When we’re told to list our family members, most of us name direct biological connections like our parents, siblings, and offspring. Some people throw in their pets as well but most typically stop here.
It’s not often that a family consists of multiple unrelated beings from different species, but Lilica the dog knows that family isn’t defined by bloodline.
For the past several years, Lilica the dog has been living in a junkyard in Sao Carlos, Brazil.
Lilica’s owners could no longer take care of her, so they left her in the junkyard alone … or so they thought.
It didn’t take long for the junkyard’s owner, Mrs. Neire, to discover her, and the two became fast friends. Neire took Lilica in and started taking care of her, which caused the dog’s whole mood to shift.
“Her attitude is different. The look in her eyes is different,” Neire said in a video by a Brazilian news organization.
Neire wasn’t Lilica’s only new friend, however. She’s quite popular with children in the area and has formed a pack with other animals living in the junkyard.
Lilica’s family is an eclectic mix featuring cats, chickens, a mule, and a few other dogs.
Neire and her family were happy to host the animals in their yard and take care of them as best they could. Yet, when Lilica gave birth to 8 puppies, it became tough for her family to feed everyone.
So, Lilica decided to take matters into her own paws. She walked across town in the middle of the night to meet up with an animal-loving teacher named Lucia.
“She walked in and sniffed the garbage bins,” Lucia explained. “That caught my attention. I thought she was homeless because she was searching for food. It was then that I called her and offered her some food.”
Lilica would do this night after night. The exchange originally took place inside Lucia’s house, she eventually found an empty lot where they could meet up, away from Lucia’s other rescued animals.
Lucia brought a big bag of food containing rice, beans, and sausage. Lilica would eat until she was full but leave the rest for her family.
“One day, she stopped eating, grabbed the bag, and ran with it open. The food was dropping from the bag along the way,” Lucia recalled. “Then, the following day when she finished eating, I tied the bag and she took it. From then on, that’s how we do it.”
After eating her share, Lilica picks up the bag and takes it home to share with the other junkyard animals.
Before Lilica makes her 4-mile trek back to her family, Lucia offers her some motherly advice: “Watch out when you cross the road!” she says. “Will you be careful? Will you watch for cars?”
At the time the video was made in 2012, Lucia had dedicated over three years to making sure Lilica’s family got fed, never truly taking a break.
“I don’t travel. I don’t go places and stay too long because of her … Because I know she relies on me,” she said. “It’s a commitment that I have with her and a commitment she has with me too because she comes every day.”
Even after Lilica’s puppies were adopted, she continued to visit Lucia for food, bringing it back to the other animals in the junkyard.
“We as humans barely share things with others,” Neire admitted. “But an animal sharing things with other animals is a lesson: a lesson for all of us.”
The touching video went viral in 2014 after it was uploaded to YouTube, but the timeless message never gets old.