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 …

Spread Eagle

Our dog Ellie lays on the kitchen tile with her legs splayed out to her side in July 2013

Ellie shows off her classic spread eagle pose on the floor of the kitchen of our house in 2013. It became her most common sleeping position late in life when getting up became more of a challenge as she could push off with her front legs to compensate for her weakening back legs, but it was always in her repertoire from when we first adopted her in 2009. On this particular morning we had adopted Boo the day before, he was staying with my wife in her office while Ellie and Sam and Emma were with me.

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.

Calm in the Storm

Our dog Ellie basks in the sunshine with her head raised up next to the dragon statue on the playground at Irvington School in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in December 2017

Ellie basks in the warmth of the rare winter sun in Oregon, taken in December 2017 at her turnaround point that morning, the dragon statue at Irvington School. My team had been laid off a month earlier, and though that threw us into a period of uncertainty and stress that at times it feels like I haven’t fully recovered from, I so loved getting to walk her every morning that I sometimes have to catch myself from remembering this period overly fondly. We always started our walks at the nearby dog park but after that I let her choose her path and thankfully since I started saving the GPS tracks of every walk that fall, I can look back now at the routes she chose, depending on what she smelled with that amazing nose and what her body felt capable of that day.

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 …

In Between Worlds

Our dog Ellie sleeps on the tile beside the front door of our rental house on Chritmas Eve in December 2018

I took this picture of Ellie on Christmas Eve last year after I got back from my morning hike. She was deaf in her old age and often needed help getting up, so usually I tried to sneak past her sleeping by the door and get settled so that she would wake to the smell of a breakfast sandwich and I could help her get up and join me on the porch. That morning I tried to grab a quick picture while she was asleep but only managed to catch her immediately after she woke, in between the dream world and ours. In the next moment her eyes lit up and she tried to get up so I put the camera down and went to her aid. When we were in Portland and she was more mobile, as I walked home from the train and came up the steps and opened the door, she’d stick her head out before I could get inside, her feet dancing in joy. The best surprise of our time in Arizona was that she lived so long, and so well.

Time flies by ever faster, it’s hard to believe she’s been gone for half a year. Sometimes I still forget, the other day my wife brought in some potato soup topped with crumbled up bacon and I instinctively set a couple of small pieces aside so that after I finished and let Ellie lick the bowl she could get a taste of bacon. Then I remembered …