My dog Lily is in her 16th year of life and I know that her days are numbered. Our days together are numbered. She’s weak in her hips. Sometimes she’s confused about where she is. This is compounded because she’s blind and deaf. Sometimes she falls and I have to help her up. She still likes her breakfast and dinner. She’s still happy when I find her and pet her. She likes to do yoga with me (I have to do yoga in my kitchen). She’s not in much pain (good meds) but she gets frustrated when she can’t get up from her bed. Normally all I have to do to make her fine is to stand beside her in those moments; then she gets up. I don’t know exactly what’s going on in her mind, but somehow my being near makes it better.

I’ve had old dogs before. I’ve had to help many of them find their way into the next world where, I hope to God they’re all waiting for me. I imagine this as a forest — a Swiss forest — with a little stone house and all my dogs. That’s Heaven.

I have much less equanimity about Lily’s approaching “transition” than I have had about any of my other dogs I’ve had to put to sleep. I’ve been trying to figure that out so that when the moment comes I’m up to the job. Today, I figured it out.

Lily knew me “when.” We hiked miles and miles together; ran on snowy trails and climbed mountains. When she came to live with me, my arthritis had not manifested symptoms. The first day I had Lily, she and Jasmine, whom I adopted with Lily, and I took a hike in the mountains. It was the dogs’ first mountain hike and they loved it.

Jasmine and Lily soon after they came to live with me. Lily was 3; Jasmine was 8

Jasmine and Lily soon after they came to live with me. Lily was 3; Jasmine was 8

Over the few years we could do this we tracked deer, chased ground squirrels, drank from a well, looked out at the Salton Sea and watched the sun set on the Pacific — all standing in one spot on a wonderful wild trail in the Lagunas that led to Hays Peak. Lily and I once tried a short cut and learned a lot about how mean a chaparral hillside can be — but we had fun.

Lily is the last “person” in my life who knew me when I was “real.” That’s what I thought today. Lily isn’t “real” any more, either. It’s been a while. I have photos of the last “real” hike of her life — and it was my last hike, too, in a way. A former student, friend, from Germany came to visit and he and I took Cody and Lily up Garnet Peak. It was very hard for me to climb down (up was fine) that mountain and when we all got home, I saw how terribly sore Lily was. That was it.

Lily Garnet Peak-1

Lily on Garnet Peak

Lily still loves snow, she just loves it more slowly.

Lily enjoying the snowstorm, 2/22/2015

Lily enjoying the snowstorm, ten years after, 2/22/2015

I realized today that the sadness, for me, won’t only be the loss of Lily, though that will be terrible, it will also be that she is the last link to my own lost joys.

All I can do is have faith that when the moment comes it will be all right as it has been for my other dogs. My job now is to make some peace with my future and develop a new sense of what it means to me to “be real” for myself, but also so that Lily’s last moments in my arms will be peaceful with no sad telepathic messages coming to her from me to disturb her passing.


Dear Lily T. Wolf

Dear Lily —

This is a real miracle because today not only can you SEE you can READ.

Remember when we met more than ten years ago? Well, the day before I met you, my dog succumbed to a rattlesnake bite. That was Ariel. You eat from her dish. That’s her name written on it. I woke up that night realizing I would have no one to hike with without her! Lupo was too old, his hips too sore, to hike with me any more. I went online — going online wasn’t what it is now, but it was still there — and found a local Siberian Husky rescue. A woman had two dogs she needed to find a home for. That was you and Jasmine. I emailed and went back to bed. The next day, she brought you and Jasmine out to meet me. You don’t know her story — or do you? Her situation was pretty desperate and she had to find a home for both of you right away. She had no choice. You and Jasmine were free. I was — I felt — so lucky and your old owner felt so lucky on your behalf. I saved this. It’s the announcement where I found you and Jasmine. That’s you on top. See Jasmine? ❤


Of course, as huskies, you were both very beautiful. As my friend K said about you, “Lupo must feel like I would feel if my parents went out and brought back two Swedish models for me to live with.” I don’t think Lupo noticed, but I thought that was so funny that I taught you to come when I called, “Models!”

Your old owner said you were shy and might not take to me right away, but you did. You came forward in your crate and gave me a kiss, just like that. Jasmine, of course, was a Buddha. She met everything with a calm smile and peaceful resignation. What a sweet dog! You came in the yard and met Lupo and you liked him right away. He was a little annoyed but you didn’t care. You just got down on the ground with him and snuggled up. You and Jasmine were right at home. And then we took a hike, remember? You and Jasmine had never been in the mountains before — you both loved it! You loved it every time. We tracked deer, saw a bobcat, chased squirrels and most of all, we just went and went and went as far as we could in all those beautiful days. Do you remember our hike in the deep snow? That was so much fun. None of us cared that some of the drifts were more than two feet deep. We just went.

Your agouti fur, mostly pale yellow, and your blue eyes really attracted attention. I got the idea over the years with you that most people have never seen a Siberian husky. So many people, looking at your pale blue eyes, asked me if you were blind. Of course, you’re pretty blind now, but back in your prime, no moving critter escaped your watchful eye. I never saw a hunter like you! I’ll never forget you catching that mouse in the air in my office, the huge snake you caught, the kitten I had to finish off. Back when I used to call you “cat-killer” humans were shocked but you knew it was a title of honor. I had to see things through your eyes.

You scared me a couple of times. Huskies really are escape artists — you love to run! Remember when you got out of the yard and ran over the hills and far away? You didn’t come back. I finally gave up and went into town to do my shopping and when I was driving back, I saw you, covered in mud and fecal matter (you’d had a GREAT time out in the pasture) in the middle of the street. You were barely recognizable! I jumped out of the car just as a car coming the other way was about to hit you! I remember screaming, “NO!!!” and I grabbed your filthy self in my arms. You were always getting into stinky stuff. Remember when you got curious about that skunk? I have been often amused by the people who are attracted to your beauty with no idea what a wild and fierce beasty you actually were — and are inside, still.

Even on this trip to Colorado you managed to get out of the van at a rest stop in eastern California, in the desert, on a hundred degree day. I had just walked you and was in the van, thinking I’d shut you in safely, talking on the phone to the bank about my “earnest money” on the house I’d hoped to buy, when I saw a husky outside, wandering around. For a second or two, I didn’t realize it was you. I just thought, “What idiot would let their husky wander around a rest stop by the Interstate?” then I realized that the idiot was me. I ran — yeah, I did — across the hot, black tar and caught you! Dusty had leapt out of the van, too, and run over to you. All that seemed like it took a long time, but it was less than five minutes when I checked the clock in the car. And you were fine, happy to be back with your pack and with me.

You were on TV, remember? After I adopted Cody O’Dog, a local TV station did a feature on the woman who ran the husky rescue and you, Cody and I were interviewed. I never saw it, but why would I need to? That’s what I thought. I could just hang out with you and Cody. You’ve known a lot of dog roommates. Sweet Jasmine died of cancer just two years after you came to live with me. You and she trained Dusty and Cheyenne, Cody came, all happy friendships though the losses were difficult. There was the awful experience with Daisy the Demented Labrador retreiver when she went nuts and turned Cujo, first killing Cheyenn, then, poor thing, turning on you.  When she went for you, well, I saw the handwriting on the wall… The vet said she was most likely puppy-mill dog and over-breeding had left her with a very messed up brain. The vet and I both cried when we put her down, and I think you even missed her for a while. You’d known her since she was a pup.

Here are photos from our last real hike, this was up Garnet Peak, you, me, Cody, Florian Lex from Munich. Here are Cody (top) and you on that beautiful day in what Florian called “The friendly mountains.”

Cody Garnet Peak

Lily Garnet Peak

You had to wear a Halti, both of you, because if any kind of game went by, you were GONE!!!! But people always thought those were muzzles. As if! Siberian huskies were bred to be friends to all mankind.

So here we are, ten years later. Neither of us can run the hills anymore, though both of us would really like to — especially such hills as we have now! I was afraid you couldn’t make this move from California to Colorado. I even contemplated whether it would be better to have you put to sleep instead of subjecting you to this trip and all the changes. But here you are, sleeping at my feet, your new harness no longer a contraption of misery but something you’re used to. You made the journey as if it were a great adventure. You learned to navigate new steps (you fell a few times). You rode in the van (though you got out once at a rest stop). You have done all of this as if it were the greatest and most natural and wonderful thing in the world to uproot your life in your old age and travel to a new world. I know you’ll love it when it snows.

I just want you to know that I love you, Lily, and I’m very glad you’re here with me. The thing is, you don’t really need to read this to know that.

With very much love…