Ellie Mae and her “special” water dish

Today I planted some flowers in a pot. The pot was once a dutch oven in a kitchen. White enamel with a band of red plaid and red handles. It was kind of an odd pot, and I’m not sure where it came from.

I planted purple flowers because purple was my dog’s favorite color, as my sister likes to say. Ellie wore a purple collar basically since the day we brought her home from the humane society. The pot was Ellie’s favorite. Always a funny dog, she would drink every last drop of water out of that pot even when five minutes before she had ignored every other water source in the house and outside of it. We called it special water. Ellie’s never going to drink special water again.

After writing those two paragraphs I’m already crying.

We put Ellie down on February 23rd, 2012. My mom paid to have a veterinarian come to our home and put our dog to sleep because we owed at least that to Ellie Mae. That Thursday afternoon was one of the hardest of my life and every day since then has been hard. Each time the 23rd of a month comes around it only gets worse. The only thing I have left of my dog are the memories, photos, and the clay paw print the vet made for us.

I know not everyone will understand why I still miss Ellie Mae so much. I know others will. One of the things that helps me through those times when I feel terribly sad is knowing my sister misses Ellie as much as I do. Some nights I hold Ellie’s favorite cloud blanket (blanket with clouds on it… she had two and they were her favorite blankets in the whole house – I kid you not) to comfort myself.

We brought Ellie, probably a black lab and Rottweiler mix, home from the humane society as an 8-week-old puppy. She had a pink paper collar and ran slightly sideways, like many puppies do. I was 10 years old, and it was the first summer after my parents split up. Ellie and I grew up together. She ate my Barbies, peed in my room, and ate the sole out of one of my favorite shoes (but not the other of the pair). I’m not exactly sure when I went from hating her for amputating my favorite doll’s leg* to loving her so much.

She was a fantastic dog. We trained her not to lick us because my mom doesn’t really like being licked by dogs. As a pup she showed her affection by nibbling with her sharp puppy teeth. As she got older she learned  what we call “face-bump” kisses; she’d gently bump her snout into our faces.

I used to give her private violin concerts. I’d have conversations with her sometimes. It sounds dumb, but Ellie was a great listener. She liked it when we burst out into song, too, so I sometimes sang about what I was doing, whether it was cooking or cleaning or just feeling frustrated.

Going away to college was hard. I knew Ellie was getting old, and I was afraid she’d die while I was at school. By the end of my junior year of college – last summer – Ellie had cancer. We didn’t know how much longer she had to live, but we knew we wouldn’t treat the cancer**. I’m glad I graduated a semester early if only because I got to spend those last couple of months with my dog, who was so much more than a dog to me.

I had hoped it’d get easier or less painful or something as time passed, but instead it’s only become easier to not think about it. If I indulge in thinking of Ellie, I tear up. And if I think about her for too long, I start to cry in earnest. I miss my dog, and it hurts more than anything I think I’ve ever experienced.

*I made a prosthetic leg and foot for my Barbie doll. I wanted her to be able to wear shoes and walk around. I even painted it to match her skin. A popsicle/craft stick, some tape, a matchless Barbie shoe – as a mold – and some hot glue made for a pretty decent prosthetic.

**We didn’t even pay to find out what kind of cancer it was. She was 11, and we knew the treatment would probably just be painful for her.

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