I have just finished reading Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. As a lover of dachshunds, a buyer of all things dachshund related, (including a 7-foot long inflatable dachshund Christmas decoration) and a strong belief that pets, and in my case sausage dogs, are a big part of my daily happiness, when I see a book with a dachshund on the cover I have to buy it. When I was browsing in Megalong Books in Leura after dropping off stock of my own book Destination Dachshund: Three Months, Three Generations & Sixty Dachshunds, (with my dachshund, Coco, on the cover) I then left with Steven Rowley’s book with his dachshund, Lily, on the cover.
Lily and the Octopus is a novel about finding that special someone to share your life with. For Ted Flask, that someone is Lily, and she happens to be a dog. This novel reminds us how to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go and the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.
Lonely Ted Flask and his loyal and beautiful dachshund, Lily, are close, so close they play Monopoly and chat about everything, including cute boys. And it is on one of those cosy nights that Ted discovers the octopus on Lily’s head. This is when I started crying, and to be honest I had to put the book down again until I grabbed a tissue and took a few deep breaths. What follows is a heartfelt, sad, so very funny at times, insightful story about life and how at times we choose to hide from it. It is also about the heartbreak of pet loss, about loneliness, love and companionship, and being open to new love and experiencing all that there is in life.
Steven Rowley captures the soul of a dachshund (and probably most dogs), but for me as a lifelong dachshund owner he did it so well. If my dachshunds could talk I can imagine them talking the same way. He tells the story of Lily, of how she chose him, of how she came to his home, of their life together in a flowing draw-you-in style of writing that makes the book hard to put down. The author also tells the story of Ted, the troubled main character, a complex man who is more than a little broken, and whose observations on life and his love and for Lily make him easy to connect with.
The octopus clinging to Lily’s head is Ted’s enemy. It is something that will change his life forever and he isn’t ready for it. Since the moment he met Lily he was in love, and the thought of her not being there scares him, in more ways than one. His grapple with the octopus is his grapple with grief, the terrible dealing of grief before the death happens and even though there is nothing to be done, the battle is fought anyway.
Many people have dealt with the grief of pet loss, for what is to many people their closest companion, their pet, and it is easy to connect with Ted and his fear of losing Lily. But the book holds much more between its pages, lessons of life, love and moving on, but above all a great recommendation for all from Lily the dachshund… YES! YOU! ARE! LIVING! YOUR! BEST! LIFE!
My Lily impersonation: I! LOVED! IT!
One of my favourite quotes from Lily and the Octopus.
‘…I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think ourselves alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all of our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans.’ – Ted Flask.
This is true in so many ways. I work from home and my dogs are an integral part of my day, (yes, the family too – but their presence changes from day-to-day) but for the most part the three furry family members, dachshunds Charlie, Barney and Rosie are always present. Through tears, fears, joy, happiness, and heartbreak they are our woofy witnesses. But regardless of what is going on they love us, are there for us, and their love never, ever wavers. I discuss pet loss and grief in Destination Dachshund, and in a recent blog post. Click here to read: For the Love of Dogs: Pet Loss, Grief and Healing.