Remind Me Where I Live Again?

Melting snow sits on the pleats of a saguaro in our front yard in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 25, 2021. Original: _CAM9141.arw

On Monday my wife texted me a picture of our snow-covered backyard. I was supporting a couple of urgent tasks at work and by the time I got home the snow was rapidly melting. I needed to log on to work so didn’t have time to run out for pictures, which was a shame as the mountains looked so lovely dusted in snow. I grabbed a few pictures from the front yard, up top is one of our saguaros and below a barrel cactus. The melt was so rapid that even in the few minutes I was taking pictures our short steep driveway went from a slick surface I had to walk slowly on to one I could descend without worry. I’m so thankful I got to see it before it melted, even if not in its full glory, snow is not exactly a common sight in the desert.

An overhead view of melting snow atop a compass barrel cactus in our front yard in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 25, 2021. Original: _CAM9217.arw

The Winter Rain

Large water droplets bead up on the head and neck and shoulders of an American bittern at South Quigley Lake on the auto tour of the River S Unit of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Ridgefield, Washington in December 2009

On New Year’s Eve in 2009, snow still blanketed the ground but the more typical cold rain had returned, beading up on the head and neck and shoulders of an American bittern as it patrolled the edges of South Quigley Lake. I loved being at Ridgefield in the rain, sitting at one of my favorite spots on the auto tour with a bevy of towels strewn around the car to absorb the rain that would blow in. Your car acted as a blind so on days with poor weather and little traffic, as long as you sat quietly the animals would relax and often come quite close. This was one of two bitterns I was watching for a couple of hours that afternoon until the bewitching hour approached and I had to start the car to make it out before the gate closed.

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.


Our dog Ellie sits in the snow after the sun set in Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

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.

The Old House, The Old Subaru

Our 2000 Subaru Outback sits in the driveway buried under snow in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

I took this picture a decade ago after a rare snowfall shortly before Christmas at our old house in Portland. Under the snow is our beloved old Outback, our first Subaru. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to take such a picture here in Scottsdale but I almost could as the part of the city where we bought our new house got over half a foot of snow this morning! When we were house hunting and visiting the house for the second time I thought to myself I’d be less likely to buy the house in a colder climate because you have to drive up a hill to get to the house and I remember what a nightmare the ice in Portland was for people on hills. We don’t take possession until the end of the month and we only got rain, lots of rain, at our rental house so no snow pictures today.

In Memory of Porter

Our neighbor's dog Porter comes running to meet me in heavy snow in December 2008

In December 2008 we got an unusually heavy snow in Portland. You can draw a direct line between the day I took this picture and the day we adopted our dog Ellie. Our neighbor’s dog Porter saw me and came running over to say hello as he always did, always with the same enthusiasm, so I took a few pictures then put the camera down and played with him. He loved catching snowballs in the air and I so enjoyed my time with him that it got me thinking about getting a dog of our own. I had never given it much thought as I think our cat Templeton would have been miserable with a dog around. But he had died a year prior, and our three cats at the time had all met Porter and seemed fine with him, so my wife and I discussed it and a couple of weeks later we brought home Ellie.

Porter was always eager to see me the entire time we lived there, old age eventually slowed the speed at which he’d come bounding over but it never touched his enthusiasm. He loved to run back and forth across the yard with me and he loved to be petted. He was well loved by his family and lived a good long life until his health rapidly declined recently. I will always be grateful for this sweet pup, not just for his role in bringing Ellie into our lives, but for every time he made my world brighter just by saying hello.

Sled Dogs

A Christmas lights display of two dogs and a dogsled on a snowy Christmas Eve in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

I felt as though I had stepped into a Jack London novel as I walked my neighborhood on a snowy Christmas Eve. Ellie normally wants to greet every dog she meets so I was surprised she was uninterested in these two, but probably for the best, so focused were they on the task at hand.

A Woman Scrapes Ice From Her Windows

A woman scrapes ice from her car windows on Christmas morning in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

It’s been cooler than normal this past week in Scottsdale, but cooler in the sense that I wore a long sleeve shirt last night rather than I was scraping ice from my car windows. This was Christmas morning in Portland, a rare (barely) white Christmas. It was the overnight ice that was naughty not nice, coating the streets and causing problems for those going to visit family Christmas morning, or for a man wanting to walk his elderly dog.

The Pup is Up

Snow falls around our dog Ellie as she stands in the snow in our front yard in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in February 2018

Ellie wasn’t feeling well, whether from injury or illness we still don’t know, when the snow fell right before my trip to Arizona. She did go out for a short walk that morning and got to experience the snow, even if she wasn’t up for her normal morning walk, and at one point did surprise me by rolling around for a moment in the snow. For a while there she appeared to be in some discomfort and was having trouble with stairs, and on top of that her appetite was off. She’s been on the mend since, yesterday she was up for a long walk and this morning even wanted to go for an hour and a half, which is about as long as she’s ever wanted (although we don’t go as far as we used to as age has slowed her down). Her appetite is back as well, we’ll see if it holds.

Between her kidneys and her heart and other age-related ailments, the vet was pleasantly surprised she’s been as stable as she’s been, so we’re keeping on her current medicine levels. The past few weeks show how fragile that healthy balance is on a dog this old, and I hate that soon we’re going to make her go on a three day car ride to her new home, but there are no better alternatives. Her health isn’t good enough for flying, and besides we know from long experience that she just wants to be with us, even to her own discomfort. I think she’ll do OK now that she’s walking better, our little Subarus aren’t the easiest for her to get in and out of but she should be better on the ramp now. It’s the cats that worry me the most on the car ride but hopefully in a month they (and we) will be adjusting to their new home.