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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.