I can hardly believe it but it was three years ago we arrived at the rental house after a three day drive from Oregon, a little bedraggled but looking forward to the next stage of our lives. I snapped this quick picture not long after we got out of the car, thankfully Ellie did well on the long trip. As long as we were together she was happy, an attitude I tried to adopt when it felt like we were in a whirlwind as I had but a day to settle in before starting work. I never dreamed we’d get another year with her and that she’d even see us into our new home but we got lucky in so many ways with this sweet pup. I met a black lab the other day on a neighborhood walk, she was straining at the leash to meet me so I knelt down and gave her some much deserved affection. “You’ve made a friend,” her owner said, though I wasn’t sure which one of us she was referring to. I love meeting dogs of all kinds on my walks and hikes but obviously black labs will always hold a special place in my heart.
Ellie shows off her classic spread eagle pose on the floor of the kitchen of our house in 2013. It became her most common sleeping position late in life when getting up became more of a challenge as she could push off with her front legs to compensate for her weakening back legs, but it was always in her repertoire from when we first adopted her in 2009. On this particular morning we had adopted Boo the day before, he was staying with my wife in her office while Ellie and Sam and Emma were with me.
I took this picture of Ellie on Christmas Eve last year after I got back from my morning hike. She was deaf in her old age and often needed help getting up, so usually I tried to sneak past her sleeping by the door and get settled so that she would wake to the smell of a breakfast sandwich and I could help her get up and join me on the porch. That morning I tried to grab a quick picture while she was asleep but only managed to catch her immediately after she woke, in between the dream world and ours. In the next moment her eyes lit up and she tried to get up so I put the camera down and went to her aid. When we were in Portland and she was more mobile, as I walked home from the train and came up the steps and opened the door, she’d stick her head out before I could get inside, her feet dancing in joy. The best surprise of our time in Arizona was that she lived so long, and so well.
Time flies by ever faster, it’s hard to believe she’s been gone for half a year. Sometimes I still forget, the other day my wife brought in some potato soup topped with crumbled up bacon and I instinctively set a couple of small pieces aside so that after I finished and let Ellie lick the bowl she could get a taste of bacon. Then I remembered …
I took this picture immediately after we arrived in Arizona a year ago after a three day drive from Oregon. It was a lot to ask from a 14 year old pup but Ellie took it in stride, her ever hopeful spirit was such a blessing during a year of constant change. As long as we were together, she was happy, as was I.
From last summer, Boo relaxing on the tile floor next to a clump of Ellie’s fur. About once a week you could have assembled another dog out of the fur she shed, especially when a new coat was coming in. Her coat was so soft, people at the dog park always remarked on it when they petted her, which was often as she loved meeting people. I have to admit my estimation of strangers dropped a bit if they didn’t at least give her a pat on the head. Her estimation of them dropped a lot if she sniffed their pockets for treats and found them wanting. When she was younger she’d first sniff them surreptitiously from behind but in her senior years she stopped putting on airs and got straight down to business.
We said goodbye to our sweet pup this afternoon after old age finally took too much of a toll, she died peacefully at the vet’s office as we stroked her soft fur for the last time. How do you say goodbye to the Best Dog Ever? With a broken heart and endless tears, and the deepest gratitude for every moment we spent together.
I took this picture of Ellie in our rental house in August and thought it captured her sweet nature so well that I decided to hold onto it for just this occasion, so I wouldn’t have to scramble around in my grief to find a good picture of her, never dreaming I’d get eight more wonderful months before the time came to post it.
I hope there are things in your life that bring you even a fraction of the joy that this most wonderful of dogs brought to ours.
Coming from Oregon I have a handful of raincoats I use for different purposes. They’ve mostly been sitting idle since we moved to Arizona although I do stuff one in my backpack if there’s a chance of rain. One morning I took the raincoat out since it was going to be dry all day but I returned to find it had been put to use after all.
Ten years ago we adopted a sweet 5 year old black lab and named her Ellie. We celebrate her birthday today since we don’t know the real day. Happy Birthday to The Best Dog Ever!
I was too tired to get up early for hiking this morning which meant I could take Ellie for her morning walk instead. The walks are only 10 minutes long these days but I treasure every minute. I was thinking as we walked about how one silver lining of getting laid off last year was getting to walk her every morning while she was still able. She still greets me with joy when I get up in the morning and when I come home from work or hiking, her body is aging but her spirit is ever young. She wasn’t sleeping with her tongue out, I caught her as she was about to lick her nose.