Lily is 13

When I brought Lily home, she was somewhere shy of six months of age. Like so many dogs now in New England, she was brought up from the South where spay and neuter programs aren’t as prevalent. I found her online, from a “border collie rescue” – but it was more like one good-hearted person channeling dogs to new homes.

Here she is on the day that I met her.

lily w: Heidi

Yes, she was black and white, but she wan’t a border collie. I was told that she was good with dogs and people. It became clear early on that that description wasn’t accurate either. In fact, Lily missed the crucial socializing window. Despite much work by both of us, Lily has never learned how to read other dogs’ body language, and so becomes fearful and thus can be suddenly aggressive. Lily is also reactive to movement, and I’m pretty sure that in her early days she hunted in order to feed herself. This made it difficult to integrate her into my family, which at the time had two young boys who, like all children, ran and made sudden noises. To keep everyone safe, and simply to make life easier, Lily and I attended puppy classes. More control classes. Beginning agility classes. I had a private trainer come and help.

It took time and attention but Lily did become a much loved member of the family. However simply being a pet was not in her nature. She had work to do. Ever vigilant, Lily has spent the last dozen years keeping all squirrels off of our property. Chipmunks, too.

after squirrels

Lily excels as a farm dog. In thirteen years we haven’t had a single predator attack on our hens. Then again, I can’t put her out with the Girls. That reactivity to movement is still there and if a chicken were to flap too quickly past her, well, it’d be snatched up before Lily could think. Lily has managed over the years to make a few dog friends, but on the whole, she keeps them at bay. This is not a bad thing. She’s done a good job of keeping a neighboring Portuguese Water Dog out of the koi pond, a loose labrador from harassing the goats, and various wandering dogs off of the premises.

Five years in, her job kept her busy, and she was my constant shadow, but I thought she’d be happier with another dog in the house. Nine years ago we got Scooter. It was the right thing to do. He’s Robin to her Batman. (Here they are soon after he arrived. It took some doing to teach Lily that Scooter was not a chipmunk!)



In her heyday, Lily was astoundingly agile, fast and athletic.



Thirteen is old for a dog, especially one of Lily’s size (50 pounds). She’s slowed down. She sleeps a lot.



Her face has grayed.

old face


But she tells me that she’s still on the job.



Last year Lily tore her cruciate ligament and went severely, painfully lame. We decided not to do surgery – it would have been too hard on this old dog who can’t bear to be confined. Miraculously, Lily has recovered. She’s gimpy, but yesterday, in the spring breezes, she had zoomies out in the yard, and made a point of smiling at me as she sailed past.



Lily is starting to have senior moments. She gets up, looks confused, and lays back down again. Her hearing isn’t acute like it used to be. She no longer hears my car as it turns into the driveway. She doesn’t even hear the garage door. She no longer greets me at the kitchen door. Every time I come home and she’s not there, it is a poignant moment for me. Lily is an old dog.

But Lily’s essence remains intact. She still lets me know when those dogs are walking down the street. Thank you, Lily, and a very Happy Birthday to you!



  1. Happy birthday, Lily! It is bittersweet to watch them growing old, our beloved pets. Your love and respect for this wonderful dog shines through in this post.

  2. Happy Birthday Lily. You have earned a long retirement on your bed.

  3. A huge happy birthday to Lilly. She takes her job very seriously and still does it amazingly well. My whippet Houdini is also celebrating his 10th today. I see no signs of him slowing down and he still loves the chase of a rabbit. His black mask has faded also but they both look beautiful. May Miss Lilly have many more happy healthy years. Best to you all. Deb M

  4. Brilliant post! Great to learn Lily`s story and admire all those beautiful pictures of her! :) x 13

  5. Fantastic blog lovely to see all the pic’s of Lily. Happy Birthday, long may life continue so you can enjoy your well earned retirement. Scooter will keep you company I am sure…….:)

  6. She has become an important part to all of us who visit your site…she is fun to watch and hear about:) I’m glad she has done well even with her injury, my brothers dog who had the same injury a few years ago at a much younger age than Lily, is still enjoying her life and zooms around with a limp but still very happy….I lost my 16 year old cat this year just after Christmas….she was healthy and strong. she didn’t like being in the house, so she became an outside cat, shh don’t tell the humane society, they frown on that…but she never strayed, kept the mice at bay, and was always there when you came outside…she was happy one day, gone in two…so goes the life…all we can do is take care of those we have been blessed with, Lily is a joy and you are doing well by her, take care:)

  7. I teared up a bit because it was a reminder of how my rat terrier, who turned 12 in December and is now totally blind, has been such a great companion with all his quirks. Waldo still greets us with great joy…especially if we return with a take out box! He continues to protect the backyard from all intruders. When the grandchildren, now grown, visit it is to see adoring grandparents of course but also to spend time with Waldo. He is family too! Thanks for sharing Lily’s birthday with us. She’s a winner!

  8. Sweet, sweet Lily. What lovely pictures of her! Happy Birthday, Lily! May you have many more happy healthy ones!

    Does she defend the house? My heart dog was deaf by age 13 and besides teaching her sign language, we quickly learned to stomp our feet when we came through the door to keep from surprising her and having her come after us till she saw who it was. She would never hurt us on purpose, but you know how critters are when they think they’ve been snuck up on.

  9. Happy birthday Lily. Such a lovely post and lovely photos. Lily does such a good job and the photo of her and scooter sleeping is so cute.

  10. L is for Lily; L is for love. Happy 13th old girl. P. S. Your grey hairs are very dignified!

  11. Happy birthday to Lily! I’m so happy that she found a home with you and your family all those years ago.

  12. Happy Birthday Lily girl. You are just as beautiful as ever. I love seeing all the wonderful pictures of you through the years. (That one of her with the zoomies – grey face and big smile – tells it all. I mean, how happy she looks! Melts my heart.)

  13. Happy birthday Lily! You described my 9 yo pointer perfectly. After her fight with a coyote in our yard, she really doesn’t want to be bothered making friends. We just got a beagle puppy and though Daisy tolerates him outside, she wants nothing to do with him inside. We keep them separated with gates inside for now. Hopefully she will warm up to the little cuddler someday.

    • If I’d left Lily to decide to like Scooter, she never would have. I actively trained the friendship. Whenever Lily looked at Scooter with a nice eye, I rewarded her with mostly food, sometimes praise. When Lily acted calmly near Scooter instead of in prey mode – I wasn’t joking when I said she treated Scooter like a chipmunk – I rewarded. Reward for interest, reward for nice, reward for calm. Play with each dog, one on either side of the gate, and reward for parallel fun behavior. This process took about two weeks and they’ve been good friends ever since.

  14. “He’s Robin to her Batman.” That’s all any of us really want, isn’t it?

    Lily lucked out to find you. A dog with her history and natural traits can struggle to find her place. I have two JRTs, litter mates. The male is a true “hardcore”JRT: sharp temperament, hard working, affectionate, hilarious, ever vigilant and with a prey drive that comes close to obsession. He’s beautiful and, as they say, a “whole lotta dog.” I adore him, but he’s not for everyone. His sister, same length and height, but much finer boned, is shy, achingly sweet, and is no match for her brother’s ruthless determination. However, when her brother annoys her past her breaking point, she simply bites his penis. Hard. He’s terrified of her. So there’s that… (Having two is way more than twice as fun, I think. :)

  15. The only thing I love more than my hens are my old dogs … Really all old dogs. My 11-year old black dog rescue that I’ve had since he was really young, worked on getting a rat out of a tree this morning. Although we were successful at “catching” it, there’s always tomorrow. I’ve had some sleepless nights because of my dogs patrolling the yard, but no hens have been snatched by predators.

  16. Happy Birthday Lily! What a lovely tribute to a faithful companion.

  17. Happy Belated Miss Lily, a smart Southern girl. A “GRITS” is a girl raised in the south. Lily is a girl that had extreme good luck to head north to you and was fined tuned. She was no longer just a girl raised in the south she reached her finest potential and had finally gotten home to her family! What she has is True Grit.

  18. Happy Birthday Lily. Wishing you many days of sunshine and critters to chase.

  19. oh she hears you come home alright, she is just saving her energies for handing out affections and checking grocery bags. She knows you know.

  20. I’m absolutely sure Lily had paid her dues many times over for her now senior moments. Happy Birthday, Lily!

  21. Happy Birthday Lily – wishing you health and happiness for a long time to come.

  22. Her grey muzzle only makes her more beautiful. Older dogs are wonderful. Lily is beautiful.