A Dog’s Guide to Life.

Ellie's Garden

Ellie’s Garden

I have been grieving. I have been wallowing. I have been creating.

I have run the gamut of tears to laughter, sadness to joy, and still that which I must accept remains present.

There is an emptiness to my home. A quietness in the garden. I stillness in my heart.

And still, I must accept.

I have been fascinated by this journey. Choosing not just to go through it, but rather, to observe myself going through it has brought me up against things I do not want to touch, or see, or feel.

The Guardian Louise Gallagher 2014 Acrylic 24 x 24

The Guardian
Louise Gallagher 2014
24 x 24

And still, I must accept.

They are there. And I am okay. Regardless of the presence of sadness or joy, tears or laughter, I am okay.

I removed her bed from our bedroom. I removed her bed from the den and my office. Her toys remain scattered throughout the house. Her water dish remains full. Marley the Great Cat likes to drink from it too.

And I have heard stories. Of other people’s mourning of their beloved pets. Stories that brought tears to my eyes and made my heart ache. Stories that strengthened our human connection.

And I have written. And painted. And gardened. And created.

It took but a moment for her to wriggle her way into our hearts. It will take eternity to erase her footprints.

And here are some of the things I’ve learned.

A Dog’s Guide to Life.


A Dog’s Guide to Life by Ellie the Wonder Pooch

  1. Get outside. Get into nature. Go for a walk. Garden. Run. Play in the snow. The river. The mud. And don’t forget to take me with you. I like being outdoors. There’s so much out there to explore and it’s so just good doginess to share it!
  2. Smell the roses. Smell the air. Heck, smell my fur, even when it’s wet. Bury your face in the sweet, juicy aromas of life. Sure, it can be messy and prickly. But it’s always beautiful and fruitful and full of sweet smells and reminders of how wonderful it is to be alive.
  3. Pet me. Rub my belly. Fuss over me. I’m a dog. That’s what I need and it’s what you need too! Love all over me and know, no matter what, love really is the answer. Try it with the people in your life too. It really works. Why do you think I do it with you?
  4. Sit. Sprawl. Laze about. Let yourself sink into nothing but the pure joy of doing nothing. Block doorways. Lay in the middle of the room. Take up all the space you need to get comfortable. It’s your life. Your space. Fill it and do it often. Life looks better when you’re stretched out filling the whole canvas of your life.
  5. Chase butterflies. Dragonflies, even bumblebees. You don’t have to catch them. The joy is in the running about, chasing after nature and feeling the wind against your skin, or fur if you’re me.
  6. Dance in the rain. Run barefoot in the grass. Don’t be shy. Don’t tell yourself you’re too old or too proper or too whatever. You’re never too anything to act silly and free. Kick your shoes off and feel the earth — I’ve never understood why people, and horses for that matter, wear shoes. They’re so distracting.
  7. Talk to yourself – which is like… talking to me. Tell yourself all your sorrows, your secrets, your fears, your dreams. It’s okay. No one else can hear you except me and I will always listen and never judge and never tell another soul. Your secrets are mine to keep.
  8. Greet everyone you meet, even strangers and that girl with the tattoos and piercings and dog collar around her neck, with a big happy smile. I also don’t understand why people wear dog collars. They’re for dogs, people, because we’re special. But I digress. Greet people like you’re really, really happy to see them. Try some wiggles and squirms, lick them even! Or, as you humans like to do, give them a peck on the cheek, but really, really mean it! Be happy to see them. Let your happy shine, where ever you go! Heaven knows, the world needs more wriggles and squirms and happy greetings. And by the way, so do you.
  9. Always, always, clean your plate. Yup. I know. Your parents told you this. Difference is, what you don’t eat, you can give to me, I’m not picky and will eat anything you don’t, and then some! (and that’s how you clean your plate btw while also savouring every morsel of life) Oh. And no artichokes please. I don’t like the prickles. Which brings me to my final point;
  10. Only consume, buy, eat, do, speak, think, create, the things that create more joy, laughter, love and caring in your life. Be picky! Don’t settle for something just because it’s there. Make your own choices. Make your own path. Make your own waves. Remember, I chose you and you’re the bestest friend a dog could ever have, even though you’re not a dog. And you truly are great, especially when you remember to follow your heart, oh, and let me be your guide.



Thank you for the Love.

I'm so happy to see you!

I’m so happy, happy, happy to see you!

I want to write of all the amazing, wonderful things Ellie has done, but I can’t.

I want to tell you all about her funny, silly antics.

And all I can think of is how I am here today because Ellie saved my life during those long final months of that relationship from hell. It was because of Ellie that I couldn’t let go. I was so scared what he would do to her I simply could not take my own life without knowing that hers would be saved. And I couldn’t figure it out. So we would walk for hours, just Ellie and me, and I would sit on the riverbank and cry and she would sit beside me and lean into me and put her head in my lap and listen to my pain and never once stop loving me and holding me present.

And now, she’s done it again because I couldn’t make the decision of what to do when she had seizures on Monday. She’d had two by the time I got home from the office. C.C. was feeling helpless and then, she had a third one, so we took her into the emergency clinic.

After they’d examined her and told us there wasn’t much they could do,   “It’s most likely a brain tumor,” the vet said. I knew we couldn’t subject her to tests and surgery and treatment. She was scared, absolutely terrified, of vet offices, which was why I’d started using Vets to Go. They came to the house and that allowed Ellie to do her usual, “OMG! I’m so happy happy happy to see you greeting” without fearing the unknown, smelly, strange weirdness of a vet’s office. On Monday night, we were going to bring her home after her exam. I already had Vets to Go scheduled for Thursday and  were just waiting for the doctor to come back with some medication should she have another seizure.

And then, just before we were leaving, she had a fourth seizure.

My youngest daughter was there. C.C., ne and one of my daughters’ friends who had come with us on the day we had picked up Ellie from the ranch south of the City where she was born and we knew we had to let her go. The seizures were so violent and she was in distress.

Her real name was Ella Fitzgerald, named after the jazz singer who inspired so much of my daughter Alexis’ singing. We called her Ellie for short, Buddha Bellie as a pup. She was so round and squiggly and loving and cuddly.

She was also a scaredy cat.

She didn’t like thunderstorms, loud noises, postmen or any man in a uniform for that matter. She never ever pushed a door open, that would be too scary, even if there was food on the other side of the door, she just couldn’t do it. Instead, she would stand on the other side and whine, her snout just peeking through the crack in the door, waiting for someone to take mercy on her plight and let her in. And the dreaded monster, Dr. Va-coooom. Oh no! When he was trolling the house Ellie was nowhere to be found. Under beds. In closets. Out the door. Anywhere that Dr. Va-cooom couldn’t attack her and chew her up.

She had a penchant for chasing squirrels and would patrol the backyard for hours keeping it free from those pesky marauders who simply would not stop chattering at her, giving her a piece of their mind. In her later years she did less patrolling and more one-eyed, lying on the deck watching them scoot back and forth observing. It was only when they came down from the tree and tiptoed across the yard towards her, cheekily nattering about the nuts they’d found or where they were going to hide them in the garden that Ellie would leap up, as fast as her arthritic bones would let her, and chase them away. And then, she’d do a saunter around the yard, checking out the corners before returning to the deck to lie in the sun again.

But mostly, she was just a big, loveable, friendly, “OMG! I’m so happy, happy, happy! to see” you kind of dog. She greeted everyone as if they were her long lost friend she hadn’t seen for years and years and here they were at her front door, just to say hello. At the park, all it took for one of Ellie’s wiggly, squiggly, OMG! I’m so happy, happy, happy, to see you greetings was for a passerby to simply smile and Ellie would be across the path, squirming and groaning as if they were the only reason she was there. Actually, she mostly thought the only reason they were there was to see her.

And don’t get her near water. Of any kind. Lakes, ponds, raging rivers or even just a mud puddle. They were fair game for Ellie. One whiff of a body of moisture and suddenly, she was deaf, defiant and determined to test the waters. Her favourite was to bury herself in a mud puddle with just her head sticking out. She would smile and wriggle her body and stretch her paws out and sigh. Ahhh, Bliss. She didn’t care about the mud and dirt. She didn’t care if she shook it off and it flew everywhere when she got out. Who wouldn’t love a mud covered, dripping wet wonder pooch whose face wrinkled up in smiles and simply had to rub herself soaking body against you just so you knew how grateful she was for being alive?

It was Ellie’s greatest gift. To let you know how grateful she was for being alive and to remind you that life is precious. Be grateful. Be thankful and, if you happen to see a mud puddle there’s only one thing to do, get in and roll and get dirty. That’s life and isn’t it amazing?

Thank you Ellie for the years of joy, laughter, runs in the park, sojourns by the river and always your unconditional love. And thank you for saving my life.  You are my angel.

And thank you everyone for your beautiful, loving words and thoughts and energy and kindnesses.