The Bull Terrier who loved...

Lilli with Aidan and Evan and her first litter 1989I think Lilli was meant to be part of our family. In our search for a bull terrier bitch, we were offered an 8 week old puppy on breeding terms, which we turned down. Six months later we were still looking and the same pup was still waiting for us to come meet her at the farm, so we did.

Enter Lilli - stage left, off the top of a dirt bank and onto her face in the gravel drive we were standing on. She recovered right away and started to perform standing jumps, presumably to look us in the eye and say hello.

Driving home, we debated the pros and cons of taking on an older puppy, who had grown up in a kennel. She had very little exposure to traffic, small children, wasn’t house trained and we weren’t so sure our fences would contain her if she chose to try jumping them. But she had made enough of an impression for us to give it a try.

Two weeks later she arrived at our home. She and I connected and within a week you would think she had been with us her whole life. Aidan (3yrs) and Evan (12mths) liked her from the start and she only knocked Evan over once before realising how delicate they were. From that day on she became their other mother and did her best to keep them out of harms way. She had the softest touch with any toddler or baby. Of course they all had to be licked on the face at least once and she shamelessly took advantage of the continual food supply that came via their hands.

I always tell people who have dogs to NEVER leave them alone with children. I broke the rule with Lilli as we trusted her totally. Evan learned to walk with her, they dropped toys on her when she was in a deep sleep and she just opened her eyes and said, oh well. They dressed her up and made her cart things around on her back. She didn’t get frights, or spin out or do anything much that was wrong. Even when she had pups, she invited the boys to climb in the whelping box and have a look. I’m sure she just thought all the young things were hers. She was just so placid and motherly and loving - I knew if she was out in the yard with the boys, they were safe.

Aidan taught her to sit within a few days... down and stay were easy after that. She had a real sense of right and wrong and always stuck up for the underdog. If I chased one of the boys when they were being naughty, she beat me there and stood in front of him - never saying anything, but looking at me like I should just get a grip. If Deane and I had a play fight, she jumped all around us wagging her tail and barked and carried on at him, deciding I was the one who would need protection.

Lilli with Aidan and Solo 1993When we went overseas, an old friend (Matt) stayed at the house and watched the dogs for us. He and Lilli were great mates and all went well. A week or two after we came home he was visiting and Lilli had her head in its place in his lap, getting patted. Aidan snuck up behind Matt and took his cap off his head, and ran up the hall with it. Matt jumped up to chase him (in play of course), and Lilli became a white blur, shot up the hall around Matt's legs to place herself between him and Aidan. She let go of a low growl, Matt said ‘oops, sorry Lills’ and came back to sit down. Lilli followed him and put her head back in his lap for more patting!

She had a real streak of performer in her as well. The boys had a rubber snake that they used to leave outside for her. Sometimes they picked it up and started the game and other times she initiated it. She threw the snake in the air and growled viciously at it, then proceeded to kill it. The boys rolled around laughing and she continued to kill it for as long as they continued to laugh at her. Or sometimes when they had balloons, they would blow them up and let them go around the room. Lills ran and jumped and somersaulted after them until she was exhausted. They loved to get her going, which usually was as easy as just saying her name in a deep voice.

She enjoyed sleeping on their beds, or the furniture, something which took me 6-7 years to stop. Once, when we were building a house, the five of us lived in a caravan for 6 months during winter. Her bed was between the boys bunks, but morning usually found her between a boy and the wall, boy generally falling out of bed.

She accompanied the boys to their school agricultural days for the pet parades for many years. We had to watch her with the guinea pigs though. When the teachers asked what her special trick was, we could always get her to jump over the seats... once. She helped Aidan to win a lot of ribbons for junior handler classes. I always felt a bit like they were cheating though, he just made sure he fed her the bait at the right time and she did everything else.

Lilli and Evan 1999She could hear the V8 from a long way off, usually a few streets before I did, and would be at the door waiting for Deane to come home from work long before he came down the drive.

Dogs are often very sensitive to their owners emotions. This was a facet of Lilli I am particularly thankful for. If I felt down, I would wander outside, or into my room to be alone. It was never long until she found me and rested her head on my shoulder or knee. She just looked up at me and gave me all the comfort she could.

She had a huge heart and made friends with people instantly. She worked especially hard on the ones that didn’t like dogs... often jumping right into their lap. But usually the head on the knee trick and standing quietly waiting for a pat did the job. Visitors often sat on the back porch with her head tucked under their arms lapping up the love. I don’t know how many people asked to take her home, but there were a lot that wanted to.

When the house was on the market, I had promised the Estate Agents that all the dogs were in the kennels. One day I forgot to put Lilli out. The agent had shown his clients through the house without noticing her (including the lounge where Lilli was asleep in her basket) and was on his way out when he felt her licking his hand. Well, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, was he?

Usually when she was on her own in there, she slithered around on her back, growling heartily and smashing her rear end into, and rearranging the furniture. I wonder if the new owners ever managed to get all that hair out of the carpet... she seemed to moult continually. She also knocked the phone off the hook if we were out when it rung.

We didn’t see a great amount of the unabandoned acrobatics she had so impressed us with at the farm. The standing jump was performed whenever it was food time and she was behind a gate or fence waiting for hers. Just straight up and down, with lots of vocalising to accompany it. She had a great repertoire with her voice, as do many Bull Terriers. Deane could always get her going by asking her to ‘sppeeeeaak’. She loved to oblige and generally launched into a foot nipping game to accompany it. She enjoyed flying off the porch and side stepping you at the last minute. If you slapped her bum as she went by she went even faster.

She did leap the front gate once, not long after she arrived, as I went to work one afternoon. I had been getting up early and walking her around town everyday - generally spending lots of time with her. I usually put her away when I left, but Deane was home, so just said goodbye and backed out - when I looked back at the house, I saw her sailing over the gate, with Deane just behind her. She got used to me going soon enough and started bonding with the rest of the family.

Lilli with Sledge and HydeLilli with Deane and Baby Brie 1997She was friendly with other dogs and it was great to watch her play, especially with bigger breeds, she basically ran circles around them, jumped over them and left them confused as to where she actually was. She mothered any pups she met, suckled them and cleaned their bums and was very genial to any older dog we introduced her to. She was about 4 when Sledge came to live with us as a pup. He adored her and hung around her all the time. If she lay down, he lay against her and if she was up he was always touching her. She had to be out of sight when he did any stud work, if he could see or hear her, he wouldn’t take any interest until we put her away. I think Sledge would describe Lilli as his soul mate, although I doubt Lilli cared one way or another. Her greatest loves lived inside the house. If one of the kennel bitches was in pup, she was always welcomed into the house to share with Lills, usually preferring to sleep on a blanket by her basket.

Her only really bad habit was her prejudice toward wandering dogs. If one came into the yard, we usually found out about it from her - she would launch herself into it and we would have to rescue the other animal. It didn’t bother her how big or hairy it was, it hadn’t been invited in and it was told to leave in no uncertain terms! The last time she did this, she was 11 and the other dog looked (to me anyway) like a huge wolf! I should probably mention the time the neighbour's goat put it's head through the fence for some grass and couldn’t get back out due to the Bull Terrier attached to its ear.

She was truly a character and we were blessed to have known one such as that. The boys grew from toddlers to teenagers with the companionship of one of those dogs you class as ‘one in a million’. She used to find them and watch them at play with their toys, more recently she’d just lie around and watch them work on a car or guitar. Our photo album is stuffed full of 12 years of memories which we will cherish forever.

Last week as we stood around her grave and covered her with flowers, Aidan commented that she had probably just been reborn somewhere else at that moment. I wondered if such an enlightened soul really needed to come back for any more lessons in this life.

Lills and Aidan, Christmas day 1999

Edenville Rambling Rose

26.11.87. - 7.7.00.

Show awards

Puppy in show ~ Les Greenal, Laneerg, Aust. ABTC Open show ~ 1988
Brood bitch of the year ~ ABTC Club sh
ow trophies ~ 1994


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