This is a post I wasn’t sure I was going to write, but in the end feel that it needed to be written and shared. In all the time that Kurt and I have been living together, we have had our sweet dog, Ellie, with us. She came into our lives, just a few months before Kurt and first moved in together. Our life with Ellie has always been one of doing things together. We do so much outdoors that it has been easy to have Ellie with us in pretty much all of our adventures.
It all started when I finally moved out of my parents house after finishing university. It was a busy house and being by myself in a quiet house was weird, so I started considering a dog. Growing up, we had a golden retriever that lived to be 17, so most of my life we had a dog. I looked around and kept circling back to this adorable picture of a puppy. After a week or so of looking at the picture, I decided I needed to go and meet her. The picture said she was a beagle cross, so she was the right size for the townhouse I was living in, which had a weight limit of 20 lbs. My parents came with me for the drive as it was a town about an hour away. When we arrived, it was surprising to see the litter. Most of the dogs looked like little golden retrievers, but Ellie had the short hair and darker brown colouring. All of the other dogs were jumping and yipping and just a little crazy. Ellie however was just sitting there, looking at me. She was so chill and relaxed. I picked her up and she gave me a few licks on the neck and I knew that she would be going home with me.
I vaguely remember thinking on my way home “What have I done?”. Here was this adorable little dog that now needed me. I was already completely in love with her, but other than our family dog growing up, I had no idea what to expect. And let me tell you….Ellie was going to put us through the wringer. She may have been calm and cute when I picked her up, but she was just hiding her own crazy antics.
I remember asking what she was crossed with because she didn’t quite have that beagle look. They told me Rhodesian Ridgeback. I had no idea what type of dog that was, and was so smitten with her, that I didn’t bother looking into it. I found out when I got home that they are a very large breed and she was going to end up being way larger than was allowed in the townhouse that I was living in. It was only going to be a matter of a few months and she was going to be too big to be allowed where I was living. Kurt and I had already been discussing moving in together so thanks to Ellie, it was time for Kurt and I to make the move and find a place that would allow a bigger dog.
Some things we learned in those early days is that Ellie had quite severe separation anxiety. The first time I had a shower after getting her, I left the bathroom door open so that she could come in and see me if she wanted. Well she did want to, but rather than just poking her head into the shower, she leapt through the shower curtain, tearing it from the hooks to get to me. This happened twice more before I realized that I had to shower with the curtain partially open so that she could see me at all times.
We tried kennel training her and learned that was not an option. Her first kennel was the plastic kind and she chewed a hole through the side of it. We tried a larger metal one that she could see out of, which she did better in, but over the course of a month eventually broke a few of the welds and shimmied her way out, skewering her side in the process. Luckily they were shallow cuts that didn’t need stitches. I then built her a large room in the unfinished basement of the house that Kurt and I rented. It as an 8′ x 8′ area with a window that overlooked the backyard. I made sure she had a comfortable bed, toys and a view. She Houdini’d her way out of it many times by chewing through the wire, wriggling through small gaps, etc.
We were stuck, because we also couldn’t let her free-range the house. She DESTROYED anything in her path while we were gone. She would get so worked up being left alone that she just couldn’t help herself. From pillows to carpet to books to anything else within her reach, our house would look like a tornado went through it when I would come home for lunch and again at the end of the day. This should have been an indicator to us that maybe having a friend to hang out with during the day would have helped. Eventually, when the large room we built her wasn’t working to keep her contained, I decided to throw a cone on her head before I left. I figured it was worth a try to see if it would narrow her focus and perhaps give her some comfort. Well, it did. For the next few years, every day we would put a cone on her head during the day. She could drink water, play with toys, but never destroyed anything as long as she wore that cone. Ridiculous dog. It was always seeing the look on people’s faces when we told them how we got our dog to stop destroying the house and calm down about us leaving.
During all this, we also had a friend who is a dog trainer, help us with obedience training. We are very outdoorsy and wanted a dog that could be off-leash. Despite her crazy antics, she was a relatively easy dog to train. She picked up commands quickly and was leash trained well so that there was no pulling and she walked right beside us. She was like Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde with her 2 polar opposite ways; crazy nutcase when left; vs easily trained and well behaved when by our side. She was a very active dog and demanded a lot of physical activity. Where we lived had a great trail system so we had lots of adventures to go on. My co worker had a beautiful lab who became fast friends with Ellie, so we always had someone to go on hikes with. My sister also got a very high energy dog shortly after we got Ellie, so she always had someone to burn some energy with.
Before Kurt and I moved in together, I had designated one chair in the house for Ellie. It was her chair (Ellie’s Throne), and the only furniture that she was allowed to be on. After Kurt and I moved in together, that all went down the drain, and Ellie had free reign on all the furniture. She always loved her chair though, partly I think, because it was harder for us to bug her when she was sitting in it. When sitting on the couch with us, she was fair game for cuddles and smothering. In her chair, it was much harder for us to do that to her. Though she did come to the couch when she wanted a paw massage, which she did often because it was one of her favourite things. she always got a goofy grin on her face when we rubbed her paws.
Shortly after we got Ellie, we introduced her to fishing, which she loved. In fact, in those early years, she did more fishing than I did and was Kurt’s fishing buddy for all her years with us. She loved to sit on the bulkhead at the front of the boat and watch the lake, the other fishermen and any wildlife around. Either that or she wanted to nap right on Kurts fishing line. Ellie and Kurt formed quite the bond through hours sitting in the fishing boat. While he unloaded the boat at our favourite lake, Ellie would go and explore a gopher metropolis, snooting her nose down any hole she could find. While fishing, she would get excited and run about when she knew we had a fish on, which was somewhat challenging considering it isn’t the largest boat. As she got older, she learned to chill and that we would give her a sniff of the fish before releasing them.
Her other favourite pastime was car rides. She went everywhere with us, so she was in the car a lot. We would roll the window down for her and she would not have a care in the world when her ears were flapping in the wind. As she got older, her position became more and more chill, with these last few years at an all-time chill look. Her chin would rest on the window, her jowls and ears would flap away and she would have a solid leaning recline on the chair. She just needed a pair of sunglasses and she would look like the most chill dog around. She also got much more demanding in these last few years about her window. If it wasn’t down, she would sit there and nose your seatbelt so that it would tighten. It was her way of insisting that the window needed to be open, no matter what type of weather was outside.
When Kurt and I bought our house, one of the biggest appeals was the yard. Not only for the garden and oasis we are building up to, but also because we wanted Ellie to have a nice large space to spend time. She still got lots of walks, hikes and skiing in, but when we were home, she now had a place to explore on her own. There is a cedar tree next to the fence that Ellie gravitated towards. We call it Ellie’s office because she would often sit under the cedar tree and look out over the yard and the neighbours. We always joked she was a queen looking over her lands. She left her mark on that tree. It now has a nice hollowed area around the base that both her and Basil regularly use. She also enjoyed a dirt pile that was created when we first cleared the yard. It allowed her to get high enough to look over the fences at our neighbours. If we were down in the bottom of the yard, she would often be down there, perched on the miniature hill, looking over the fences.
Ellie as not always the most affectionate dog. Most of her life she didn’t have to seek affection but instead often got smothered in love. Not until we got Basil. Basil is an affection hog and demands love and cuddles all the time. It was easy to give Basil love, while also still trying to give Ellie the love we know she wanted but refused to act like she did. Well, last year, after her bacterial infection, we noticed a huge change in Ellie. She regularly came in for hugs and cuddles and wanted all that affection that we used to pile on her. It was a nice change to have her coming to us regularly for that love and hanging around long enough to give some love back.
As with everyone who has ever owned a dog, she was our perfect dog. She taught us so much about having a dog and how to handle her crazy antics. After her, our second dog seemed so much easier because Basil always had Ellie and didn’t go through any sort of separation anxiety and therefore never destroyed anything. Basil did have her own unique training challenges, mostly to do with howling and baying, but was easy breezy compared to Ellie. Would we change anything we did with Ellie? Absolutely, so many things would be done differently, most importantly how soon we got her a companion. Bit we can’t go back, so instead we have learned so much from our sweet girl and are going to use that knowledge with all our future dogs.
It is with heavy hearts that we had to say goodbye to Ellie last week. We had a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend with her where she played in the mud, had a goofy happy look on her face and looked healthier than she had since her bacterial infection last year. It was a glorious, sunny weekend of warm weather that let us have a phenomenal weekend together doing all sorts of fun outdoors activities. A few days later, we were hit with a sick dog. Unfortunately, this time she didn’t bounce back. We were able to bring her home from the vet for a night, in the hopes that it would raise her spirits and help her turn around and start getting better, but unfortunately she was just too sick. What we had feared last year was becoming our reality. The poor girl had a severe case of pancreatitis and just didn’t respond to treatment. We didn’t want to see her in pain or to force more treatment on her with a low likelihood of success so we made the gut-wrenching decision to let her go and be at peace.
We desperately miss her and find we have a hole in our world. But we have 12 years of photos, videos and memories to help us get through losing her. We had such a good life with her and despite all our learning, truly feel that she had an amazing life doing all the things she loved. She is now chasing squirrels by a lake with Shadow and Strummer.