Some Advice For Our Dear Ellie

  • You don’t have to do everything little Sam says. While I applaud his use of the scientific method, after getting into chocolate you didn’t have to eat a tub of caramel just because he wanted to see if your poop would smell like Twix bars. (In the interest of science, the answer is no. No it did not.)
  • You don’t have to believe everything Scout tells you. When she told you that she is the only one who didn’t come from the Humane Society, that was true. But when she told you that she didn’t come from the Humane Society but instead hatched from an eagle’s egg high atop a Sitka spruce, that was not.
  • In a similar vein, she’s missing fur on her foreleg because they shaved it at the vet, not because she gave a grizzly bear the what for.
  • And please, please don’t listen to Emma when she asks you to bring back a tree when we take you for a walk. It’s only ten more months until Christmas. She can wait like the rest of us.

Dark Chocolate & Caramel

What happens when your dog eats a whole tub of caramel? I don’t know but we’re about to find out!

In all seriousness, I did call the emergency vet when I got home, she should be fine but with vomiting and diarrhea, oh joy!

Ellie dear, this is not the way to weight loss!

The Dog & The Tennis Ball

Our dog Ellie lies on her side in her backyard and reaches out with her mouth for a tennis ball

You don’t need to travel to the Galapagos to see evolution in action. Consider that when Lewis & Clark first crossed the Rockies into the West, they looked across verdant fields and saw dogs chasing tennis balls, with some highly evolved breeds specializing in catching the hapless balls on the bounce.

While at the time dogs seemed to have the upper hand, in the intervening years evolution seems to have lobbed the advantage back into the ball’s court. The balls have increasingly learned to anticipate being caught from above and have developed ever more complex bounces to evade their slobbering foes.

But recently, dogs seem to be regaining mastery over their prey of old. While the ball nervously scans the skies, the dog flattens itself against the ground and sneaks up from the side, catching the ball unawares.

Our dog Ellie lies on her side in her backyard and looks at a tennis ball that is just out of reach

Usually catching the ball unawares. Sometimes the ball still manages to escape. That’s nature for you.

Dark Chocolate

Rick Cameron plays with his dog Ellie in the backyard as she holds a tennis ball in her mouth

Ellie had a vet appointment this morning to get a booster shot. She got a good health report all around (apart from needing to lose a little weight, which we are working on). But late this afternoon I got a call from my wife saying she was heading back to the vet.

During the day, Ellie had somehow gotten a hold of some of my wife’s chocolate calcium chews. This is not the way to weight loss Ellie! Although at least we won’t have to worry about her suffering from osteoporosis. The vet didn’t think any harm was done but had us watch for vomiting and unusual stools just to be safe — any blood and it was off to the emergency vet. Thankfully she’s been fine, a little hyper but she got a lot of exercise this weekend and calmed down nicely by nightfall.

Ellie’s a black lab, at least we thought she was, but I’m thinking now she may be a chocolate lab. Dark chocolate.

Ellie & Smelly

Rick Cameron playing with his dog Ellie in the backyard of his house in Portland, Oregon

The title for today’s post comes from little Sam, who is skating on thin ice I assure you.

He asked me today if I knew which part of Ellie I most smelled like. I said no but to consider his answer carefully and reminded him who plays countless hours of String with him. He deliberated far longer than I thought necessary, eyes darting between me and Ellie, before finally answering “Why the sweetest part of course!”

Hi-yo, Silver, Away!

When I got home from work this evening, little Sam started peppering me with questions about saddles. I know nothing of horses and knew neither the answers to his questions nor the reasons for them. Slowly I realized that he hoped to ride Ellie to glory in the great Emma hunts that rage through the midnight hours.

No Sammy, no. No no. No no no.

Say Hello to Ellie

Our dog Ellie sitting with her tennis ball in our backyard in Portland, Oregon, a week after we adopted her

“Let it be said that I am right rather than consistent.” Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan explaining his transformation from a vigorous defender of slavery to the lone supporter on the Court for the rights of former slaves

We reduced the candidates of names for Unnamed Dog (aka the dog formerly known as Sidka) from sixteen to two, Darcy and Zira, staying consistent with our scheme of choosing names from our favorite books. Today we settled on her name: Ellie.

When I first came up with a list of possible names for the dog, all sixteen names were from our favorite books or shows save two, Ellie and Libby, which made the cut simply because I liked them. Libby seemed like a good name for a lab but I ruled it out myself the very next day when on the train I couldn’t get the “Libby Libby Libby on the label label label” song out of my head and realized the horror the next seven years could bring.

My wife further whittled the list to a half dozen but even after a week none of the literary names felt right and we realized we were trying to force the wrong name onto our sweet-hearted girl. She feels like an Ellie, not a Darcy or Zira, so we’re breaking with tradition. We could cheat and say that she’s named for Elinor from Sense & Sensibility or Elessar, one of the 187 names for Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but she’s not.

She’s Ellie because she’s Ellie.

A Quiet Day

It was sunny (and cold and windy) again today so I took Sidka out for more playtime in the backyard, this time she wanted to come in after half an hour. She was very active yesterday and seemed tired today, so while she got her usual walks and indoor play time as well, she was more in a mood to sleep. That worked out well as we curled up and watched the two NFL championship games on TV.

We left the door to the basement open all day long so the cats could come and go as they please. Scout didn’t come down at all, which is a change from the previous days, but that’s OK as we’re letting each of them adapt to the dog at their own pace. Emma’s fascination with Sidka continued as she hovered nearby much of the afternoon.

But it was little Sam who made the biggest stride forward, going from napping a few feet away from Sidka yesterday to just inches and even millimeters today. On two different occasions, he burrowed under the quilt and curled up in my lap while Sidka was nestled beside me. At one point Sidka even had her head resting on his body with only the blanket separating the two. He was purring so he couldn’t have been too unhappy with the arrangement.

On another occasion, he was sleeping on the other side of the couch when Sidka jumped up and filled the gap between the two of us. His eyes got really wide for a moment until he realized she too wanted a nap and soon he was sleeping peacefully. He’s still really nervous around her, don’t get me wrong, but I was surprised to see him get so close so soon.

Action Pose!

Our dog Ellie catches a tennis ball in her mouth as we play in our backyard in Portland, Oregon

A week ago we went to the Humane Society and brought Sidka home. She has readily adapted to our household and all its denizens, she seems quite happy and healthy and loving and good-natured and smart and patient and playful and we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop but so far she’s just been a real sweetheart.

We’ve whittled our list of names down to two likely candidates, Darcy and Zira, which keep with our tradition of choosing names from literature. I read on the internet (so it must be true!) that Darcy comes from the Gaelic word for dark which goes well with her black fur, and of course Darcy is a character or two from a mutual favorite of ours, Pride & Prejudice. Zira comes from the chimp in Planet of the Apes (book and movie) that discovered our man hero could talk. Our dog can’t talk but she is an excellent typist.

Emma has suggested another name — since she has black fur like her, she wants to call her Emma II. I pointed out that since the dog was born long before her that really the dog should be Emma I and she should be Emma II, but she thinks it ought to go by the order of the arrival into our home. My wife agrees with her but I think it’s just the womenfolk sticking together, it may have been a mistake to adopt another girl as now Sam and I are outnumbered 4 to 2. They’ve got veto power! My wife was quick to point out that they’ve always had it.

It was sunny if cold and windy today, so after a much-needed haircut I walked home and took Sidka into the backyard for an hour’s worth of fetch. What a wonder it is to have a pet actually bring her toys back when you throw them! Playing with the tennis ball seems to be her favorite game followed by the rope toy. We then came inside for even more playing and then it was time for more cat bonding time.

All three cats were anxious to get down to the basement today, every time I’d go up I’d have to fend them off as I opened the door, no besieged city has ever been so well-defended. When it was time I opened the door and all three came down. Sidka was being good so as I test I took off her leash and let her go. She didn’t chase anyone, at first the cats kept their distance so Sidka and I played some more as they watched and got a feel for her movements.

Everybody got a nose touch in today with Scout again setting the record for the longest nose touch, she holds both first and second place by a wide margin. Emma wins the award for most time spent near Sidka, she’s rather fascinated with her, while Sam wins the award for actually falling asleep with her just a few feet away. Also for eating the closest to her, as if we had any doubt who would win that contest.

Sidka is definitely interested in the cats but has clearly been around cats before as she doesn’t move and scare them when they come in for their nose touches, and when she once got too close for comfort for Sam he swatted her on the nose and she immediately backed off and came over by me. The cats aren’t comfortable with her yet but today was excellent progress.

Sidka Meets the Queen

Not too much to report on the dog front, I called my wife when I got off the train last night so they walked down to meet me halfway. What a happy girl she was to meet me — she being the dog 😉

Sidka met the cats again last night while I held her and they mostly milled about at close and not-so-close range. The big difference from the night before is that the Queen came down to greet her new subject, I told Sidka that if she won Scout over the others would soon follow. All three are still in the curious-but-cautious stage, when treats were brought out all three came up pretty close to the dog.

Sidka is still in her curious-and-let’s-go-meet-them stage so I’ve been keeping her close at hand on her leash. No one is showing any signs of aggression, not even a hiss from the cats, so things are looking good on that front. Even the introduction of Sam and Emma to Scout brought some hisses. Not to mention the how-could-you-betray-me-like-this withering looks from Scout that make me shudder to this day.

I fell asleep early last night and then woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I turned on the light to read. I was shocked to see Scout separated from Sam by a few inches, she remedied this immediately by snuggling up to him, he draped one arm across her face and another around her body and soon they were asleep again. It took me a lot longer to follow them this time.