The Early Days

Our dog Ellie sits in the grass in the backyard of our house in Portland, Oregon with her front paw on a tennis ball in January 2009

Ellie in the backyard in January 2009, three weeks after we adopted her. It looks a little posed, her paw on the tennis ball, but she did that in the early days. Did she stop it at some point? I remember her doing it back then but not after that, maybe it’s my faulty memory, maybe it had just been a while since she was able to run and fetch. She’s probably looking at my wife offscreen, she followed her everywhere in those days. Our bond became so strong for so long that it’s easy for me to forget that it took some time to form. The love was immediate though, on both sides, to know her was to love her.

Mostly Boo, A Little Ellie

Our black-and-white cat Boo rests on the tile floor next to a yoga mat in August 2018

From last summer, Boo relaxing on the tile floor next to a clump of Ellie’s fur. About once a week you could have assembled another dog out of the fur she shed, especially when a new coat was coming in. Her coat was so soft, people at the dog park always remarked on it when they petted her, which was often as she loved meeting people. I have to admit my estimation of strangers dropped a bit if they didn’t at least give her a pat on the head. Her estimation of them dropped a lot if she sniffed their pockets for treats and found them wanting. When she was younger she’d first sniff them surreptitiously from behind but in her senior years she stopped putting on airs and got straight down to business.

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.

Semi-Retired

A close-up of our dog Ellie sleeping beside my Tom Bihn ID laptop bag on our porch at our new house in March 2019

I took this picture a week after we moved to the new house with the intention of it being a light-hearted post about how, like many in Arizona, my laptop bag was living a semi-retired life. I drive to work now and don’t need my laptop there so I no longer sling the bag over my shoulder each day as I used to in Portland when I walked to the train. Instead it keeps my stuff organized beside my couch during the week and on the weekends joined Ellie and I as we went out on the porch after my morning hike. The bag holds my 15″ MacBook Pro, my iPad, my hiking journal, my pens, my headphones, and some field guides as I learn about Arizona’s plants & animals. I held off on posting it, partially because I was so busy and partially because Ellie’s health was declining. Now though it’s a nice reminder of our good times together even as her time was running out.

I Loved Her Eyes

Our dog Ellie looks to the side while sitting beside me on the couch while I watch football in October 2013

I loved her eyes.

I loved the way they lit up when she stuck her head around the door when I arrived home from work. I loved how much more expressive they became when the gray spread to her eyebrows. I loved the way she looked at me on our walks. Multiple people over the years stopped us to tell me how they loved the way she looked at me, how could I express how much I loved it too?

I loved how they showed the character of the dog beneath.

I loved how she’d look at me, then shift her eyes towards the closet where her treats were, then back to me. I’ve often wondered when she started doing it, how long it was before I realized she was doing it and how much longer before I understood what she wanted. She did it until the very end when I was a little more generous with the charcoal treats she wanted, as she could eat them even when her appetite for regular food was waning. She couldn’t move her legs very well but those eyes never had any trouble darting towards the treats.

Here she’s curled up beside me on the couch in the fall of 2013 as I watched football on a Sunday afternoon, the gray spreading across her face. How old she looked to me then, how young she looks to me now!