In all modesty I must report that my daughter is a beautiful creature.
She has golden eyes rimmed with black eyeliner and a delicate shaped head. Her teeth are polished white and her nose is just the right color pink. She has a slim, athletic build and when she relaxes on the floor she frequently crosses her hands one over the other in a most ladylike gesture of patience and relaxation. Her hair is blond-white and shiny.
When we go out in public strangers stop us and compliment me on her beauty. Her name is Lily.
Her breath is a different matter altogether: It stinks. Her halitosis is caused by the consumption of pigs' ears, which we buy in bulk because they are her favorite treat. Sort of a canine potato chip. OK, so my daughter's a dog. Did I say hands in the above paragraph? I meant paws. Did I say hair? I meant fur. But you get the idea: I love her to death.
I didn't fully realize this until I came close to losing her. It happened on the Fourth of July, which, as you recall, was on a Sunday. Since it was a holiday I took her on an extra midday walk to the park. Once at the park she loves nothing better than to run in circles or eat grass or roll in the shade. She's not ambitious. But on this day she saw another dog being walked on the opposite side of a busy street.
I saw the dog, too. "Lily," I said in a deep warning voice. She looked at me, looked at the dog, and made up her mind. She streaked across the street. But not quite fast enough. I heard the screech of the tires, heard her yelp. By the time I got to her side, she had collapsed on the front lawn of the corner house. The homeowner, the driver, his kids, a passerby, we all crowded around Lily as she looked up at us smiling and wagging her tail.
"Beautiful but dumb," I muttered.
Lily had a broken bone but in a few painful weeks she healed. And I had to reassess. She is young, not dumb. Since that time she has matured. She's not afraid of cars, but she's careful. She listens to me and obeys. She has never run wildly into the street again. We don't go to the park as much as we used to and when we do she doesn't race around in mad circles. She seems to enjoy a quiet walk in the neighborhood just as much.
She has one or two close friends with whom she spends quality time. Her best friend is Georgie, an orange cat maybe the size of her leg. Lily likes to munch on his body and Georgie doesn't seem to be alarmed by so much close attention from her teeth. I know they've been at it when I pick Georgie up and his neck is sopping wet.
Lily has also adopted a new role, that of guard dog. It's a side of her that I've never seen. Sure, she barks when people come to the house. But over the summer when some construction work was being done she developed a strong territorial streak. If I wasn't at home to introduce her to a new worker, she had to be confined in a closed room or she would go nuts, snarling and showing her long white teeth, buffed to high gloss on Georgie's furry body.
"That's some watchdog you got, lady," one of the workers said.
"Really?" I ask in all innocence. "That's news to me." I look down at Lily who is sitting by my side. She yawns and wags her tail.
At night when we sit on the sofa and watch TV she climbs in my lap. She's a lab mix and not exactly petite.
"Lily, get down, for goodness sake," I protest. "You're cutting off my circulation. Go gum Georgie's neck." My new, obedient dog begins to clamber off, but first she turns and licks my face, nearly knocking me out with another blast of hot breath seasoned with the fragrance of pigs' ears.
I don't mind. She sits by my feet and licks my hand.
"Good girl, Lily."
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