Thursday 25 June 2020

Laura Hamilton celebrates a special birthday when Lily, her one on a million, turns 6

Lily: Part 1 of 2  by Laura Hamilton

Every dog’s birthday is surely worth celebrating. But on 5 May, when my Golden Retriever, Lily, became six years old, we had four fantastically worthy reasons to celebrate, considering she has survived not just once but twice when we honestly wondered if she would.

The first reason for a celebration is that she actually made it to her first birthday. Born with an extremely rare swallowing disorder (cricopharyngeal asynchrony), Lily couldn’t get enough of her mother’s milk into her tummy to thrive. Though a perfect birth weight at 406g, she was quickly left behind in her development by her littermates. By Day 19 of their lives, they were three times bigger. Lily was hanging onto life by her little nails. And she was losing.

 Lily, one third of the size of her two littermates 

So at noon on Day 19, I began having her lick puppy mousse from my finger, a little at a time. She still choked and risked aspirating food into her lungs as she licked. She couldn’t even lap water. But hand-feeding saw a big improvement.

The gripping and heart-warming story of how I have kept finding ways to keep Lily alive during and since that first year is not overstated in Hubble & Hattie’s book Lily: One in a Million, A Miracle of Survival.

She still has to be hand-fed every mouthful and hydrated no more than a tablespoon at a time every day.

The second reason to celebrate is that Lily has had two books published about her. That’s pretty impressive in itself! The first was Lily: One in a Million, A Miracle of Survival in 2018, followed by the children’s book, also published by Hubble & Hattie, The Adventures of Lily and the Little Lost Doggie in 2019. It tells, with 53 illustrations that I drew, what happened when Lily found a lost toy doggie under my hedge as we left to go to school where she regularly worked as a Pets As Therapy dog.

Laura's books about Lily, published by Hubble & Hattie

The third reason for celebrating Lily’s birthday is her impressive work as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog. The earliest age at which PAT will assess a dog is 9 months, and Lily was just 9 months old when she passed each of the 15 stringent tests with the best possible results. Within days, she began helping children and adults. Lily had worked an astonishing 235 assignments before she had to stop last autumn.

Lily in April 2019, ready to work as a 'Pets as Therapy' dog

The fourth reason we’re absolutely thrilled to celebrate her birthday is that on 5 May 2020 she had her sixth birthday, which we had hardly dared to hope she would see, because the previous October she was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer. Without emergency treatment, she had months, possibly only weeks, to live.

Lily after her 6th chemotherapy treatment

We had never given any thought to what it would be like to have a dog with cancer. Now we were to find out, as the next Animal Magic will reflect ...

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