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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Dogs Are The Real Winners in 2020

‘Well, you know it’s ridiculous really, Dearbhla mollycoddles the dog,’ my father said to my brother, pointing to Lily and raising his eyes up to heaven.
‘So, what are you doing tomorrow then?’
‘I don’t know. It really depends on what Lily wants to do,’ my father replied looking down at our geriatric golden retriever as if she was about to answer him with a full list of her plans for the day.

Our four-walled world is controlled by our 14-year-old dictatorial dog Lily. She spends half the day lolling about the house moving from one awkward spot to another and the other half barking at the door to be let outside… and then immediately back inside. During lockdown, she has become far too used to having five of us at her disposal. So satisfied is she with her own self-importance, Lily is completely oblivious to the chaos she causes. She has proven to be a perilous obstacle for my octogenarian grandparents with an innate ability to sprawl across the entire floor in contented ignorance, blocking all viable entrances and exits to the kitchen. My 86-year-old grandfather is forced on a daily basis to treacherously navigate the entire perimeter of the room, clinging on to the wall with one hand while attempting to balance himself with his cane in the other. Lily merely raises her head in curiosity and then lies back down, making no immediate attempt to move.

Riddled with arthritis, she slips and slides on the stone floor when trying to hoist herself up, so we put rugs down to help with her grip. But she much prefers to plonk herself beside the rugs, rendering their sole purpose redundant. She has recently discovered that she doesn’t actually have to make much of an effort to get up anymore as someone will inevitably come to her rescue. When she does decide to move, you are alerted to this by the distinct feeling of being watched. You turn to see Lily’s eyes boring into you, her chin jutting out obstinately. She then puffs her cheeks in and out as she emits a low rumbling noise. Having already forced my grandparents to circumnavigate the entire room, she sighs in frustration at the obvious slow response to her needs. Indicative of this dissatisfaction, she then barks. About ten times the size of a chihuahua and definitely carrying a little pandemic weight, hauling her off the ground is not what you would call easy.

Although my father spends his life giving out about ‘the dog’, when no one is looking, he coos to her as a parent would their new baby. She lets him know around 10pm each night that she would like to go to bed by staring at him intently and smacking her paw on the ground. As she refused to sleep alone in the living room and is unable to navigate the staircase on account of her arthritis, she is walked down the hill alongside the house, no matter the weather, to my parent’s room. She then proceeds to wake my parents up at frequent intervals each night, sometimes because she is in pain, but mostly to be let out to roll on the grass.

As she has become so used to being an ‘only child’, she is exceptionally spoiled. She gets a roast chicken made especially for her every few days for her breakfast, and lately has decided she doesn’t like mixing her dog biscuits with the chicken and stock, so she gets served two meals per day, plus all of her medication with cheese.

Considering herself a rank above me in the pecking order, and unwilling to be left out of the action, I am pushed out of the way as she squeezes her enormous derriere past my chair and slowly wiggles herself between me and the table at dinnertime. I am then forced to reach over her to eat my food as she grins up at me in the smug way of someone who has gotten their own way.

Lily had had a secret life before my parents left Bahrain in the Middle East, where she arrived from Donegal as a puppy. Having had insignificant warning to dig up and collect all the chews she had buried in the garden over the years, her plans to live out her days from her secret stash were thwarted. So, just before the lockdown in March, when she discovered an open bag of chews on the ground amidst our packing, she seized her moment and began stocking up. Her eyesight dampened by age, meant she was totally unaware that my mother could see her removing them, one by one from the bag and hiding them in her bed...and eating some for good measure.

One day, she was being particularly demanding so I gave her an enormous chew that I knew would take at least an hour of her time to get through as she made her way happily down to the garden. After a while, I peered over the balcony to see what she was up to and spotted her trying to bury the half-eaten chew in my mother’s newly planted rose bush. Proving to be a bit of an effort, she gave up and made her way up to the raised bed, scattered with beautiful summer flowers and lovingly sown plants. She then began scratching fervently at the soil beside a large spider plant, dirt flying into the air. All very subtle. She stopped briefly to make sure no-one was spying on her, planted her chew carefully in the hole she had just created and then covered it up with her nose. Satisfied, she bounded back to the house, barked at the front door, and panting in delight, treaded soil all through the hall. Obviously, now utterly exhausted from all her gardening, she plopped herself down on the kitchen floor, and fell asleep for the rest of the day.

She is the real winner in all of this.

* Since writing this, our lovely Lily has gone to the kennel in the sky. Her back legs couldn't hold on any longer. She waited for my brother to make it home for Christmas, barked at me one more time in the kitchen for attention, and her little legs gave way. She was the goodest, most spoiled doggo that ever was and we loved her very much.


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