Life without Ellie has been a series of painful reminders.
It’s the little things that get you…
Ellie liked to lie on the cold tile in our entryway. I’d have to force my eyes not to look in that direction because I’d still… oddly enough… expect to see her there. Even in my peripheral vision, I’d think I’d see her, front paws splayed out straight, her white chin resting between them, eyes half-closed. I’d have to forcibly tell myself not to look — that it wasn’t real.
I didn’t open the blinds to the back yard for weeks. Same reason. There are these little smudges on the windowpane where she’d bump her nose against the glass to let us know she wanted back in. I haven’t had the heart to wipe them off. Ellie was there once. I wish she still was.
And, then there are the water bottles. My kids are incredibly wasteful with water bottles. They will open brand new ones, take a few sips and then forget about them. It’s a point of contention in our home. But, when I found them, forgotten in corners, toppled over by their beds, scattered around the kitchen table, I’d pour them in Ellie’s bowl. Then, it felt like less of a waste… Plus, Ellie always appreciated bottled water, unlike some people in our house. For the longest, I didn’t know what to do with the water bottles.
When Kyle took Ellie to be put down, I kept watching our driveway, halfway expecting him to bring her straight back. Maybe he’d come up with a good solution in that short drive to the vet. Maybe the vet would come up with a new idea that was destined to work and he’d come bounding in with renewed hope and our no-worse-for-the-wear pup. So, I kept all her stuff just as she left it… her water and food dishes as they were, her medicine in the cabinet, her food in the bin, her leash hanging on the peg. Even after Kyle came home without her, I still couldn’t bring myself to move anything… just in case. I’m not sure what that “case” was, but it felt right even if it didn’t make sense.
Eventually someone took up the bowls. I think it was Kyle. I saw them in the garage. But, everything else is just as it was. Whenever I’d open the cabinet that was hers in the laundry room, I’d see her things and think I should throw them out. But, it’s easier to just shut the cabinet, so I’d do that instead.
We had a rhythm with Ellie. It was such a seamless part of our lives that we hardly even noticed it. We let her out at certain times, in at certain times, filled her bowls at certain times, bathed her at certain times. But, now I go to the door, touch the knob and then realize my brain’s gotten it all wrong again.
Ellie was never much of a guard dog. No one would find our half-blind, lethargic dog a threat. But, she made me feel safe. After Ellie died, I felt so insecure in our home. It didn’t feel the same. There was one less set of eyes – even old, dimmed eyes – on this house and these little people. I depended on her.
We told the kids that we’d look for another puppy after our vacation (more on that later), but I fully expected it would take months, maybe even a year, to find just the right dog. I didn’t really know what I wanted. Well, that’s not true… I wanted Ellie back. But, as far as what was realistic, I didn’t know.
Part of me felt like no dog would compare to Ellie, so why put one in that position — to always be forced to live up to some unattainable goal. Another part of me thought another dog would diminish Ellie’s memory in the kids’ minds. Part of me felt like it would be a betrayal to Ellie – to love another dog. And, then there’s the cost of a new dog, a cost that I felt guilty not spending on Ellie, to maybe buy her more time, make her more comfortable.
But, in my heart, I knew we’d get another dog… someday.
That day came sooner than expected.
Kyle called me from work and basically said, let’s go get a puppy.
There was a litter we’d considered, but… frankly… there were several litters we’d considered and then decided we weren’t quite compelled enough to move forward.
But, for whatever reason, we went back to that last litter and thought, well… if they still have that one puppy we liked, we’ll see.
As it turned out, that puppy was still available, but someone was coming to look at her and her sister right then.
So, then we said, well, we’ll see if she’s still there after that person leaves.
And, then she was.
Kyle looked at me imploringly and I said, let’s just go look.
We surprised the kids — told them we were going to buy some more discs for Kyle disc golf habit. (This is a real addiction for him — so no big shock there.) On the drive over, I kept thinking how unprepared we were… The house wasn’t puppy proofed yet. The kids haven’t healed yet. I hadn’t healed yet. But, what was the harm in looking?
We didn’t tell the kids anything until we pulled into the breeder’s driveway. They immediately burst into tears. I’m pretty sure they were happy/sad tears, since I had a few leaking from my eyes, as well.
I was far more impressed with the breeder than I expected. I was far more impressed with their environment than I expected. And, the puppies had the very best mom. She was sweet, gentle, calm, confident, quiet and highly intelligent, so much like our Ellie. The breeder showed us all her tricks and we were impressed. But, then we saw the puppies… Gosh, it’s impossible to not love a troupe of puppies barreling, tripping, yipping across the yard to you.
I immediately spotted our girl, notable because her white markings where all her siblings were solid brown. She licked our faces and stared in our eyes with her crystal green ones. I told myself to be logical. So, I checked her all over to make sure she was healthy, flipped her on her back to make sure she was submissive enough to trust me, watched her interact with the kids and her litter mates.
After a little discussion, we left with our puppy. Our new little lady.
The kids named her Emmeline and call her Emme. It’s close to Ellie and that’s fine by me.
In many ways, this puppy has reminded me of Ellie. And, each time she does, it stings a little bit. I’m glad we didn’t get another golden for that reason alone. We already had enough reminders.
But, in dozens of other ways, she’s her own little creature. That’s fine by me, too.
I still have sad spells, crying spells, aching spells. But, this puppy has been such a distraction. I wasn’t aware of how badly we all needed that. We haven’t had a puppy in 13 years and I forgot how challenging they are, but it’s a challenge we’re all up for — if only to get to that place where we were with Ellie — complete trust, complete love, complete devotion, complete family.