Our elderly black lab Ellie sleeps on the tile floor of our house in Scottsdale, Arizona

Age continues to take its slow toll on our sweet pup Ellie but at fourteen or fifteen years old she is doing far better than I ever hoped. We found a good vet here in Scottsdale and the good news is her kidney disease hasn’t worsened. She’s lost about 10 pounds in the last 6 months but an ultrasound didn’t show anything alarming. A continuing trend and a symptom of the kidney issues is she is not as interested in eating her food so we have switched to a different food that has helped for the moment. She is still quite interested in the cats’ food but it has far too much protein for her.

She is feeling more pain in her back and hind legs so we are adjusting her pain medicines, there is some risk to her kidneys but at this point we want to make sure the remainder of her life is as happy as it can be. It seems to be helping, this morning she went on a 0.75 mile walk and kept a good pace the entire time, yesterday she went 1.17 miles! With the heat we don’t take her on evening walks but even in Portland it was getting difficult, I could only get her to go to the park and then she’d want to go straight home.

She loves sleeping both in her dog beds and on the tile floors although the tile is proving a bit slippery, we’re getting some booties that will give her more grip. Her attitude is one of joy as it always has been. Her hearing has been going for a while now, when I came home yesterday she didn’t hear me even as I walked up behind her but she happily greeted me when I rubbed her floppy ears.

Every day a blessing.

The Portland Farewell Tour

A dog runs up to greet our dog Ellie as the trees bloom in the background at Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Before we left for Arizona I wanted one more picture of Ellie at the dog park at Irving Park, the first stop on all our walks, and this lovely spring morning gave me the perfect opportunity with the trees blooming behind her. Ellie had many dog admirers, a handful who absolutely adored her, fortunately I had a chance to talk with all of their owners before we left so they wouldn’t assume the worst when our elderly pup suddenly stopped showing up at the park.

The In-Between Time

Our cat Sam sleeps atop the cat tree

I took many pictures of Sam sleeping atop the cat tree over the years and only through the greatest restraint have I avoided sharing each and every one of them with you. It is the day this picture was taken that packs the emotional punch for me, two days before the movers were to pack our things and load them onto a truck, three days before we would leave for Arizona, five days before we would arrive. He knew something was up but he had no idea how much I was about to upend his world.

Our cat Sam wearing a collar with his name on it in large letters

A simple picture of Sam sitting in a chair with his name writ large on his collar. But I know the chair was in my office because the junk haulers took away my old couch that morning and I brought down my old chair from our bedroom, a chair we bought when we moved into the house and which served me well for many years (and serves us well even now). It was a delight to photograph Sam in it as it reminded me of when Templeton loved to sleep there, especially after he lured me out of it so he could steal my spot. The collar though he and the other cats only had to wear in the days leading up to the move, and during, and after, in case they got loose during the confusion.

Thankfully they did not. This story ends in joy not tragedy.

Our cat Sam sleeps on a bed at a La Quinta Inn in Redding, California

A picture of Sam sleeping on the bed, I took many of those too, but it was only our bed for a night as this was the hotel in California on our first night, the in-between place in the in-between time. A reminder of a long trip, especially for the little ones, but a reminder too that as long as we were together we would be all right.

Our dog Ellie relaxes in the backyard in front of the swimming pool on the day we arrived at our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

A quick picture of Ellie that I snapped after we arrived at our rental house in Arizona at the end of March. The house will be home for a year, Arizona for much longer, and I am so thankful we found the house and that our lovely landlords accepted all the pets. All of the hiking and swimming has been great for me, I’m in the best shape I’ve been for a long time. The one story house has been great for Ellie as she can now follow us everywhere we go. As for Sam, well, our little snuggler has been putting on weight as he no longer has to go to the basement to use the litter box, the main floor to hang out in my office, and upstairs to join us at night. He’s getting a reduction in food to slowly bring his weight back down. Trixie and Boo are doing just fine, they love watching the wildlife in our back yard.

Time to Relax

Our dog Ellie relaxes near the swimming pool in our backyard

Ellie relaxes by our backyard pool on April 1st, our first full day in Arizona. She was able to relax after a long three day drive from Oregon but I wasn’t so lucky as I was starting work the next day. I was already worn out from the stress and pace of the previous months but since then I have been able to relax on the weekends, my wife has been taking care of the day-to-day stuff at home and we have yard and pool maintenance for the outside and a nice landlord if things need attention on the inside, freeing me up to go hiking pretty much every morning I have off.

Even for that a few weeks ago I hit a wall where I knew I needed to take some time off, but unfortunately it was an especially busy time at work, each week busier than the next, culminating in a week with a couple of very late nights and little sleep. Things are slowing down now so starting on Wednesday I will take a week of vacation, not going anywhere just need some downtime. I still haven’t fully unpacked my office.

One bright side of being laid off was I took Ellie on long walks every morning and not just on the weekends. I started the long weekend walks in her elderly years when she wanted to cut our evening walks short but I realized she’d still go on long walks in the morning. The downside is my hiking took a nosedive during those years as the mornings were my trail time as well, but I don’t regret it, you never know how much time you’re going to get with these old pups and each of those walks was precious to me.

Since my wife has been home in Arizona she has been walking Ellie in the mornings so I’ve gone out hiking most of my days off. I do miss walking with the pup though, the past week I’ve been getting up early on work days and my wife and I walk her together, we walked for 1.4 miles this morning. We should all age so well. We can’t convince her to get in the pool though, she loved to swim when I took her to the rivers in Portland but I think the step into the pool is the issue, steps are a big problem for her these days (thankfully the rental house has none).

I need to teach her to jump in! Maybe I’ll wrap some bacon around my head and stand in the middle of the pool.


Our elderly black lab Ellie stands in the hallway of our house in Portland, Oregon

We are homeowners no more.

Our house in Portland closed today, I will always love that old house but I’m glad the selling process is over. Here’s hoping its new family will love it as we did, and that when we are ready to buy a house here in Arizona we will be as happy. I took this picture of Ellie in the hallway outside my office back in February as I walked the path that would lead us from Oregon, with one job offer in hand and less than two days away from flying to interview in Arizona and getting the offer that brought us here.

One downside to the old house for our old pup was that to the right of her are stairs leading up to our bedroom. She couldn’t navigate the stairs very well in her elderly years (she could go up just fine but coming down could be a challenge), so we had to block off the stairs to keep her from following us upstairs to bed. She couldn’t go downstairs to the basement where my wife’s office was, so she spent her days with me on the main floor and her nights asleep in one of her beds, waiting for us to be reunited.

We have a lovely rental home here and Ellie is delighted that it is only one story. She can follow us to bed and follow us to our offices. And follow she does, follow, follow, follow, a black shadow follows you everywhere you go. She’s laying beside my couch now, she’ll follow me to bed when it’s time. I wish everyone could know the love of such a sweet dog, to be looked at as lovingly every day when they get up in the morning and when they come home at night. Thankfully she is still doing well for her age, I pray it continues as every day with our dear Ellie is a blessing, no matter the location.


Our dog Ellie rests on tile

We are home even if it doesn’t yet feel like it. We arrived at our rental house in Arizona in the late afternoon, the pets are a little stressed but did well all things considered. Ellie has adapted the quickest, here resting on the tile near the backyard door. You can’t see it from this angle but there’s a big pool behind her and some citrus trees further back. A rabbit ran out of the bushes when we arrived and four Gambel’s quail sauntered through the backyard right after sunset, a nice welcome. Thankfully I have tomorrow to recuperate as I am wiped out, on Monday I start the new job.

The Last Picture I Took in Portland

Our three cats in their cat carriers, waiting to be loaded into the car, as our dog sleeps in the background

This is the last picture I took before leaving Portland, the three cats crated up, the last thing to be packed into the car. I love how Ellie snuck into the picture. I thought today was going to be more emotional than it was, leaving the house for the last time after 16 years, leaving Portland, leaving Oregon. Maybe it’s because the past month has been a slow-motion move, maybe it’s because I just want the move to be over with, maybe it’s because I’m more than ready to start my life anew in Arizona.