Last week we said goodbye to Lilo, our sweet shar pei:
Lilo was just shy of 11 years old, and lived longer than any of our other three shar peis, which was incredible given all of her health problems. You may have heard that shar peis are prone to a host of health issues, and Lilo had, I believe, all of them, including chronic ear infections, swollen hock syndrome, and entropion.
Lilo joined our family when she was 10 months old. We had owned two shar peis — Dexter and Har Gow — who were best friends. When Har Gow died unexpectedly, we needed a new companion for Dexter on an urgent basis. We contacted Har Gow’s breeder, and the only dog she had available was Lilo. She told us that Lilo had been with two other families, but it didn’t work out (including a vague story about an elderly owner that couldn’t care for her). The breeder assured us that Lilo was a great dog without any problems. She sent us these photos:
In hindsight, nothing the breeder told us really added up. As soon as Lilo arrived, we knew she was not as the breeder represented. She was, for lack of a better word, dull. We subsequently learned that her mother had died during childbirth, which the breeder neglected to mention, which explained a lot. She had a cherry eye, which the breeder also neglected to mention. She also forgot to mention that she had tacked Lilo’s eyelids twice, but that it had failed to correct the drooping eyelids (we never really did see Lilo’s eyes). Lilo was timid, and cowered every time my husband came near her (for at least six or seven years), which led us to believe that she had been abused at some point, although the breeder denied it. She wasn’t cuddly or playful, and fought with Dexter. After a few months we contacted the breeder about sending her back. But then, as if Lilo understood our conversations, she suddenly quit fighting with Dexter and settled in, as though she realized staying with us was maybe not so terrible.
Dexter and Lilo
So if Lilo wasn’t smart or cuddly or playful, what was she?
She was ours.
We all grew on each other, and Lilo became an integral part of our family. She was a fierce watchdog, with a menacing bark. She stayed close to us, and was always right there begging for table scraps. She slept in our room and snored loudly — we used to joke that it was our white noise, kind of like falling asleep to the sound of the ocean. If you put your face up to her muzzle, she would reward you with wet sloppy kisses. She loved to lay in the driveway and soak up the sunshine. She hated thunderstorms and loved marrow bones. No matter where she was in the house, and no matter how swollen and painful her hocks were, if she heard the treat drawer open, she came running. She was our Lilo.
My Facebook followers knew Lilo as “stalker dog,” and I loved to photograph her poking around corners:
Dexter died in 2010, and we now have two duck tolling retrievers — Jasper and Maisy — wiith whom Lilo got along just fine.
We noticed a few weeks ago that Lilo had suddenly lost a lot of weight and was becoming disoriented, and we knew that our time with her was drawing to a close. We agreed that as long as she didn’t appear to be in pain, we wouldn’t put her down. And so we provided Lilo with the best hospice care we were capable of, and hoped that she wouldn’t suffer. I don’t know if that was the right decision, but it was our decision. It was hard watching her go. It was like watching a shopkeeper close up for the night — first he hangs the closed sign, then he sweeps up, empties the cash register, closes the lights, and finally, he locks the door. A few days before she died, Lilo hung up the closed sign and stopped eating and drinking. Then she became bedridden. She was not really alert in the day or two prior to her death. And then, finally, she closed the lights and locked the door. My employers, who are decent people, were understanding, and I was able to be with Lilo in those final few days, staying by her, comforting her.
Jasper kept the vigil too, watching over her.
In a final act of love and compassion, after Lilo passed away my husband cleaned her up before we took her body to the vet for cremation, bathing and blow-drying her. He swaddled her in a fluffy clean blanket, and cradled her as we sat in the vet’s lobby waiting for assistance.
She was ours.
Rest in peace, sweet Lilo. We love you.