I can hardly believe it but it was three years ago we arrived at the rental house after a three day drive from Oregon, a little bedraggled but looking forward to the next stage of our lives. I snapped this quick picture not long after we got out of the car, thankfully Ellie did well on the long trip. As long as we were together she was happy, an attitude I tried to adopt when it felt like we were in a whirlwind as I had but a day to settle in before starting work. I never dreamed we’d get another year with her and that she’d even see us into our new home but we got lucky in so many ways with this sweet pup. I met a black lab the other day on a neighborhood walk, she was straining at the leash to meet me so I knelt down and gave her some much deserved affection. “You’ve made a friend,” her owner said, though I wasn’t sure which one of us she was referring to. I love meeting dogs of all kinds on my walks and hikes but obviously black labs will always hold a special place in my heart.
New Year’s Day in 2011 dawned with frost covering the grasses around Horse Lake, where I met this juvenile heron beside the auto tour at Ridgefield. During the winter I brought extra coats to drape over my legs so I could sit in the cold and watch and listen to the wildlife around me. On this occasion though a string of running cars soon pulled up behind, including my arch-nemesis the diesel pickup truck with its bone rattling engine, so I started up the car and continued on. A few hours later as I prepared for another loop around I saw a long line of cars stretched into the distance and decided to call it a day. Which was wonderful in its own right as I took Ellie for an extra walk and then we played with her hedgehogs in the backyard before heading inside to snuggle up with the cats. Wildlife watching, playing with the pets, my little slice of heaven and a lovely start to the year.
Ellie curled up on the couch beside me in the fall of 2013, the day winding down as the clock ticked towards midnight. When I got tired enough to fall asleep she’d follow me upstairs to the bedroom. I’m thankful I took a lot of shots of her doing everyday things like this, I didn’t do it enough in the early days with Templeton and Scout.
Ellie in 2009, she came into the living room while I was playing with Scout to let me know she was available for hedgehogging, a minute later she was making music with her favorite toy, then a minute later was ready for a snooze. She’d sometimes have soft little snores, sometimes she’d make little whoops as her legs made running motions.
Taken two minutes apart on Halloween of 2014, Ellie teaches Boo how to wait by the door so they can greet me when I come home from work (he was always eager to take her spot after she got up). Our first cat Templeton used to wait by the door for me, then Scout learned it from him, and Sam and Emma from Scout. But after Ellie arrived the cats learned to hold back a bit as her feet started dancing but she was looking at me and not at cats who might have wandered underfoot. Sam and Boo sometimes greet me at the door now but not with the consistency of the old days.
Oh pup. It’s been one year since we had to say goodbye to Ellie, a year where I still miss her rather intently at times, not unexpected given the strength of the bond that formed over her long life. The picture is three years old, taken near the start of our morning walk on a lovely spring morning when we still had a year left in Portland and two years with her. She was such a comfort in difficult times, our time together was such a blessing.
During our time in Portland the city added a bunch of sand to a section of the dog park at Irving Park where the dogs played the most, which was wonderful as it let the field drain during the perpetually damp rainy season instead of turning into a soppy mess. Which Ellie loved, as we had a game where she’d run beside me up and down the length of the park, getting a treat if she stuck by my side no matter how I zigged and zagged, and now the game could continue all year long. Her running days were over by the spring of 2017 but she was still up for long walks, which we always started at this lovely park a few blocks from the house. After we played she got to choose the rest of the route.
On my first visit to Cavalliere Park as I started towards the dog park, which was more of a dog pond since it had been raining all day, I stopped in my tracks when it occurred to me that had Ellie been younger this in some ways would have been our Irving Park. We wouldn’t have visited every day since it’s too far from the house to walk but it has a dog park, a playground, basketball courts, picnic areas, and a walking path, just like our beloved park in Portland. One had lots of old oaks and maples and one lots of saguaros, but all that would have mattered was that they both had the pup. Except this park never would. She’s been gone almost a year so it wasn’t the sort of moment of unexpected grief that knocks you to your knees, just stops you for a moment until you catch your breath. I changed course to the hiking trail and had a lovely visit and returned the next day, smiling when I saw a handful of people and pups enjoying the sunny weather. This is Ellie at Irving Park in the fall of 2011, the dog park is right behind her, I made her stop for a moment for a picture before we headed back into the neighborhood, our walk just beginning.
With her mouth closed Ellie’s drooping jowls made her look sad and/or bored. In truth she was a bit bored on this occasion in the fall of 2011 and it’s why I didn’t take a ton of pictures of her on our walks even though I often took quick snapshots of the neighborhood itself. She loved going on walks with me and photos were an interruption in our fun time together, she couldn’t know I was capturing those fun times so I could look back and remember. My trick was to wait until she saw someone walking close or another dog approaching and she opened her mouth, for then the mix of sweetness and happiness that was our Ellie was on full display. These two pictures were taken less than a minute apart.
Uncertainty was the word of the day when I took this picture in February 2018. I was leaving the next morning for my interview in Arizona. Ellie’s health had faltered a bit and I silently worried her time was drawing to an end. Thankfully the snow didn’t keep me from getting to the airport and I got the job that brought us here. Best of all the pup bounced back and we got more than a year with her before age took its final toll. She gave me enough joy to last a lifetime, this pup, my hope is that joy finds you too not just this Christmas but in the years to come.