Coming Home

A dragonfly hovers over the white rose bush as a lone cricket begins its evening song. The cool, end of summer breeze drifts over the front porch while Ella sits at my feet. She stares out at the road, her nose twitching as she sorts out the smells in the air. A rock and some pieces of mulch lay beside her. Only minutes ago serving as chew toys, they now lay forgotten due to her always changing interests. She currently has one thing on her mind. Her mom coming home.

The setting sun softly touches the pages of my book, turning them orange. Traffic seems to pick up, and the hum of the neighbor’s air conditioning unit now drowns out the crickets. I look away from the words in my book and glance at Ella as she watches a man walking a dog down the sidewalk. He’s wearing an orange sweatshirt and carries a small Bluetooth speaker in his pocket turned up as loud as it will go. Rap music blasts throughout the neighborhood as he passes. 

As he walks behind our lone standing tree in the front yard, the music fades, and I notice a single branch has turned red with color. Leaves once full of life now wilt with the first signs of autumn. 

The sun sinks lower behind the house and shadows arc long and dark across the grass. Ella grows with a familiar restlessness knowing her mom will be home any moment. 

Finally. I smile as the Jeep slows in front of the house. It turns into the driveway, its headlights shine onto the porch and Ella’s tail begins to slice the air with pure excitement. An amount of excitement I’m pretty convinced no human has ever experienced. She stands up. Her tail begins to spin in circles, faster, like a helicopter taking off from its pad. You can hear a door slam, muffled by the walls of the garage. Ella’s mom is home from work. 

As soon as Erica rounds the corner of the garage, Ella can no longer contain herself, and she sprints off the porch and down the walkway to say hello. Erica bends down, her face slathered with puppy kisses. 

Usually we can point to our mouth, tell Ella, “kiss,” and she will give a quick lick of acknowledgement, but when her mom gets home, there is no stopping the rush. 

After a minute of kisses, petting, and more tail wags, Ella bolts out into the yard and runs in a handful of circles. Erica joins in and they chase each other, only stopping to flash a quick smile for the camera. A smile that says it all. I am happy you are my mom, and I am happy you are home. 

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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. 

 

The Lab Assistant 

None of us would be able to get anywhere in life without help. The help of family, of a close friend, or a stranger on the street. Help with homework, help with raising children, help getting a job, a house, or a car. When we try to do too many things on our own, especially during life’s hardest moments, we can become arrogant and selfish, pushing away those closest to us. Pushing away those who’s love and support we need most to get us through the hard times. But, no matter how self-centered we become, or how much help we reject, there’s one sort of help that can never be ignored. One kind of help that will always come back again and again. A unique kind of help that, no matter how many times we tell it no, will break us down into the humblest of beings.


I admit I get a little jealous that Ella, our almost three-year-old lab, gets more kisses from my wife than I do. She even gets more cuddles and hugs, but believe it or not, Ella assists with our relationship. She helps bring my wife and I closer together than we’ve ever been, and it’s because she teaches us how to focus on others instead of ourselves. Ella has taught us how to better put eachother’s needs ahead of our own, which is exactly what helps make a marriage so great. 

Whenever we take Ella to the open-air mall for walks, her wagging tail speeds up with every person we pass. She brings joy to all people in her path. Some stop to pet her on the head while telling her how good she is or how cute the flower on her collar is. And yes, she enjoys the attention, but you can tell by the way she looks into their eyes that all she wants is to make them smile, and make them see that the world is not so bad. For some of those people, meeting Ella just might have been the best part of the worst day of their life. Having Ella with us at the mall – or wherever else we may go – is like taking a lighted tealight candle into a large, dark room. The candle itself may be small, but the light it gives off is remarkable.


 I truly believe God created dogs for the purpose of assisting us through life. For softening our hearts and teaching us how to treat each other with the kindness and selflessness we all deserve from one another. I wish everyone in the world could meet Ella and share her passion for life. Life is short, and Ella’s life is even shorter. Although she doesn’t know that, she still lives each day to her full potential. It’s as if she really does understand the limited time she has, and the strong influence she has on those around her that can help impact and change lives during that short time. If only we could all live this way, and create the same unparalleled quality of life.

We hope to get Ella into therapy dog training soon. This way she can further help and assist those in need of a smile. She can do what she does so well on a higher level. To be so selfless, putting everyone’s feelings before hers, and make all those she comes into contact with that much happier. It’s truly an amazing thing to learn so much from a creature that cannot speak but yet can still say so much