The New Baby Gets a Name!
I took my little girl home, and life with her began. She seemed mature for her young age, was calm, curious, and very sweet. As we got to know each other, one day and for no real reason, “Ellie” came to me for her.
She was very smart, so it wasn’t long before she started responding to her new name. I taught her the basic commands, which she learned almost instantly. I was so proud of her! House training was completed almost overnight, another sign that I had a smart pup on my hands. I even began to be aware that she had a moral code of sorts, a strong sense of right and wrong without even having to do wrong to figure it out. And, she had a strong playful side, which I loved.
As she grew into an amazing young dog, demonstrating intelligence and character, it continued to be apparent to me that she was a something special. Hoping to replicate her traits, I decided to breed her to my friend’s male, so off she went on an arranged marriage. The consummation worked, and her proportions began to swell. With that, her nickname became “Ellie Belly”.
Just in time for the birth of Ellie’s puppies, I had to go on a business trip. So, as luck would have it, in the middle of the night, while I was gone, she went into labor. My friend, the reluctant midwife, was keeping her and thus, had the honor of presiding over the births. I hated not being there! In what was a pretty routine whelping, Ellie gave birth to four pups – three boys and one girl – and all were healthy, boisterous and adorable…and loud! Those days, and nights, between birth and bestowing those puppies on new owners got pretty long.
Ellie was an excellent mother, fiercely protective and vigilant about making sure her brood was well fed and always clean. I was quite proud of her, and in awe of the instinctive drive that dictated her behavior toward her babies. However, the very instant that those puppies were weaned, and she could get them off of her, she washed her paws of those little dogs and went on her way!
Ellie’s Dark Side…!
As the puppies matured, and got their legs underneath them, Ellie’s mischievous persona emerged. I hadn’t known that aspect of her, but she became quite a scamp. As is customary in Florida, the back porch of my house was completely screened; the puppies could go out there, but to get to the grass, they had to be let out of a door… that is, until somehow there got to be a hole in the screen.
Ellie found that hole, and like the Pied Piper, led her puppies through it and off on a grand adventure. I saw this happen the first time; I flew out of the house and was somehow able to round up the little ones, but Ellie refused to come home and wouldn’t let me near her with a leash. Exasperated, I took the puppies home and figured Ellie would follow me. She did not.
Fortunately, my little enclave was situated on a golf course, which was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Ellie was pretty much safe out there, with no traffic except golf carts; on the other, she had acres and acres of space to run and get away. I knew finding her would be a crapshoot.
I went out there and walked and walked, and yelled for her. It was fruitless, and I felt sick to think that she might be gone. Dejected, and running out of daylight, I walked home; to my immense relief, I found none other than Ellie, waiting for me at the screen porch door. I opened the door to let her in; she stood there about 10 feet away, looking at me. She wouldn’t let me get near her to pick her up, and she wouldn’t come in. That game went on for a while, and weary of it, I finally propped the door open so she could come in when she was good and ready. I went in the house.
You’re Not the Boss of Me!!
Ellie appeared, looking both a little ashamed of herself, but also, triumphant that she had won in some respects. It was then that I had an idea of who this dog really was. Yes, she was a “who” and not a dog in the conventional sense of “dog”. She wasn’t going to serve me, or obey me, unless we had an agreement, which was…as much as she was going to be my dog, I was going to be her human. At that early point, I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out, but I knew that the creature I knew as Ellie was an extraordinary soul.
There would be other adventures where Ellie would again lead her puppies through the allegedly repaired hole in the screen, I’d go round them up; Ellie would dare me to leave her behind and then later, she’d come home. And another where the little female puppy, Emma, got lost for days and finally turned up at the home of a neighbor, with dozens of people helping search for her. But no matter what, for me, the star of the show was always Ellie.
Florida to Texas
I had made a two-year commitment to the Fort Lauderdale newspaper. I loved my job but had an intense dislike for South Florida. The only thing that saved me was golf, and I played all the time, and I had forged strong bonds with my co-workers…a couple of silver linings in a South Florida cloud.
As opposed to Texas, where most people you run into are from here or somewhere nearby, and might even know your kinfolks, hardly anyone was a native South Floridian. When I lived there, the economy was booming, bringing people in from all over looking to reap the rewards of the good times. In addition, there were people of all sorts of nationalities in South Florida, including Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Haitians, as well as seasonal residents from the northeastern US and Canada.
As a result of a lack of roots or connectedness to the area, the population was what you might call transient. It seemed that factor led to people not really making an effort to be friendly or create relationships, not like here in Texas. I didn’t like that.
Even though Ellie was born in Florida, she was my dog and I her human, and her human was a Texas gal. After I’d fulfilled my commitment to the newspaper, it was time to go home.
NEXT: The Move Home, and After