve calmed down. Dogs are wise and I will take my cue from them.

Thank you everyone who’s read my posts about my dog and shared your care and concern and good advice. It has meant a lot to me and helped me.

First Night of the World

“No, please, no. No. Dammit. OK.” Augusta got up from her warm bed, pulled on warm clothes and opened her bedroom door to the small room that sufficed as everything — dog crate, living room, office, kitchen, dining room and hallway. “You poor baby. I dragged you all the way out here, the least I can do is take you out to pee.” The pale yellow creature lay at her feet, looking toward her with blind eyes. “Come on. No, don’t bite me. C’mon, Lily. You’ll get used to it,” she said, hooking the leash to the dog’s harness. Siberian huskies will run — even this old one would do her best — given half a chance. A simple collar was no insurance against that. After finding Lily with her head stuck under a chain link fence, trapped by the little hoop that held her tag, Augusta had found a different way to ID her dog, Twenty minutes later, Lily would have been dead. Augusta still shivered every time she thought of the goodness of fate, that she’d found her dog in time.

“You two can come too.” Dusty and Mindy got up from their comfortable sleep, instantly ready to go outside. Augusta worried about large animals — bears, particularly, having found bear scat on their trail — so she leashed Dusty and Mindy, too. Once they were out, in the dark night — or very early morning — Augusta realized she had forgotten her flashlight.

Nothing compared to this. No shimmer of dust or atmosphere came between her and the “glorious firmament.” Orion stood above her, only beginning his descent, pushed aside by Old Sol’s flaming shove. Silence. Complete silence. No trucks on the state highway, no coyotes, nothing. Like the first night of the world.

“Good girl,” she whispered to Lily then to Mindy. “Good girl.”

Augusta slowly became aware of a constant whooshing sound to her right. What? “The river,” she realized. “It’s the river. I haven’t heard it before. The traffic. I’m in the old days, now, before all this.” Augusta thought for a moment — how would it be if? She wanted to stay there, to imagine this, but the beauty was cold, as cold as her refrigerator. Colder. Her eyes were filled with tears, not from sorrow or from joy, simply from the cold. “C’mon you guys. I should’ve worn a hat.”

She took one last look at the sky and knew that she would always remember stepping out into the first night of the world. Silently she thanked Lily. “I wouldn’t have been out here if you hadn’t had to pee,” she thought, “you sweet wild thing.”

Death Where is Thy Sting?

“Whoa. How did that happen? I was planning to write and work in the garden and walk the dogs!”

“The usual. A coronary. You just didn’t think those pills did anything, did you? Well, now you know. You should’ve kept taking them.”

“So this is Heaven?”

“Not quite, sweet cheeks. This is the vestibule. There are a few of you — fence sitters, I’d call you — that just couldn’t quite believe.”

“I never didn’t believe.”

“But you never believed, either.”

“Sure I did. I believed in a lot. I believed in ‘Sufficient unto the day is the malice thereof.’ I believed, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ I believed in ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ I believed ALL of the Sermon on the Mount. I believed a bunch of other stuff, too.”

“We are aware of that. But, you also believed in the story of Krishna and Arjuna. You found Shiva to be a worthy role model — you IDENTIFIED with him!”

“Well, yeah. He went up to the mountain to straighten himself out and get over his broken heart and someone shot him with an arrow and he fell in love and BAM! Down the hill he went… And more! You have to admit, those stories have a lot of resonance for human beings.”

“Well, exactly. That’s why you’re here. Waiting in the vestibule. St. Paul will be out shortly to ask you questions.”

“I think I’d rather talk to God directly.”

“Oh yes, and then there is that Anabaptist stuff. You were really all OVER the religious map, weren’t you?”

“Well, wisdom is wisdom, dude. It’s impossible to get too much. It’s difficult down there. Confusing. No one knows what will happen next. It’s difficult perching on the edge of that uncertainty.”

“That’s where faith comes in, sweet cheeks. Looks like you were running a little short of it from time to time. That’s another reason you’re here.”

“Where are all my dogs? I thought this would be a forest with a little stone house in it and my friend Pietro and all my dogs running free in the woods.”

“You thought THAT!?? Wow, you even made up your own paradise!”

“Does that place exist here in the afterlife?”

“Sure. It’s over there somewhere. Nasty place where you must pick up after your dogs. Dismally earth-like.” The angel shuddered.

“Are my dogs there?”


“Molly, Truffle, Kelly, Maggie, Cheyenne, Lupo, Ariel, Mila, Big Puppy (now sane), Daisy, Persephone, Cody O’Dog, Lily, Jasmine, Dusty, Mindy — all of them? And my dogs now? Will they be coming up here? Is this ‘up’?”

“Yes. In good time.”

“Do I have to wait in line there and be interrogated by St. Paul?”

“No. You just go in.”

“I want to go there.”

“But you have a chance at paradise!”

“What paradise would it be for me without them? How do I get there?”

“Go down this hill…”

“Oh, hills…”

“It’s OK. You’re dead. You won’t feel anything. Just go down this hill, turn left at the bottom, go straight for, oh, about 2 miles and go left again. You’ll go a little further, and then, on your left, will be a sign. Go under the gate. Remember, left. Always left.”

“And I’ll spend eternity in a forest with my dogs?”