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.

The Dog & The Tennis Ball

Our dog Ellie lies on her side in her backyard and reaches out with her mouth for a tennis ball

You don’t need to travel to the Galapagos to see evolution in action. Consider that when Lewis & Clark first crossed the Rockies into the West, they looked across verdant fields and saw dogs chasing tennis balls, with some highly evolved breeds specializing in catching the hapless balls on the bounce.

While at the time dogs seemed to have the upper hand, in the intervening years evolution seems to have lobbed the advantage back into the ball’s court. The balls have increasingly learned to anticipate being caught from above and have developed ever more complex bounces to evade their slobbering foes.

But recently, dogs seem to be regaining mastery over their prey of old. While the ball nervously scans the skies, the dog flattens itself against the ground and sneaks up from the side, catching the ball unawares.

Our dog Ellie lies on her side in her backyard and looks at a tennis ball that is just out of reach

Usually catching the ball unawares. Sometimes the ball still manages to escape. That’s nature for you.

Dark Chocolate

Rick Cameron plays with his dog Ellie in the backyard as she holds a tennis ball in her mouth

Ellie had a vet appointment this morning to get a booster shot. She got a good health report all around (apart from needing to lose a little weight, which we are working on). But late this afternoon I got a call from my wife saying she was heading back to the vet.

During the day, Ellie had somehow gotten a hold of some of my wife’s chocolate calcium chews. This is not the way to weight loss Ellie! Although at least we won’t have to worry about her suffering from osteoporosis. The vet didn’t think any harm was done but had us watch for vomiting and unusual stools just to be safe — any blood and it was off to the emergency vet. Thankfully she’s been fine, a little hyper but she got a lot of exercise this weekend and calmed down nicely by nightfall.

Ellie’s a black lab, at least we thought she was, but I’m thinking now she may be a chocolate lab. Dark chocolate.

Say Hello to Ellie

Our dog Ellie sitting with her tennis ball in our backyard in Portland, Oregon, a week after we adopted her

“Let it be said that I am right rather than consistent.” Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan explaining his transformation from a vigorous defender of slavery to the lone supporter on the Court for the rights of former slaves

We reduced the candidates of names for Unnamed Dog (aka the dog formerly known as Sidka) from sixteen to two, Darcy and Zira, staying consistent with our scheme of choosing names from our favorite books. Today we settled on her name: Ellie.

When I first came up with a list of possible names for the dog, all sixteen names were from our favorite books or shows save two, Ellie and Libby, which made the cut simply because I liked them. Libby seemed like a good name for a lab but I ruled it out myself the very next day when on the train I couldn’t get the “Libby Libby Libby on the label label label” song out of my head and realized the horror the next seven years could bring.

My wife further whittled the list to a half dozen but even after a week none of the literary names felt right and we realized we were trying to force the wrong name onto our sweet-hearted girl. She feels like an Ellie, not a Darcy or Zira, so we’re breaking with tradition. We could cheat and say that she’s named for Elinor from Sense & Sensibility or Elessar, one of the 187 names for Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but she’s not.

She’s Ellie because she’s Ellie.