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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Ellie you say that hedgehog loves you as evidenced by how often it stays with you, but would it stay if you weren’t chomping on its head?
I’m sorry Ellie, I’m sorry! Of course hedgehog loves you, it does it does. Please don’t look at me with those sad puppy-dog eyes!
There’s my happy girl! That’s better … wait, Ellie, why is hedgehog running away?
We’ve made some big progress on the Ellie front over the past couple of weeks — we’ve started giving her occasional free reign in the off-leash section of the park just a hop-skip-and-jump from our home. We leave her leash attached to make it easier to corral her when necessary, as she sometimes gets rather excited and her ears stop working. For a dog her size, she runs really fast and can overwhelm smaller dogs or run into stationary dogs or people.
But it’s still a big step forward, it wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t sure she’d ever be allowed off-leash, even for a moment. She got loose once in the early days and had no concept of the danger of streets or cars, and wasn’t coming back when called. We’ve been working hard on her stopping and waiting for permission to cross the street, and on her learning to heel and to come. She’s gotten good enough (when treats are proffered, of course) that we let her have some play time when we’re comfortable with the other dogs (and owners) who are around.
“I see you up there little hawk and I’m sure you’re mighty hungry, but know this: you come for my hedgehog, you come for me. My name is Ellie!”
This picture is for my wife who loves Ellie’s soft, floppy ears. I forget what drew Ellie to attention, probably a bird outside or little Sam jumping onto the windowsill, but for a split second she raised her head (and ears) before resuming the serious business of squeaking her hedgehog.
I love this dog.