by Henry Lane Hull
In late 2006 my Good Wife and I took the two B.E.s to Fredericksburg to see the movie, “The Queen.” That simple action has had a profound effect on our family. In retrospect, it was the most important film we ever saw.
The film describes the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death as it affected the British Royal Family. If that were all there was to it, I should not be writing this column, but for us the more significant aspect of the film was not the dramatization of the royal characters, but rather that of the Queen’s dogs, namely, her posse of Pembroke Welsh corgis.
Leaving the theater, the Elder B.E. announced that we had to have a corgi. He very much loved our older mixed breed dog, but his focus became getting a corgi. Innocently, I asked around to find out if anyone in the Northern Neck bred corgis. I found that Terry Moss up at Kinsale was a recognized authority on the breed not only in the Northern Neck, but nationally.
I called Terry to ask if we could come to visit. We did, and there on the spot in her yard it all began. Terry’s husband, Jeffrey, is the son of Earl Moss, a long-standing friend of mine, but he had never mentioned the corgis. When we arrived, Terry was enthused about the forthcoming litter, due in June. The mother was Willa, a delightful dog, and the father, or should I say sire, was Bogart, equally sweet, with a somewhat laid-back personality.
We paid several visits during the pregnancy, and on one of them the Younger B.E. pointed to Willa’s abdomen and said, “I want the one right here.” On June 13th, the litter arrived, and we were among the first maternity ward visitors. Willa was the ideal mother, nurturing each of her eight puppies. Early on, the B.E.s decided which one they wanted, and eight weeks later we journeyed up to get our new family member, whom we named Lily.
Blackie, our older dog, who had been a rescue from a lady who no longer could keep her, was nonchalant about the newcomer, showing no sign of jealousy. Corgis are short dogs, bred to be herders of farm animals. They are very bossy, in a good sort of a way, and Lily quickly recognized that Blackie was to be one of her “herdees.”
When I would call Blackie, Lily immediately would run to her, bark in her face, telling her (my translation), “He is calling you. Time to get up and do what he says.” Lily craved getting in the goat pen to boss the elderly nannies around, but we only let her visit them through the fence.
Along the way Terry arranged for us to breed Lily, and she produced only one puppy, a daughter, whom we named Maggie. Lily was a wonderful mother. Years later when Maggie would come in from the rain, Lilly would try to lick her dry. The years passed and Lily’s health became increasingly fragile, but the herding instinct remained firm. Quite simply, she liked being the boss, a job for which centuries of breeding had conditioned her.
Last week, nearly 13 years old, Lily died. I have read that the average corgi lives to be 12 to 13 years old, thus Lily became part of that statistic. Our sadness is coupled with the memories of the great joy she brought to our home for so long. She learned quickly and truly aimed to please. Throughout the years Terry was ever present as a resource to guide us through the world of “corgidom.”
For our family, Lily was a model pet. We found pleasure in her every move and amusement in her quintessential corgi behavior. The actress, Helen Mirren, received an Academy Award for her role in “The Queen” and our family received 13 years of sheer joy from having watched it.