Two years ago, Mercedes Trujillo was in college in Utah when she received a text from her stepmother about a dog that had nearly run over her sister. The puppy wore a name tag that read:
“My name is Lily. If you found me, keep me. My fam can’t & I need love”
The heartbreaking photos of a frightened dog with a tag on her collar resonated with Mercedes, and she had a feeling that this dog was the one she was looking for.
The next day, Mercedes made the hour home and knew she couldn’t let Lilly go to another place or family. We had the opportunity to talk to Mercedes about how Lilly saved money in the end hairinstead of the other way around.
The first days with Lilly were pretty tough. Lilly was terrified of men, aggressive, and suffered from extreme separation anxiety.
“Her problems certainly put a lot of pressure on my living situation. It was okay at home because my father and stepmother knew how much I cared about her, but the people I lived with at school were afraid that her fear of men would put them in danger, which I understood 100%.
Lilly would lash out at them even if I was there. It wasn’t good. So I moved home and drove to school every day so I could keep Lilly. Sure, there were thoughts about how things would be easier if I let her move to another house, but I didn’t want anything to happen to her that I had no control over.
The hour of driving back and forth took its toll, but Lilly was happy with my father. So I got a letter from my therapist about how she helped me mentally (I was NOT in a good place mentally and Lilly was honestly the only thing that kept me around) and the university let her and I live in a housing unit in the campus .
That was when Lilly finally calmed down. I lived in a two bedroom apartment owned by the university. We had our own room and then had two roommates living in the other room, but they loved Lilly. I kept her in my room when I was in class, but it’s almost like she KNEW she couldn’t be thrown out of that room, that it was 100% hers. She wasn’t destructive in that apartment at all. She didn’t chew on anything that didn’t belong to her and didn’t tear the floor to escape.”
While the struggle to find a place where Lilly could feel safe enough to stop wreaking havoc was difficult for Mercedes, she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It was really hard to keep moving, mainly because I was mentally out of order, but I just clung to Lilly because we were both black sheep; just a little too different to live in peace with others. Having her and not feeling so alone anymore was definitely what gave me the strength to keep finding places for us. We just connected in a way I can’t really describe. She understood me and I her.”
Mercedes wanted to help Lilly overcome her fear of men, so she asked her professors for permission to bring Lilly to her mostly male mechanical engineering classes.
“I’m lucky that my university was very open to having dogs. They know that dogs can help a lot of people and because the suicide epidemic in Utah is so high, they were willing to do almost anything to help students. I spoke privately with professors and most were willing to let Lilly into the classroom as I was in my senior year and the classes were smaller. They knew I was trying to socialize her and respected that. It only took her a few weeks and lots of treats to warm her up for the boys in my class. I think it helped that I tended to hang out with the same guys and they all loved dogs so they proved to her that not all guys would hurt her.
She no longer doubts men! Once she was comfortable on campus and not growling at every man who passed by, I started taking her to the dog park. That certainly helped her show that many people love dogs, while also allowing her to socialize with other dogs.
Now that Lilly has found her comfort zone, she enjoys going hiking, camping and running on the beach with Mercedes at their new home in California, especially now that she has a younger sister, Ayla, a rescue from The Barking Lot who joined a few weeks ago. was part of the family.
“I adopted Ayla about three weeks ago. I felt bad because Lilly kept trying to play with her cat siblings, but they are old (I have an 18 year old and two 14 year olds), so they just want to hang out. Lilly has usually always lived with another dog, but it has always belonged to someone else, so I was a little worried that she would be jealous of another dog that was mine. So far it’s going great! Ayla warms up very quickly. She’s almost easier because she’s not aggressive when she’s scared. But I take them to the park every day and just let them do their thing.”
Is there anything Mercedes would change about the way Lilly was abandoned or how hard it was for Lilly to settle into her happy new life?
“I want to say that I have no ill feelings towards those who abandoned her and those who couldn’t have us in their homes anymore. I can’t imagine having to make decisions like that, but sometimes I have to. I will definitely tell people that even if a dog seems like a lot of work at first, it’s worth giving it a shot. I know people are turned off by dogs who are super shy, but most of the time they just need patience, stability and love. Rescue dogs are fantastic.
I’m so glad Lilly came into my life when she did because I’m not 100% sure I’d still be here if she didn’t.”
Since we first shared this post, Lilly’s sister Ayla has passed away. Before spending a year with her new family, Ayla was hit by a passing car.