Attack Dog

Our dog Ellie sleeping on a homemade dog bed with one of her favorite stuffed hedgehogs in May 2012

When we first adopted Ellie a few years ago, it seemed pretty clear she hadn’t been in an urban environment before as she wasn’t particularly good on her leash and she was much worse when off it, at least in open areas. Inside the house, or in a fenced backyard, she was in top form, no worries there.

In the hopes of one day being able to let her off leash at the nearby dog park, I began working with her in the backyard on learning to heel & stay & come, even when excited, and eventually she got the hang of it. I got brave enough to try her in the dog park and she did well, but we also started a little game where I would sprint from one side of the park to the other and, if she stayed by my side the whole time, she got a treat.

We still run wind sprints together whenever possible, even though she has long outgrown the need for the training, because she just loves it. But the other day as she caught me from behind she bumped into my legs and sent me sprawling face first into the mud. I had been running pretty fast so I hit hard and as I tried to sit up, found it hard to breathe. It was hard to tell exactly where the pain was coming from, I suppose that must have been the adrenaline kicking in, useful for when you’re trying to escape a lion but not so much when you’ve been attacked by a giant goofball and only want to know what is broken. I forced a few deep breaths and was relieved there were no sharp pains in my chest.

I was also relieved when I could stand and put weight on both my legs without shooting pain, so my streak of never having broken a bone stays alive. Once I got home and a little time had passed, a bruise the size of a dollar bill appeared on my thigh with a matching silver dollar bruise on my knee. All from an accidental bump.

Although word around the house is that it may not have been so accidental but payback for having had to smell ribs cooking all day and then I didn’t even share one bite with her during dinner.

Lately she’s been sidelined not by my leg but by hers, she somehow hurt it so she’s been on bed rest but I think we’ll start up short walks tomorrow, because boy howdy is she ready. I lost count of how many times she pelted me with hedgehogs today. Here she is curled up with one of her favorites (as you can tell from the stuffing that is escaping) on the dog bed in my office.

The Life & Death of a Hedgehog

Our dog Ellie lies beside her baby hedgehog dog toy in the backyard in February 2010
Don’t be fooled baby hedgehog, that’s no log you lie beside! Look at those sharp teeth! Chop chop!
Our dog Ellie lies on her back and prepares to grab her baby hedgehog dog toy while playing in the backyard in February 2010
Oh no! I can’t watch! Run, baby hedgehog, run!
Our dog Ellie lies on her back and holds her baby hedgehog in her mouth with the aid of her front paws while playing in the backyard in February 2010
Oh the hedgehogganity!

These pictures are from earlier in the year, Ellie remains on strict bed rest although her recovery is going well. She’s finished with the ice pack treatments, which she didn’t like but accepted well enough.

She remains on medication, after several unsuccessful attempts with other foods, we’ve settled on hotdogs as the preferred delivery mechanism. We tried various cheeses but she kept breaking apart the cheese and spitting out the pills. It’s a pretty impressive skill really and Ellie proved a quick study. The hotdogs, however, are so eagerly accepted that Templeton remains the undisputed master of pill befuddlery.


A close-up of our dog Ellie squeaking her baby hedgedog dog toy as she lays on the hardwood of our living room in November 2009

We have all heard of child prodigies, young masters of piano, flute, or violin. Our five-year old prodigy is master of baby hedgehog, able to squeak out pieces of surprising length and complexity. In this case, with Christmas approaching, Ellie squeaks out a fine rendition of Joy to the World.

Unlike many five-year olds, however, ours doesn’t need any encouragement to practice. Several times this week when I’ve gotten home from work I’ve been pelted with baby hedgehog before I can even take off my coat.

No Go Ahead, Play with Scout, I Don’t Mind

our dog Ellie looks a little forlorn as she lays on the hardwood floor beside one of her baby hedgehog dog toys in November 2009

“I’ll just lay over here quietly until you finish. Take your time. I’m not bored at all. No please, don’t worry about me, I’m fine. Play with Scout, she deserves your time too.”


“It’s a good thing baby hedgehog loves me …”

You might have noticed that this pose is an Ellie specialty. She carries the little hedgehogs all over the house to make sure she doesn’t miss a moment’s opportunity for hedgehoggery.

Better to Give than to Receive

Our dog Ellie lays down with her toy hedgehog in our backyard in Portland, Oregon on October 10, 2009. Original: CRW_9866.crw

Along with the glory of being a world-class receiver comes the responsibility to give back to your community, especially your young fans. Over the past nine months Ellie has picked up two young admirers. One morning when I woke up with Sam and Ellie beside me, Sam got up and started rubbing his head all over Ellie’s. Ellie looked at me with an expression that seemed to say “See how good I’m being? See how I’m not eating him?” and then proceeded to lick him about the face, which Sam tolerated in good humor.

But it is Emma who is most fascinated with the dog, whenever Ellie and I play hedgehog Emma comes tearing down from wherever she is in the house and tucks in close beside me. As I pet Emma and toss the hedgehog to Ellie, when Ellie takes a break and sits down Emma will saunter up to her and sniff her face, especially her ears. She also gets licked in the face for her troubles and tolerates it as graciously as Sam.

Ellie can’t be long distracted from hedgehog; a couple of times she even dropped the hedgehog in front of Emma and bent down as if she expected Emma to toss it across the room. But Ellie soon learned that, no matter how strong her affections, there are certain things Emma just can’t do.

Labrador Receiver

Our dog Ellie stands behind her toy hedgehog in our backyard in Portland, Oregon on October 10, 2009. Original: CRW_9865.crw

On fall weekends throughout the years, we’ve heard the names of many great passer and receiver combinations. Bradshaw to Swann. Montana to Rice. Aikman to Irvin. Manning to Harrison (and now Manning to Wayne). But this fall, a new pair arrived on the scene that some think could be the greatest to ever play the game.

Cameron drops back … rolls to his right … finds Ellie all alone downfield! No one will touch her! No one will catch her! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdooooooooown!

The greatest pair of all time? I’ll let the pundits decide. My detractors will point out — fairly I think — that unlike Peyton Manning, I haven’t had to face the complex blitzing schemes of the modern NFL. I can’t argue the point. On the other hand, Peyton has never had to deal with Reggie Wayne drooling all over the ball.

We all have obstacles to overcome.

Cone Free

Our dog Ellie rolls in the grass while holding her favorite toy, baby hedgehog, in our backyard in Portland Oregon on August 31, 2009. Original: _MG_6270.cr2

After a week of house rest Ellie is doing much better. She’s finished her meds, the plastic cone has come off, and she resumed her walks a couple of days ago. The vet wants us to hold off a bit on allowing her to run or play rough, which means hedgehog time has been curtailed except for times like these when she lays on her back and waits for me to wrestle it from her mouth (these pictures are from before she hurt her leg).

Ellie is very anxious to be active again. While I was watching football the other day and working on my laptop, somehow baby hedgehog kept landing on my keyboard. I’d look over at Ellie and she had a look that said “I don’t know how that got that there, but since it is, let’s play!”. I’d get her to lay down with it, but a short while later hedgehog was back on my keyboard. The battle went on and on until I eventually put hedgehog in the closet.

Soon, Ellie, soon.

Our dog Ellie rolls in the grass while chewing her favorite toy, baby hedgehog, in our backyard in Portland Oregon on August 31, 2009. Original: _MG_6278.cr2