R.I.P. Sweet Livia
In Memory of A Funny Little Monkey
Last night my friend Lilly lost her beloved Lhasa Apso, Livia. Two years ago, Livie was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and in the end it took her, but not without a fight, and not before some good times. Livie lived out her days with consummate grace, utterly unselfconscious about the impediments she’d acquired. She swayed and stumbled and sometimes forgot where she was; but she always came up smiling. Until one day she didn’t.
Livie started life the hard way. She was found on a porch in Bellingham, MA., one of a litter of abandoned, starving puppies. There were also two adult dogs on the porch. When the dog officer pounded on the door, there was lots of barking inside, but no one answered, so she took the outdoor dogs away .
The puppies were in rough shape, so starved they’d been nursing on each others’ ears, which were loaded with mites. There were signs of abuse from humans. Livie suffered neurological damage all her life, and would often cry and scratch at an ear, in spite of numerous attempts to diagnose the problem. She had a strange skip-a-beat gait and came at you at a slightly skewed angle. Never mind, though, Livie was not going to live life as a victim.
Lilly met Livie when the latter was about 4 months old and in the care of a rescue group. By that time the battered puppy had been transformed into a well-fed adolescent with an attitude. She rolled over and let Lilly pat her belly, then jumped up and eyed her expectantly. “So, we going home now?” And home they went.
Lilly took Livie to an off-leash park every day, often twice a day. The new adoptee didn’t know from transitions: she jumped right into a life of high-speed romps and mad dashes with narry a backward look. She took over Lilly’s spacious colonial home with aplomb, choosing her favorite spots and conquering a long wooden stairway with more guts than brains. There were two cats who cohabited with her, but once she found out they wouldn’t play, she treated them as irrelevant.
She loved the screened-in porch best. She would lie against the bottom of the screening, forcing it to bulge, then break. When passers-by came into view, she warned them off with the authority of a German Shepherd. If they were accompanied by a dog, she told it in no uncertain terms that this was her territory. From April to October she spent long hours scaring off burglars and defending her domicile. In cold weather, she did her best through the window from the back of the couch, but it just wasn’t the same.
Later Lilly moved to a condo with even more steps. Livie wasn’t phased. She wriggled impatiently if Lilly picked her up in an effort to help: she preferred to leap recklessly at the countless risers that were taller than she was. For many years, she raced up and down the stairway to Lilly’s unit, leaving human companions far behind.
Humans were, in fact, largely laggards to Livie. She had to train them and train them again; and then they still had trouble understanding. For example, if her human put her in a crate, she objected with a few barks. When they didn’t seem to get it, she barked more vociferously and destroyed the blanket they seemed to think would make her comfortable in this altogether unacceptable situation. If the human was so dense as to still not get it, she destroyed the crate as well as its contents, managing to escape via the top or sides. Then a nice nap on the couch to recover from her exertions. My nickname for her was Bratwurst.
Food was another issue. Livie didn’t eat just anything. To her it was elementary: food should have a pleasant odor and taste. It should be fresh and of good quality. But her human repeatedly gave her dry, stale lumps of who-knows-what. Odorless and tasteless, they remained on the floor where they belonged. It took repeated training for her human to finally prepare scrambled eggs and other tasty dishes. Baked chicken was a favorite, as were homemade soups and casseroles. Food was not a priority; if she was going to eat, it had to be good.
And for many years, it was all good. Whatever happened, Livia was okay. Vacation on the beach? Yeah, sure! A weekend at Tante Suze’s with the spaniel and the sheltie? Let’s go! A long day at home while her human went who-knows-where? Not the best, but an opportunity to relax and snooze. Livia was one of those dogs who could teach humans to roll with the punches, if the latter would just pay attention.
I miss Livia already and I suspect I’ll continue to do so. She taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you get through the bad times and take huge advantage of the good ones. You go with whatever’s happening and make it work to your advantage. When those who are bigger than you go against your will, you show them the error of their ways, whatever it takes and without negative consequences to yourself. When all else fails, you take a nap.