Where once, the minute I awoke she would eagerly look to see if I would let her out, give her a treat or simply greet her with a pet, she now lies quietly on her mat until I call her for breakfast.
Last night, rather than come sleep on her mat in the bedroom, she didn’t move from where she’d been lying all evening in the den.
She is getting older my Ellie the wonder pooch. She is getting older.
She was 9 weeks old when we brought her home. Alexis, Liseanne and their friend D. and I drove out to a small town south of the city to pick her up the day we were told she was ready to come home. It was a beautiful autumn day. Clear blue sky. Golden leaves falling. The mountains lining the western horizon like a dragon slumbering at the edge of the rolling foothills through which we drove to arrive at the ranch where Ellie had been born.
We’d already decided on her name. We needed to call her something ‘singerly’ as we’d picked her out the day Liseanne and I waited for Alexis at her very first workshop audition for The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede. TYC is a singing/dancing troupe of aspiring performers that she performed with for 5 years and getting a scholarship to the performing school and being invited to join the troupe was a real coup.
We need to celebrate said Liseanne as we left the hall where Alexis would spend the day rehearsing and handed me the newspaper where she’d circled several ads for Golden Retriever puppies.
“But I didn’t say we were getting a dog,” I said.
“But mom! Alexis and I agreed on a Golden Retriever without even fighting about it. Shouldn’t you be rewarding us?” Or something like that.
Needless to say, even though I hadn’t planned on getting another dog (I wrote a blog about the last dog I had — a crazy Jack Russell terrier I’d adopted and eventually had to find a new home for. She was keraaaazzy!) there we were, one month after picking her from the litter, driving south and west to bring home our new family addition.
She was small and cuddly, her tummy a round soft bowl of squiggly fur that she loved to have tickled and rubbed. She’s named after Ella Fitzgerald but at first, the girls called her Buddha Bellie and the derivative, Ellie, stuck.
Ellie has been my ballast, my friend, my comforter, my guide for almost 13 years. She went through those dark final years of that relationship from hell, quietly padding beside me, leaning into me when I would sit and cry in the dark, laying her head on my lap when I would lie on my bed and not want to move.
For years, her favourite place to sleep was on the bed but in the past year jumping up is not something she’s able to do. Where once, jumping into the back of the car was a joyous precursor that inevitably lead to hours of running and wandering through her favourite parks, she can no longer make the leap. I started helping her into the lower back seat and now, have resorted to neighbourhood walks to avoid making her climb into the car.
She is slowing down. Arthritis is taking over her limbs.
And sadness is weighing down on my heart.
Last night I told a friend how I am living in the future with Ellie, dreading when she is gone. I need to come back to the moment, now, I said, to be with her here. I know the inevitable looms but I cannot look out there and start missing her already. I need to keep myself here. To treasure and be with her now.
and it’s hard.
But, she deserves my presence now. She deserves my being joyful with her now. She deserves my best. Right now.
And then I remember. Ellie is a garbage hound. Maybe she ate something she shouldn’t! Maybe she’s got the flu. Maybe a trip to the vet’s is all she needs to perk up.
But, I don’t want to take her to the vet. I fear being told something I don’t want to hear.
As my daughter wrote in her blog this morning about a completely separate matter, Avoidance strengthens fear.
I know that.
I’m the one who originally said it to her.
Did she have to write that this morning?
Did she have to remind right now that I my fear is blocking my capacity to be brave, courageous and loving?
Because right now, the most loving thing for my Ellie is… to sit with her and be with her and take her to the doctor to see if maybe it’s just something other than age that’s bringing her down.