Ellie at the Last

Our dog Ellie appears to be smiling as she relaxes on the artifical turf on her last evening with us

While age had slowly been taking its toll on our 15 year old pup, it was the last six weeks or so she declined the most, which unfortunately meant she only got to spend a month with us in the new house. The first week here was difficult due to her getting confused, especially at night, due to her senility and not understanding where she was. She figured it out after we paced the hallways back and forth many times, going inside and outside, until it became familiar to her and she settled down. We got a patch of artificial turf for her since there was no grass at the house, it gave her a comfortable place to go the bathroom (when she could make it there in time) or even just lay down and relax.

An overhead view of our dog Ellie as she rests on the blue washable rug in my office

One of Ellie’s back legs (the one she didn’t have surgery on when she tore a ligament in her younger days) had been bothering her for a while, she compensated with the other until the end when putting any weight on her back legs was difficult. The tile in particular was slippery for her, both in the rental house and the new house, so my wife bought a variety of washable rugs and yoga mats to line the hallways for traction and make messes easier to clean in the rooms.

She started having accidents in the house that last month, at first she’d poop from the effort of having to get up, but that wasn’t hard to clean up. Her stomach started getting upset at the end though and she’d have diarrhea, and at the very end started peeing when she couldn’t walk at all, where the washable part of the rugs came in very handy. It was exhausting for my wife and I but after Scout and Emma died young it was an honor to nurse her through the end of her life while she was still enjoying her days.

Our dog Ellie appears to be smiling as she looks up towards my wife on her last morning with us

Her last full day with us was one of my Friday’s off so I was able to spend the day with her. She didn’t want to walk at all that evening so I carried her out to the turf. She enjoyed that little spot and lay down and rubbed her face on it as she used to in the grass. She was panting as she often did at this stage, which I knew made her look happy in pictures, so I went in and got my camera for what I worried were going to be my last photos of her. The biggest problem we were facing was that her appetite had been off and despite my wife trying a variety of foods, she wasn’t eating enough to survive. She could eat more if I hand fed her, in the first picture you can see a few light colored bits of food on the turf in front of her from pieces that fell off my hands, but it still wasn’t enough. Her spirit was still strong and I wanted to capture that in the pictures, to remember that even though her health was failing, we had some good times during her month in the new house.

The next morning we talked with her vet who had been so helpful in her care and all agreed it was time to say goodbye. She had been able to walk a bit that morning, when I went to take a shower since she always wanted to know where I was my wife helped her up and supported her as she walked across the house to the bathroom. Mostly though, as the night before, she wasn’t able to walk even if we helped her, so I carried her where she needed to go. My wife said she didn’t even try to get some uneaten cat food in one of the bowls, a sure indication of how much her appetite had fallen. She was pretty worn out but would raise her head like this and watch us as we moved about the room, she was such a sweetheart to the very end.

Our dog Ellie rests on a yoga mat on her last morning with us, it was the last picture I took of her

This is the last picture of my sweet pup, I hadn’t really wanted to take these pictures but I knew they would bring me comfort later on. I could barely even think about camera settings but after verifying the pictures came out OK, I put the camera away. I had half an hour left with her before it was time to carry her to the car and spent that time stroking her fur and kissing her forehead and letting her know how much I loved her. I did the same after carrying her to the room they had prepared for us at the vet’s office, I’m so thankful we were both there as we said our final goodbyes, as being with us was all she ever really wanted. She ate a few charcoal treats (one of the few things she never lost an appetite for, even at her most senile the pup always remembered when she was due a treat), then died peacefully after getting the sedative and injection that stopped her heart.

Thanks are owed to Dr. Lopez and her team at Scottsdale Hill Animal Hospital, she was instrumental in making Ellie’s last year a great one. It isn’t easy managing the aches and ailments of such an elderly dog but she worked with us to map out a strategy of care that gave Ellie such a good quality of life for so long. I hadn’t actually met Dr. Lopez until I brought Ellie in that last time, we had talked on the phone but she and my wife had worked closely together to manage her care.

And a special thank you to my wife for doing so much for Ellie during that year, especially the last months when taking care of her became a full-time job, it’s a tremendous strain both physically and emotionally. We loved Ellie with all our hearts but that doesn’t make it easier, rather it makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

A close-up view of our dog Ellie on her last evening with us as she rested on the patch of artificial turf in the backyard of our home in Scottsdale, Arizona

After she died I found an expected connection to the pup. After we got home, especially the first couple of days but even the first couple of weeks, I endlessly paced about the house. I wanted to do something but I didn’t want to do anything. It helped me sort through my feelings as I walked about but I had to laugh as I thought about how I was now pacing as she had her first week here. She because she didn’t know where she was, I because I knew she wasn’t here.

She was the best dog ever, my sweet pup, the best.

Emma Beats the Heat

Our black cat Emma rests on the glass table on the patio in our backyard in Portland, Oregon

In July 2011, Emma beats the summer heat during her supervised backyard time by sleeping on the glass table on our patio. While the heat in Oregon was nothing compared to what we get in Arizona, we didn’t have air conditioning, so there wasn’t much you could do on the hottest days to cool down, especially when you had a lovely coat of fur.

Moving On

My white 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited is parked in front of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

After the movers packed up our belongings, I took a quick picture with my phone before leaving the rental house for the last time. Or almost the last time, I was back yesterday to let the carpet cleaner in. As excited as I am about our new house, I was a little sad pulling away from the rental house as it was a great home for us during our first year in Arizona. That’s my Crosstrek out front, its utility proved itself multiple times both on the move a year ago and in this last move, even if I replace it with something a little better suited to my current commute I will always love this little Subaru.

At the back of the large backyard was this old bird feeder, it provided endless entertainment for both me and the cats during our year there. I saw 30 bird species over the year, many of which fed at or below the feeder. The most surprising visitors were the boisterous rosy-faced lovebirds, they aren’t native but a population has established itself in Scottsdale.

An old metal bird feeder in the backyard of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

A Little Test

Our dog Ellie relaxes on a strip of artificial turf as a test to see if she will enjoy a larger patch since we no longer haved natural grass

Our aging and somewhat senile pup misses both the grass and familiarity of the rental house so we’re toying with laying some artificial turf over a small patch of the granite pebbles to give her a comfortable place to go the bathroom and to be outside. We weren’t sure if she would like it but Home Depot kindly gave us a sample to try and she seemed to like it. We’re not going to install anything permanently, and it won’t come with rabbits like the real grass at the rental house, just want to give her a comfortable place to call her own to help her adapt to her new home.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

A male northern cardinal sings from a tree on a March afternoon in Scottsdale, Arizona

I keep a spreadsheet of what animals I see each month not only in the parks I visit but in places I’ve lived. During our 16 years in the urban neighborhood of our Portland house I recorded 10 bird species for the month of March. In a few days at our new house in Scottsdale I’ve seen 13! Including this lovely male cardinal who sang to me on the day the mover’s arrived with our belongings. He serenaded Ellie and I this morning as we relaxed on the back porch. Verdin were building a nest in the buckhorn cholla in the common area below the house. Lesser goldfinches flitted about, curve-billed thrashers called out. A pair of Gambel’s quail fed near the house as Sam and Trixie watched eagerly from the windows. Phainopepla, mourning doves, house finches, house sparrows, gila woodpeckers, a pair of Harris’s hawks soaring overhead. I stood dumbfounded watching a robin, a bird I’ve known from everywhere I’ve lived but had no idea lived in Arizona. Yesterday on my first commute home from a work a roadrunner darted across the road (with no coyote in hot pursuit).

With all these birds so close at hand I may not go hiking anymore! (Just kidding)

To the Old and To the New

Our dog Ellie smiles while standing beside the pool in the backyard of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

We’re taking the pets up to the new house this afternoon and will spend our first night there, with the movers packing up the rental house tomorrow and delivering on the next day. This is Ellie enjoying a sunny day in the backyard of the rental house, we’ve had a great year here and have loved the house and the neighborhood but are very much looking forward to being settled into our new home.