NOTE: I am writing this blog entry in several parts, first because it is a very long story, and secondly it is a very emotionally draining one for me to tell; there is only so much I can handle at any one time. However, the effort is well worth it.
This is an account of my relationship with the most extraordinary dog I could’ve ever imagined having in my life, a bond with whom, even after her death, cannot be broken. So, I write this to honor my Ellie, who died Dec. 8, 2010. I miss her every day, and I am certain she misses me, too.
Nowadays, with cyber security driving the design of web sites, we are often required to provide answers to security questions, to confirm our identity should we need to reset a password or make some other change to personal information. On many web sites that require answers to security questions, one of the choices is often, “Name of your first pet”.
So – the first pet I can remember as a little kid was Happy. Happy was a stout, muscular male boxer that let us dress him up in sunglasses, costumes and hats, and in his amazing patience, allowed us to hitch our little wagon to his collar so he could pull us around the yard. And he did, whenever we wanted.
Boxers look mean and therefore, are prone to classification as aggressive dogs. Happy never showed one ounce of aggression toward anyone in our family; however, he was well known around the neighborhood as a killing machine. Often at night, he’d jump the six-foot fence around our yard and kill other dogs, cats, and whatever else he could find. Then, he’d jump the fence again, leaping back into the yard, and return to being a sweet slobbery slave to us kids.
Happy was the first pet I remember. There were many more over the years, but none that captured and, to this day, have held my heart like my sweet Ellie.
TEXAS TO FLORIDA
When Ellie came into my life, I was living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, having moved there for a work opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Prior to that, I had been living in Houston, working for the Chronicle newspaper. A group from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale had come to meet with us to discuss a marketing strategy we were developing; I was quite involved with that strategy and had interesting discussions with our Florida colleagues about their plans to emulate our program.
There was excellent chemistry between the Florida folks and me, and we sensed that a partnership could be mutually beneficial. So, ready for a change of scenery, I accepted a job offer from the Fort Lauderdale paper, and moved to South Florida. I knew only one person there, and arranged to live with her for a while until I got settled. It so happened that she had a male Schnauzer that I fell in love with, and when it was time for me to get my own place, I wanted a dog.
Checking the newspaper ads, I found a new litter of Schnauzer puppies at a home in one of Fort Lauderdale’s many suburbs. So, I contacted the owners and made plans to visit their home one evening after work to see the puppies. I arrived at the appointed hour to find a bustling and hectic household full of kids of all ages. This was an Italian family, and seemed there had to have been at least six or more kids, starting with a baby, then a toddler in diapers, to a first grader, and stair-steps up from there.
With all those kids, there was all the chattering and noise you might expect, along with toys scattered wall to wall. Right in the middle of all that mayhem were two adult miniature Schnauzers, positioned stoically like Sphinxes in the middle of the crowded and loud living room, with the most poise and dignity you could ever imagine from two dogs. Their hair was combed over their eyes, giving them an aura of mystery.
I was in awe of how those two dogs could not only tolerate all those kids, but also be so calm in the midst of utter chaos! Turned out those were the parents of the new litter. I was impressed! As I was eager to see the puppies, the adults of the household guided me to the sunroom, where the babies were hanging out. In contrast to the human household, I found a quiet and orderly scene, with little wiggly fur balls contained in a large enclosure with short plywood walls, situated in the middle of the floor.
SHE PICKED ME!
I gazed at this irresistible jumble of puppy joy, and wondered how in the world I was going to choose just one! Then I noticed that there was a single puppy sitting with her back to the wall, simply observing everything. She very quietly watched me, as well as her siblings. I went over to her, and squatted down; I put my face down near hers and she licked my nose, as if to say, “I pick you”. And so, she did.
At only four weeks, she was too young to take home that night. I had to wait two weeks for the honor of making this sweet girl my new baby. During that time, I figured I’d think of names for her. It was getting close to Christmas, so names like “Holly” and such flickered through my head. Nothing stuck, though, so I thought I’d just wait until I got to know her a little and something certainly would come to me.
The time came to return to the crazy household full of kids so I could get my little girl! I paid for her, got her veterinary records and registration information, and she was all mine. I was with a friend that evening, and from there we had errands to run. It was a cool night by Florida standards, so I had on a coat. My darling little cutie pie fit right in the bend of my arm, and I held her closely so she wouldn’t get cold. As I held her there, and as she fell peacefully asleep in my arms, it seemed there was nowhere else she’d rather be. The natural way she and I bonded that evening would set the pace for us, connected together as pet and human, for the rest of her life.
NEXT TIME: SMART, SASSY ELLIE!