Woods in Fall

Three wood ducks swim surrounded by fallen leaves on a serene morning at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, Oregon in late October 2017

Three wood ducks swim surrounded by fallen leaves on a serene morning in late October 2017. A few days later my team would get laid off, this was not only my last visit to Crystal Springs but I only went hiking once more before we moved to Arizona in March 2018. Partly because I didn’t feel like it at first, partly because the job search was time consuming, partly because I took Ellie for a walk each morning. I had romantic ideas about taking one last hiking tour of many of my favorite places in the Northwest but all I managed was one last visit to Ridgefield. I wish there had been more time but I wouldn’t trade those walks with the pup for anything.

Fall in Irving Park

Our black lab Ellie sits in the leaves in front of trees colored purple, yellow, and green at the dog park in Irving Park in Portland, Oregon in November 2011

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.

Fall Ballgame

Fall Ballgame

Ellie waits for me to kick the ball in the fall of 2013. We spent countless hours playing in our backyard in Portland, either with one of her balls or one of her many hedgehogs. I’d either throw or kick them and she’d chase them down and bring them back and toss them at my feet. Over and over and over. She had a big black spot on her tongue, when her tongue was hanging out far enough to clearly see it I knew she was getting pretty gassed and it was time to call it quits. I think she would have kept playing until her legs fell off.

Good with Children

One of the neighborhood children pets our dog Ellie in our backyard in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in November 2013

When we adopted Ellie in 2009, fortunately for us her previous owners (who called her Sidka) filled in a detailed questionnaire about her when they left her with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington (who transferred her across the river to the Oregon Humane Society where we adopted her a day later). They had at least two kids of their own and it was obvious from their responses that Ellie had been dearly loved.

In the section on behavior with children, to the question of “How will your dog react to a child approaching while he/she is sleeping?” they answered “wanting love”, which brings tears to my eyes even now. To the question of “Would you recommend this dog live with children?” they checked yes and added “Good with kids. Very loving (good for slow or disabled child)”. I felt a little guilty upon reading that when we adopted her as we had no children of our own and didn’t need a dog who was so loving towards them.

We did need a dog who would be loving towards cats and they often go hand in hand, and it turned out Ellie had experience not just with children but with other dogs and cats and got along well with all. I was a little worried too that she would miss having kids around but looking back now, knowing how deeply she bonded to my wife and I, I needn’t have been concerned.

The picture is from the fall of 2013, some of the neighborhood kids had come over into our backyard and joined me in playing with her. Everybody loved her.

Nearly everyone. One of the elderly neighbors was afraid of dogs so when we passed on our walks I’d give her the heel command and she’d pull up tight to my side and keep watching me until she got her treat. I started doing the same with dogs who were afraid of other dogs and even though Ellie loved meeting other dogs, she quickly picked up on her own which dogs would rather pass by so I didn’t even have to give her the heel command, she’d immediately come to my side and watch me until she got her treat.

Which caused an issue when I realized some dogs would give her a wide berth at first until they saw that she was friendly, then would turn around and eagerly want to meet her. I had to laugh as she’d give those dogs the side-eye, trying to keep her distance, as she didn’t want to risk giving up her treat for having ignored a dog who didn’t want to say hello. I learned to quickly give her a treat so she’d say hello, then she’d want another treat for being gentle with the dog and not scaring it.

She always got the second treat.

Washed Away

A foothill palo verde with its roots exposed in a wash at Lost Dog Wash in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

As you hike through the desert you’ll sometimes cross a wash, an area that is normally dry but where water runs after a storm. I’ve not seen a wash run, it doesn’t take long for the water to stop flowing and the monsoons usually arrive in the evenings when I’m not on the trails due to the heat. I’ve seen the aftermath though in the scouring of the trails, I wonder if the roots of this foothill palo verde were recently exposed due to erosion after a summer storm. Most of the shallow roots have been stripped of earth and are angled downstream save for one still plugged into the surviving bank.

It may not look like it but this little tree has leafed out, the trees have tiny leaves that you can see along the thorns if you look at the top of the tree set against the darker green of the larger trees behind it. You can also see the green bark, the palo verde can photosynthesize its food from both the little leaves when they are present and from the green bark and thorns year round. I’m curious to see if it survives or if it will fade away now that its roots are exposed, and perhaps wash away in a future storm. But for now it is holding on, literally.

Disappearing Act

A white-winged dove perches on an ocotillo starting to leaf out after the summer rains in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This ocotillo had just started leafing out in the middle of July with the arrival of summer thunderstorms in the Sonoran Desert. The white-winged dove perched in the morning light is one of thousands I have seen, they are not only the bird I see most in our backyard but out in the desert as well, never more so when seemingly one or two or three were atop every saguaro as they devoured the ripening fruit. But after a self-imposed two week ban to allow a knee to heal, I returned to the trails twice last weekend and didn’t see a single one. Not one!

From what I’ve read, the white-wings arrived in the desert about the time I did and will be leaving this fall. So I suppose in a month or so they will be gone from our backyard as well. The smaller mourning doves and much smaller Inca doves will appreciate it, the larger white-wings are more aggressive, but our cats and I will miss them.

Ellie’s Path

A sign indicates no thru traffic on the leaf-covered Klickitat Street in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Ellie wanted to head east out of the dog park this morning instead of her traditional south, so we headed out along the leaf-covered Klickitat Street. This part of the street is closed to car traffic except for people with driveways here, so it’s a nice place to walk with your aging pup, especially when paved with fallen color. Eventually Ellie turned south and we continued all the way to her buddy Steve’s house. He wasn’t out so we took a detour west past America’s Noodle and then past the dialysis center with the mural, then doubled back to Steve’s (still not out) before heading home.

A graffiti-covered truck is parked outside America's Noodle in Portland's Irvington neighborhood