Bargaining With God

Our dog Ellie looks up while laying on her homemade dog bed in the living room of our house in Portland, Oregon on Halloween in October 2014

Our Heavenly Father,

Please let me live a long and happy life so I can look after my family no matter where they go. In return I promise I’ll be a good girl and not steal any pizza off the counter. Except I really like pizza and I know they want me to be happy and also someone needs to test it to make sure it hasn’t been poisoned. How about I promise not to steal any vegetables off the counter, they can cover it from one end to the other with broccoli and carrots and I won’t take a bite.

Also, I’m sorry I ate the entire batch of freshly baked cookies. And the tub of caramel. And …

Calm Before the Storm

Our dog Ellie sleeps on her dog bed in the dining room of our house in Portland, Oregon in February 2018

Storms approached both literally and figuratively as Ellie slept peacefully in our dining room in Portland in February 2018. Snow would arrive that evening, making the walk to the train to the airport a little more interesting the next morning as I left for my interview in Arizona. A whirlwind followed as I’d get an offer right away, kicking off a storm of activity for the next month in the mad dash to get here. Through it all one of our biggest worries was her health, she had recovered from some minor issues she was having but we were about to put her through a three day drive. She did great on the trip though, we found a wonderful vet pretty quickly after we arrived, and remarkably Ellie would not only see us to Arizona but into the home we bought a year later. She was such a tremendous blessing in so many ways, this pup.

The Collar

Our dog Ellie rests on her dog bed in my office a week after we adopted our cat Boo in July 2013

I was looking at this picture of Ellie in my office, taken a week after we adopted Boo in July 2013, and what struck me is that she is wearing her collar. I can’t remember when we started taking it off when she was at home, only putting it on when she went out or when someone like the cleaners would be coming to the house. When I was in bed Ellie wouldn’t wake me directly to get some love and attention, the only time I remember her doing it was when we moved this year and in her senility she was stressed from not knowing where she was. But in her younger years she had a couple of tricks she’d use to “accidentally” wake you, such as standing beside the bed and quickly shaking her head back and forth so her dog tags jingled, which we solved by taking off the collar. The one that made me laugh the most was when she’d jump up into the empty side of the bed after my wife got up and dance around and around and around and if that happened to wake me, well it couldn’t be helped could it? But say, now that you’re awake …

My Porch Buddy

Our dog Ellie sleeps on the concrete beside her dog bed on our porch at our house in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2019

We developed a ritual, the pup and I, during our year in Arizona. I’d go hiking in the morning on my days off and when I got back I’d heat up a breakfast sandwich, grab my laptop bag, and we’d go out onto the porch for a little rest & relaxation as I wrote in my hiking journal about my experiences that morning. Ellie would eagerly watch me eat as I always gave her a little bit of cheese and egg and bacon/sausage at the end. Only a sliver as her kidneys couldn’t take too much protein but she always appreciated the gesture. After she died it became hard to continue the ritual, I forced myself out onto the porch at first but it took longer before I could eat a breakfast sandwich, even now it is a little difficult sometimes. Because she was deaf in her senior years I could sometimes sneak past her when I got home from the hike so I could wake her when my hands were free and I could help her up, for I knew as soon as I started heating the sandwich she’d wake as nothing got past that nose.

Also, as you can see from this picture and the previous one, though we got her these shoes to help her get up and move about the house, the pup was pretty good about getting out of them so you’d find them scattered about the house once she woke up.

All That is Good

A side view of our young black-and-white cat snuggling up against our black lab Ellie as she slept on her dog bed in October 2013

When we adopted Boo in the summer of 2013 we knew he was a sensitive fellow who was stressed by his time at the shelter and would need a slow introduction to the other cats. Despite the long history of cats and dogs he took to Ellie quickly, here curled up tight beside her as she slept on her dog bed. He especially loved taking her spot when she got up, reveling in the warmth left behind, and if she came back and found the bed occupied she’d quietly lay down beside the bed rather than try to get Boo to move. She was all that is good.


Our cat Sam sleeps on one of the dog beds on a sunny afternoon at our new house in Scottsdale, Arizona

I brought one of Ellie’s dog beds over from the rental house to help her get adjusted to the new house. She had to wait a bit to use it. I’ve been rather surprised by how well Sam has adapted to the move, at the moment he and Trixie are snuggled side-by-side on my legs. Ellie just moved to her bed and has joined them in sweet slumber.

The Furry Philosopher

Our cat Boo watches me while stretched out on the dog bed with his arms sticking out in front of him

My wife and I were discussing how we’d love to know what Boo is thinking. Like Scout, the black-and-white cat that preceded him, Boo is clever, but more than that he seems to ponder, to wonder, to want to understand not just the what of the world but the why. We’ve had other curious cats but there is a depth to Boo’s curiosity that is unique, so much so that it sometimes takes me aback when he plays with all the joy and enthusiasm of the other cats, even though we’ve had him since he was a kitten and we’ve played together countless hours.

Would that all so desired to understand the unknown, rather than fear it.


Our dog Ellie is curled up asleep in her dog bed

When my team got laid off at the start of November, one nice thing the company did was set us up with another company that gives advice to people in our position in starting the job search and updating resumes and online profiles. They gave a lot of good advice which genuinely helped on the job search, but one piece of advice I deliberately didn’t take, even though I think it is a good idea, is to treat the job search like a job and take the weekends off to recuperate. I didn’t do it because I was looking at different industries and different cities and had a lot of research to do. I don’t regret it, pursuing even the long shots as long as they interested me is how I got the job I accepted. But there’s also no question it left me mentally worn out.

And physically worn out as well, the past four months I’ve a hard time getting back to sleep once I wake up in the morning. In the early days it was because the reality of what happened would hit me after being blissfully unaware of it while sleeping, then it was because I started thinking about everything that needed to be done that day while I was searching for a job, and now I think about everything that needs to be done as we prepare for our move. For all that, once I accepted the job my mood became much more upbeat as I’m excited about both the new job and the new place where we’ll be living. This afternoon I even felt a strange sense of euphoria about it, despite so much being unsettled and how much needs to be done before I start. I suppose it’s a mix of being over-tired and legitimately excited about the new adventure we’re about to undertake.

The pup, though, she’s still sleeping like a champ. I prefer when she sleeps in one of her beds as, if she starts running in her sleep, it keeps her leg kicks from getting too violent. In her younger years they were adorable little leg kicks but these days, either from old age or side effects of medicines, she can get into a full-on gallup. Perhaps it led to her injuring herself a couple of weeks ago, but we’ll never know.