Spoiler alert: Lily is going to break your heart.
This is something the book lets you know in the first few pages, so I don’t feel too bad revealing it. But she is going to keep breaking your heart for all the hundreds of pages with her deeply dachshund (aka doxie) ways of being. The deep bond with her person, the intelligence and stubbornness, the territorial barking, and the exuberance are all deeply endearing.
Rowley captured that unique, persistent doxie bark so that hearing Lily’s “voice” was automatic. For example, of ice cream Lily exclaims (and I agree), “THAT! IS! AMAZING! WE! MUST! HAVE! THIS! TO! LICK! EVERY! SINGLE! DAY!”
But the truth is, I don’t cry very often. Not even things everyone says you’re going to cry over. This book, however, hit very close to home, not only with having my own doxie (who, truthfully, is bonded to my husband, but who I am totally in love with anyway), but other bits that felt personal to me: my recent octopus, the inclusion of my favorite poem, and the mention of Mark Ruffalo, who, incidentally, also had an octopus of the same species as mine (I’m not sure if Rowley knew of Ruffalo’s octopus or not).
So, from the first chapter: tears and heartbreak.
But also goodness. The kind of goodness that reminds you now is now, and that’s all we have because so much can change so suddenly, even when they change slowly. The book is a reminder of the things we don’t notice because the transitions are smooth and slow: they grow until one day, they’re too big to ignore, like stubbing your toe on the unused treadmill you haven’t noticed in three weeks. It’s the kind of goodness that shows you how fierce we can love.
The only true badness was the occasional ableism (wheelie dogs can have great lives), with an honorable mention to the fantastic ride through denial toward the end that made that end that much more… poignant.
I read the book in a day. I was half wanting to get through it because I wanted to stop crying, but the other half was because it was just good enough to suck me in.
Everything is transient, and as heartbreaking as that is, it is also something we all know going in.