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MARTHA SEZ: Missing Lila, the dog from Keene Valley

December 8, 2016
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

"It would carry off objects of which it grew fond, and protect them by dropping them into the pond."

-from "The Doubtful Guest," by Edward Gorey

This morning I'm thinking of my old friend Lila, a longtime denizen of Keene Valley who recently met her death when she was struck down by a motor vehicle on state Route 73, Keene Valley's Main Street.

While Lila was not, strictly speaking, what is traditionally known as "a good dog," she was a friend of mine, and I felt honored to be accepted by someone so discriminating. I miss her.

Our friends possess some truly sterling qualities, alloyed with other traits. When we lose a loved one, those noble qualities shine brightly in our memories.

Then we get together with others near and dear to the deceased and recall all of the proclivities, quirks and peculiar penchants that so annoyed us but in the end did not take away from our love. We tell stories, laugh and cry and feel a little better for it.

Lila's owner, Val, and I talked about Lila soon after the accident. Lila was getting old, Val acknowledged, and was no longer as careful about traffic as she once had been.

I have seen Lila dozing right in the middle of the road, or wandering out into the street as if she owned it, as she doubtless believed she did, even after she grew too elderly to defend her turf as fiercely as she once had.

Unlike most dogs I have known, Lila did not draw her boundary lines close to home, preferring to define her turf as anywhere she happened to be at any given time.

A powerfully built black dog, Lila looked like a cross between a Labrador retriever and a German shepherd. When deciding whether to trust someone, dog or human, she always went with her gut. In her youth, she protected McDonough's hardware store and Green Point Foods by lying outside in the parking lot and barking at any suspicious character trying to enter the store, most often a man. I have read about dogs and wolves whose hackles would rise when they were in attack mode, but I never witnessed the phenomenon except in Lila.

Lila bit me only once, leaping up to deliver a painful nip to my forearm on the day we met, and to the best of my knowledge she never did bite anyone else.

She had a penchant for running off with neighbors' belongings, but she was not greedy, taking only one boot or mitten and leaving its mate for the original owner. She also stole toys, and once she made off with a turkey carcass from someone's kitchen. She hid her contraband under Val's picnic table. Last summer she dug deep holes in the yard, the better to hide her stash, and eventually Val gave up trying to fill them in.

To state, as well-meaning people often do, that a particular dog is "almost human" is no compliment. Dogs possess all of the very best human qualities. They are devoted, loving, gallant, brave and true. While you may question a dog's judgment in some cases, you can never doubt its sincerity.

Lila used to bound up a mountainside like a deer or a cougar. She was unfailingly patient and tolerant of the children in her family, and took great care of the various cats she lived with. She kept them out of the street and showed them how to cross the brook behind the house without getting their paws wet.

After the nipping incident, Lila decided I was OK. Sometimes she came to my back door for handouts. Once she protected me by allowing me to get into a friend's car and then ferociously preventing him from getting anywhere near the vehicle.

"Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point": The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing. Blaise Pascal, a French 17th Century mathematician and theologian, pointed this out hundreds of years ago, and nothing has changed since. Our loved ones' habits that drive us to distraction will later make us shake our heads fondly and smile, even laugh out loud.

Val buried Lila in one of the holes that Lila dug, along with who knows what earthly treasures Lila had stashed there, kind of like Queen Nefertiti. Rest in peace, my friend. I'm glad I brought you those hot dogs from Stewart's.

Have a good week.



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