Driving home to Trinity Gardens over five years ago, the new addition to our family didn't make a sound in the back of the station wagon, just looked out at the traffic and back over the seat to us, the three new humans allotted to her guardianship.
"Dog, you don't know this yet, but you've just won the lotto", Love Chunks said, winking at me.
It's been the other way around really. She's been my faithful companion during runs, walks, book writing, computer work, reading, gardening, holidays, trips to and from school and at picnics. She's been sang to, danced with, kissed, videoed and cuddled. Even LC has held her lovingly in his arms like a newborn baby when he thinks I'm not around.
Milly very patiently endures the costume designs that Sapphire and her playdates inflict upon her but will not tolerate being laughed at or being made to wear her tiny Santa Hat on Christmas Day. She hides when Sapphire's old baby bath gets taken out of the shed and filled with warm water, but has learned to include Skipper the rabbit in her heart and daily rounds of licks and sniffs.
The vet assures me that our dog is a 'smiler' who easily reveals her emotions. She is utterly put out when we drive off somewhere without her and laps up the adoring pats and chats she gets from our neighbours, school children and friends.
She's featured on a few overseas doggy websites and garnered her fair share of online fanmail. She greets the postman, tradies and wine club delivery man with a wagging tail and a lick of their shoes (and ankles, if there's skin on show) and sometimes - if I'm not paying attention - she'll zoom across the road to chase Annie's two cats up the famous lemon tree. Annie never gets angry; she's too busy falling about laughing, "That'll teach 'em to sit by the wheelie bins looking smug."
Even my parents - who have never been 'dog people' - have fallen for our furry little friend. When we stay at their house in Victor Harbor, Milly has her own kennel (made by Dad, painted by Sapphire), lined with two leopard-spot blankets and a selection of chew toys, wooden sticks and tennis balls (some with sound effects when they're bitten into) to play with.
She accompanies Mum during her pruning, watering and planting sessions, sitting or sniffing quietly alongside her as a silent friend: there, but not demanding. When Dad returns from fishing, Milly sniffs his sneakers, rods and the detritus left by the back shed after the haul's been gutted and scaled. A visit to Grandma and Grandpa is, indeed, as much fun for Milly as it is for Sapphire.
During my migraines or times of stress and sadness, she is a determined shadow, sitting on my feet and leaning against my legs so that she's sure to know my next move and I'm assured that she's there and she cares. If migraines send me to bed seeking the darkness and silence, she sleeps for hours at my feet, stirring when I stir, licking my hand just once to remind me I'm not alone.
She's the find of our lives for only eighty dollars.