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.
I love this picture of Ellie in the leaves at Irving Park, taken in the fall of 2011, but I don’t think I’ve put it online before. Usually it’s because I get so far behind in my editing, sometimes it’s because I’ll write the post in my mind when I’m away from my computer and then forget to actually post it. I’m thankful for our time in Portland for a great many reasons, but walking through our Irvington neighborhood with my sweet pup will always be one of my most treasured memories.
I see her everywhere.
In the dog beds, usually occupied by cats. In the treats she loved, in the end the only thing she would readily eat. In the medications she took and the pill pockets she took them in before she decided they weren’t quite tasty enough. In the fur she constantly shed, a piece of which I hope follows me around until my time too is at an end. In the water bowls scattered around to encourage her to drink. In the gate leading into the litter box room, to let the cats in and keep her out.
In the ramp to help her in the car when she got too old to jump. In the shoes so she could walk on the slippery tile as her legs weakened but which she didn’t like so you’d find them scattered around the house. In the network of rugs and yoga mats we instead spread out and which she quickly learned gave her traction. In the patch of artificial turf we put in the backyard to give her a comfortable place to go the bathroom since the new house doesn’t have grass. In the smorgasbord of dog foods my wife purchased hoping we could find one she’d be able to eat when her appetite waned and we knew if we couldn’t get her to eat, we were going to have to say goodbye.
In the pile of tissues after crying my eyes out, because I see her everywhere but she’s not here.
I know where she is. She’s with Templeton and Scout and Emma, always in my heart and never far from my thoughts, and I will take her everywhere I go.
Before we left for Arizona I wanted one more picture of Ellie at the dog park at Irving Park, the first stop on all our walks, and this lovely spring morning gave me the perfect opportunity with the trees blooming behind her. Ellie had many dog admirers, a handful who absolutely adored her, fortunately I had a chance to talk with all of their owners before we left so they wouldn’t assume the worst when our elderly pup suddenly stopped showing up at the park.
As our move to Arizona draws close, let me say goodbye to some of the things I’ve loved about our time in the Pacific Northwest, starting with Irving Park. When we moved to Portland 16 years ago, we only had cats so we never considered how close the house might be to a dog park. When we adopted Ellie in 2009 and trained her to go off-leash, it was a delight to discover a dog park was only a few blocks away. After not stepping foot in the park until then we’ve visited twice a day, every day, since. In the sun, in the fog, in the rain, in the snow. Not the ice, Ellie hates the ice.
These days Ellie keeps her evening walks short so we go up to Irving Park but not all the way to the dog park, but most mornings she wants to make it up the hill. More to meet the owners than the other dogs, both because she adores people and because she never misses an opportunity to try to convince someone to give her a treat. After that we head out into the neighborhood, occasionally she wants to go straight home but usually she’s up for a longer ramble, even at 14 years old.
The trees started blooming a couple of weeks ago so I took advantage of a sunny morning to get one last picture of Ellie at the park. A variety of trees ring the paths of the park, some giants from long ago whose lives were spared when the area was carved from the forest. A handful of years ago I deliberately traded a lot of my hiking on the weekends for long walks with Ellie when I realized our aging pup would still go on long walks if they were in the morning, and while I miss the hiking I wouldn’t trade my time with Ellie for it.
Thank you Irving Park for many great memories with this greatest of pups. Thank you to all who helped create and maintain the park over so many years. Goodbye, I love you.