Smiling and Not Smiling

Our dog Ellie sits with her mouth closed in fallen leaves beside a tree near the dog park of Irving Park in Portland, Oregon in November 2011

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.

Our dog Ellie sits with her mouth open in fallen leaves beside a tree near the dog park of Irving Park in Portland, Oregon in November 2011

Merry Christmas!

Our dog Ellie looks back towards the house as the snow falls in our yard in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in February 2018

Uncertainty was the word of the day when I took this picture in February 2018. I was leaving the next morning for my interview in Arizona. Ellie’s health had faltered a bit and I silently worried her time was drawing to an end. Thankfully the snow didn’t keep me from getting to the airport and I got the job that brought us here. Best of all the pup bounced back and we got more than a year with her before age took its final toll. She gave me enough joy to last a lifetime, this pup, my hope is that joy finds you too not just this Christmas but in the years to come.

Frosted Newt

A rough-skinned newt covered in grains of sand peeks over a branch lying on the ground on the Intertie Trail at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Oregon in April 2006

My favorite creature of the Pacific Northwest, a rough-skinned newt, is covered with grains of sand making it look like it was frosted with powdered sugar. Predators with a sweet tooth should take note of the bright orange coloring however as it is a warning the newts can be toxic if ingested. Taken in 2006 on a return trip to William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite hiking spot when we lived further south in Oregon. With today’s cameras I could have both gotten this shot much more easily and with more depth-of-field, but it’s still a nice reminder of my longtime home and neighbors.

Calm in the Storm

Our dog Ellie basks in the sunshine with her head raised up next to the dragon statue on the playground at Irvington School in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in December 2017

Ellie basks in the warmth of the rare winter sun in Oregon, taken in December 2017 at her turnaround point that morning, the dragon statue at Irvington School. My team had been laid off a month earlier, and though that threw us into a period of uncertainty and stress that at times it feels like I haven’t fully recovered from, I so loved getting to walk her every morning that I sometimes have to catch myself from remembering this period overly fondly. We always started our walks at the nearby dog park but after that I let her choose her path and thankfully since I started saving the GPS tracks of every walk that fall, I can look back now at the routes she chose, depending on what she smelled with that amazing nose and what her body felt capable of that day.

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.

Running in the Dog Park

Our dog Ellie runs towards me with a tennis ball in her mouth, surrounded by fallen leaves and with a playground behind her, at the dog park at Irving Park in Portland, Oregon in November 2011

Ellie and I playing catch with a tennis ball at the dog park at Irving Park in the fall of 2011. She couldn’t go off-leash when we adopted her in 2009 but with a desire to please and a desire for treats she was pretty easy to train and soon enough was able to zoom around the park.