By Shelley Murphy
Sunday is Woofstock, the annual community event celebrating man’s best friend. Canines and their human companions gather on the grass area at Doheny State Beach to enjoy live entertainment, tasty treats and costume contests.
Each October, when Woofstock rolls around, I tease my husband about participating with his best friend. The thought of our dog donning a costume and parading on cue causes me to howl with laughter.
Our precious pooch has been part of our family for eight years—or 56 dog years—and she’s still surprising us.
My kids lobbied for a dog throughout their childhoods. Every time the question came up, my husband’s reply remained the same: “I’ve never had a dog, and I plan to keep it that way.”
It’s difficult to recall when we began caving in to their cries, but I vividly remember the day we adopted our rescue dog.
Minutes after our hound’s homecoming, she sprinted down the street seeking refuge underneath a nearby parked car. My younger son’s friend, wearing a white T-shirt, dropped to the ground, shimmied underneath the sedan and retrieved her.
My kids renamed our rescue dog Lilikoi Cujo, and when the mood strikes her, she answers to the moniker Lili.
Lili’s not the rough-and-tumble dog my boys had hoped for—but she is a survivor.
We don’t know the circumstances that caused the scar she brandishes over one eye or the events that led to the removal of her incisors. Perhaps a better name for our dog is Enigma.
It took Lili awhile to adapt to her new digs. A couple days after moving in with us, on a cold winter morning, she ran away. She disappeared for four weeks.
We’d almost abandoned hope, but then animal control called to report they’d located her (she’d burrowed into the steep terrain near our neighborhood).
Predictably, once we returned home, Lili staged an encore performance. This escape, her grand finale, lasted less than 24 hours. The next morning, I found her sitting by our garage door.
When Lili decided to stay, she traded one extreme behavior for another: she went from renegade runaway to housebound hermit.
Our dog refused to leave the house. My boys and I tried tempting her with treats to get her outside, but we soon tired of the tedious task.
My husband, however, faced the challenge with tireless persistence. Every morning and evening, he’d fasten the leash to her collar and aim for the end of the driveway.
His patience paid off, and our mysterious mutt grew to favor him and the grass beneath her paws.
That experience built their unbreakable bond. The man who never wanted a dog, got a dog who wanted only him; and the kids who campaigned for her couldn’t capture her heart.
To this day, Lilikoi won’t leave the house for a walk unless it’s with my husband. Their zigzagging jaunts are an ongoing joke, and neighbors often ask, “Who is walking whom?”
Lili trusts only him. A few years ago, he managed to coax her into his car and make the short drive to the dog park.
Today, the duo spends weekend mornings at the park. Lili runs after her canine crew, while my husband sends slews of pictures—and videos—of Lili in action to our boys.
Since socializing with her tribe, she’s begun burying dog bones. After digging, she proudly prances toward my husband, oblivious to the cone of dirt crusted on her nose and clump of tangled roots in her talons.
She’s never far from his side, whether it’s sitting in the seat beside him or lying on the dog bed near his feet.
They won’t be attending the pet party on Sunday. But, again, my husband’s not giving up on her; and they plan, someday, to attend the furry event.
Lili isn’t the dog my boys bargained for, but she is one man’s best friend.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.