Ella’s Side: An Entry in Two Parts (Part Two)

I was a lucky dog out on those rocks, but even luckier today when my dad worked from home. I love nothing more than when one or both of my parents are home with me. I understood mom had to go work at the hospital to make her patients feel better, and dad, having to focus on his work at home, was unable to spend as much time with me as I wanted, but even so, I had to try. 

After going for a walk, I came home and took a short nap. It wasn’t long after that and I was as spunky as ever. Mom thought I’d be tired today from all the weekend activities, but moms don’t always know everything. 

I made sure to scratch on the door wall every few minutes to get dad’s attention. At first it didn’t work too well, so I tried pulling a bunch of my toys out of my basket hoping that might help. When it didn’t, I went back to scratching the door wall and threw in a few cute whimpers. The more I worked up the drama queen sized act, the more I slowly caught dad’s attention. He finally decided it was nice enough outside to bring his computer out with him to sit on the patio so I could explore.

 

While dad worked, I chewed on some rocks, sniffed the bushes, and ate the occasional rabbit turd laying in the back yard. Rabbits are an obsession of mine. Almost every time I go outside, I have to stare down the bushes along the side of the neighbor’s house to see if I can see any rabbit moving inside.

On the other side of the house from the bushes, and around the corner out of sight from dad, there is an old storage box the previous owners had left. I can sometimes smell rabbits along here as well, so after no luck with the bushes, I headed towards the other side of the house. I could feel dad watching me as he and mom usually don’t let me go around the corner by myself. I had my training collar on and I waited for the slight vibration that told me I had gone far enough. It never came and I looked back at dad standing at the patio table focused on his work computer. 

I learned this game from my parents. They run down the hall and into one of the rooms where they hide behind the door. Then they proceed to call my name so I come and find them. Although they hide behind the door every single time, I never think to look there and it usually takes me a little while before I sniff them out. Today, I decided I’d try a variation of this game, except I’d be the one to hide. 

While dad wasn’t paying attention, I quietly sniffed around the air conditioning unit and flower bed. The back of our house hangs over the edge of the foundation about two feet, and there is plenty of room for me to crawl under without being seen. I did exactly that. I laid down and relaxed on the cool stones as the warm sun beat down on me. Since I was near all the mulch, the earthy smell just became too much for me to handle and I felt the urge to get some onto my tastebuds. After what seemed like forever, I saw dad walk off the patio and around to the corner of the house. I had completely forgotten the last time he had looked at me was when I was acting like I was headed over to sniff the storage box! I knew he was looking for me, thinking I had gone around the side of the house, and when he peaked around the corner only to find I wasn’t there, I giggled to myself. Dad couldn’t see me with the air conditioning unit blocking his view as he walked back over to the patio to grab the remote for my training collar. However, he stopped short, and when he came from around the unit, he laughed, looked right at me and asked “what I was doing.” I picked up another piece of mulch in my mouth and wagged my tail knowing that I had completely tricked him. 

After our fun outside, I still wasn’t ready to relax. Dad sat back down at the kitchen table to do more work on his computer while I played with my toys. I again pulled as many out of the basket as I could, but quickly became bored with this. 

There is one toy that can be found laying in a basket, other than my own, that is even more fun to play with. I hadn’t checked there in a few days so I was pretty sure one may have shown up since then. I headed to the guest bathroom, and sure enough, sitting on top and easy to grab, was a recently finished toilet paper roll. I quietly placed it between my teeth and began to tiptoe out of the bathroom. Peeking around the corner of the bathroom door, dad was still looking down at his laptop. He hadn’t seen me, so I casually made my way over to my bed where I laid down. Unfortunately, I was too loud when I set down the tube, and dad turned around only to catch me in the act. I hurriedly picked the roll back up hoping he wouldn’t take it from me. And of course, he pulled out his phone to snap a quick picture to send to mom. I’m sure she will lecture me about that one tonight. But, both mom and dad know it’s all in fun, and more often than not, let me tear up the toilet paper roll. 

Ella’s Side: An Entry in Two Parts (Part One)

This past weekend was full of all kinds of fun. 

Mom and dad let me ride with them to the car dealership to help buy a kayak rack for the Jeep. This specific dealership is dog friendly, so I was able to go in and say hi to everyone. When the lady at the service desk started talking to me, the excitement lifted my front legs right off the ground and onto the counter while my tail whipped back and forth to help steady my upright posture. I know I’m not supposed to jump up, but it’s hard not to when you love people that much. The nice lady decided that was my way of saying “come and play with me,” so she came around the other side of the counter and knelt down to give me a few good pats on the head. 

After we left the dealership, with my head hanging out the window to soak up every ounce of the sixty-five degree February day, we headed for the open-air mall down the street. Once we arrived, we walked straight for the Three Dog Bakery store that is always the first stop on our trip around the mall. Their collar and leash display was freshly stocked. Mom decided it was time to get me some new gear since my old collar was beginning to wear out. Another nice lady worked here as well, and she was walking around giving out tastes of their treats. Noticing her heading my way, I sat down before the command even left her mouth and gladly accepted her sample. The lady told me I was a really good girl and then continued on her way around to meet the other pups in the store. My belly content, we paid for my new stuff and then walked around the rest of the mall. 

On the ride home, we stopped at the park along the lake. Usually this time of year the water gets hard and turns slippery. But, since it has been warm, the water was flowing free and calling my name as soon as we got out of the Jeep. Mom and dad let me run along the rocks to test out the temperature of the water with my feet. After a while, I decided it was okay for them to throw in a stick that I could swim after. There is nothing more refreshing than a nice swim. After a few tosses of the stick for me to fetch, I got out of the water and climbed back up the small hill of broken concrete pieces. Once I got to the grass, I let loose like an escaped patient from the state hospital, ears flopping, eyes rolled back in my head, and tongue hanging out the side of my mouth, and ran around to dry myself off as much as I could. That’s when I noticed dad picking up the stick like he was ready to toss it out into the water again. With only the thought of getting to that chewy piece of wood as quickly as possible, I changed my running direction straight towards dad, my legs working in overdrive.

I completely forgot about the small hill of concrete leading down to the water, but there was no way of stopping now. I made eye contact with both mom and dad hoping to find some reassurance that the speed I was carrying towards the hill wouldn’t be an issue. All I found in their eyes was concern. Before I knew it, I was leaping out over the edge of the grass with nothing but broken up slabs of concrete beneath me. Thankfully, a few pieces were large and flat enough that I was able to land without losing balance, or breaking a limb, and slowed to a stop before I ended up in the water. As soon as my heart rate slowed and became regular again, I was ready to do it all over. 

 

Mind Your Own Dog’s Business

I’m sure we’ve all been there – strangers telling you how to raise your dog child. It takes every bit of strength you have not to unstrap your pup’s training collar and wrap it around the accuser’s neck “too tight” while repeatedly pushing the button on the highest setting. Okay, while the incident today wasn’t exactly an unwelcome tip as to what’s best for Ella, it was borderline a question of how well I know my own child’s elimination habits. 

Our bike ride started out the same as any other, except for the slight blanket of snow on the ground. There were fresh dog and human tracks along the path that Ella had her nose glued to the whole way to the corner of the subdivision. When we reached the corner, we made a left into the neighborhood, Ella right beside me on my bike as always. Barely making it past the stop sign, between the neighborhood sidewalk and road, she quickly squatted as lady-like as was possible with a public audience. Not more than five seconds later, she was up and off again, her sniffer working overtime. 

It just so happened at that moment, a guy was pulling into the subdivision and into the first driveway in front of us. We hadn’t even made it beyond the brick wall tht marked the entrance to the neighborhood, before he had his window rolled down yelling, “hey, did your dog just poop back there?!” His tone was about as arrogant as could be, like he was trying to impress some uninterested woman by starting a fight with me. “No, she just peed,” was all I said back. He ended the conversation with an “oh, okay,” but I was already pedaling past his driveway. I didn’t turn around to look, but I am confident he probably went to check for sure that I wasn’t lying. Afterwards, I couldn’t help but feel like Ella and I were being scrutinized by pairs of eyes looking out the windows of every house we went by for the duration of our ride.

Now, I understand it’s a $500 fine for any person you catch not picking up thier dog’s poo piles, and the guy didn’t know me or Ella (and never will with that act), but I’d much rather have to scrub fully digested kibble out from under my fingernails than pay a $500 fine. Luckily, the only time I’ve forgotten a bag on a walk was during the fall, and I’d never been as thankful for all the dead leaves. They work just as well, are free, AND are fully biodegradable.

Not everyone does pick up after their dog. We see petrified turds all the time along the sidewalks. We weren’t even close to his yard, and technically the area of grass between the sidewalk and road isn’t even his property anyway. But if you see a dog in the process of relieving itself, be sure it’s in the posture circled below before you go accusing and making a scene if the owner doesn’t bend down to pick something up. Just mind your own dog’s business and don’t be like the guy Ella and I had the pleasure of meeting today, or you could end up with a full bag of fire on your front porch. 

Ella, Too

It was a chilly day in May 2014 when Erica and I made the trip to an animal rescue located in a small town a little over an hour from our apartment. The drive seemed like it took days. We had been full of excitement, and lacked patience knowing that we were about to pick out a puppy who would spend the rest of its life with us but wouldn’t be ready to bring home for another week. Nonetheless, we were still pretty ecstatic to meet our soon-to-be dog child.

During the few months prior, we had stopped in at multiple shelters and rescues looking to find the perfect dog that we could take home. None of the animals really seemed to share that connection you have when you know it was meant to be, and so we continued to look. We also ran into the trouble of rescues not letting us adopt due to the fact we lived in an apartment and didn’t have a fenced yard. This was frustrating. We knew that we could provide a great life for any dog regardless of not meeting the rescue’s criteria, but it didn’t matter. Some of these places seemed to be willing to hand over a dog to anyone who owned a house and fence. You could run a dog fighting ring in your back yard, but as long as the yard was fenced, feel free to adopt as many dogs as you’d like! If you would treat the dog as your own family and raise it with the utmost care and love, but lived in an apartment, forget about it. You obviously would never take it outside of your small living quarters to run and play.

With my mom’s many rescue connections because of her job as an animal control officer, we were able to visit this last rescue knowing the apartment thing wouldn’t be an issue. We pulled into the drive, and as we got out of the car and approached the front door of the house, we were greeted by a kind woman and three happy dogs. They had seen us pull in and took us right into the garage where the rescued dogs were kept. Multiple areas in the garage were closed off with small fencing to create separate pens, and each pen contained anywhere from three to six puppies of different breeds. Some were ready for adoption, and some were even younger with a few weeks left to go. In each pen, there was an area boarded off full of cedar chips for the puppies to potty train. Each pen also contained a few boxes full of blankets where the pups could hide in and sleep.

As we walked through the garage, we came to a pen containing six little black lab mixes. Three boys and three girls all doing their own thing. Unsure of how much interaction we were allowed, we waited for the woman to tell us it was okay to get into the pen with the dogs. We then opened the gate to step in and were suddenly rushed by the most enthusiastic bunch of little wagging tails and floppy ears. Erica – never having a dog for a pet while growing up – squatted down as the pups jumped all over her, and with the biggest smile on her face, began to soak up every second of playtime.

While we played with them, we pointed out what we liked about each of their tiny, individual characters, and which one we thought would be right for us. Two of the boys were very energetic, jumping all over us and biting at the key lanyard hanging from my pocket, while the third boy was more calm, laying on the blanket in the box. One of the girls was the same as the two boys. Lots of energy and a fascination with biting human fingers. A second girl was the same as the one boy laying on the blankets, just relaxing like no visitors were there to see them.

And then there was the third girl. Not too rambunctious, and not too lazy. She seemed to love playing with the empty toilet paper rolls strewn about the pen, and enjoyed stretching on her hind legs while resting the front two on your lap to reach up and lick you on the face. This one particular pup was full of kisses, and so full of love. Her markings compared to the others made her even more unique. She was solid black with patches of white on all four paws, her chest, on the front of her neck, and a grayish-white chin that made her look as though she was an old dog that had already lived life to the fullest, but living it in a puppy’s body.

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As we held her in our arms, she looked straight into our eyes, soaked our faces with kiss after kiss, and we knew that she was the one who would be coming home with us in a week. We continued playing with her, and it just felt like it was meant to be. I don’t remember how long we stayed to visit our new baby, but Erica and I both had a hard time leaving her there when it was time to go.

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The next week dragged on, and with a whole new excitement, we drove back to the rescue to bring Ella home with us. She whined at first, but it didn’t take long before the lull of the moving car rocked her to sleep.

It’s been almost three years since that day we brought our puppy home, and Ella has lived the best life a dog could ask for. She gets to go to the dog park on a regular basis, rides everywhere in the Jeep with her head stuck out of the window, goes on trips to the mall, swims and dives for rocks, goes camping, sleeps in our bed every night between Erica and I, and so much more that you’ll definitely be hearing about during the life of this blog. We didn’t know it at the time, but the day we brought her home changed our lives forever. Imagine yourself as a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel. You meet many people in a lifetime who will help shape you into who you are and what you will become. It’s absolutely amazing how one animal so full of love, and yet so full of simplicity, can take that drab vase you’ve become and add a color and pattern to your life that you never knew existed. For us, this is who Ella is. 


 

You

My wife, Erica, was still in high school when we met. She was just getting ready to start her senior year, but wasn’t sure of where she had wanted to go to college. Although where she wanted to go was undecided, she did know that she wanted to major in Radiology. After we met and she began her final year of high school, she had narrowed her college choices down to Ferris State University and Oakland University. At the end of 2012, with me getting a job at Chrysler in Auburn Hills, she decided on Oakland University.

I’d like to think that me getting a job just a few miles down the road from the school influenced her final decision, but she tells me that she had been leaning towards Oakland over Ferris anyway. Even so, to me, it was just another sign that we were meant to be together.

Erica finished up high school and continued to live at home the remainder of the summer before moving into the dorms at Oakland in the fall of 2013. She studied there for a year while satisfying her love for animals working at PetSmart’s Doggy Daycamp. She enjoyed working and playing with the dogs, but after awhile she decided it was time for a change in both her job and the career path she was headed down.

After the first year at Oakland to pursue Radiology, Erica changed her major to nursing, and moved her studying to Macomb Community College. At the same time, she also landed a job as a Nursing Assistant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and has been there since.

I do not remember exactly what spot in Erica’s timeline when Ella arrived into our lives, other than it was in May 2014, and Ella was my wife’s first dog. But, I do know that Ella brought out something different in her. A side of her that I hadn’t seen up to that point. The way Erica was with Ella was exactly how I could picture her someday with a child of our own, and how well she treated that little, white hair chinned pup made me fall in love with both of them even more than I already had been.