Nearly a year ago my family and I made the decision to let go of our beloved dog, Ellie Mae.
Ellie was a black lab and probably rottweiler mix, though she could have been more of a mix than that. We got her from the humane society at the beginning of the summer after I finished fourth grade when she was eight weeks old. My parents had split up in the fall, and my mom and all my siblings were living with my grandparents. Quite frankly, there were too many people in my house. Ellie didn’t make it more crowded though, she just brought wonderful things into our lives.
My experience with Ellie was not all sweet at first. I was the youngest child of 4 and up until that point my siblings almost-but-not-quite-constantly picked on me. Ellie grew fast, and somehow knew that I was the smallest and essentially weakest of the family. For the first year of her life with us she terrorized my life in the way that puppies do, while simultaneously demonstrating her belief that I was below her on the totem pole. She ate my toys, my favorite shoes, peed in my room, ignored most of my commands, and jumped on me. She probably did more than that, but I hardly remember anymore.
At some point, though, Ellie realized I had moved up the family ladder. I was bigger and she stopped treating me like an inferior. And she became the best friend a girl could have.
Ellie was really Rock’s dog – Rock being my older sister (Rock is a nickname). It said Rock’s name on Ellie’s dog tag, and she is the one that picked and named Ellie as a puppy. Rock also dealt with much of the less fun stuff for the first year of El’s life – potty training, cleaning up, walking, etc. And Rock and Ellie had an amazing bond, but Ellie and I developed a bond, too.
I miss Ellie every day.
Ellie was a fantastic listener. It sounds dumb to non-animal-lovers (or maybe to all non-dog-lovers), but she always showed the desire to comfort us when we were distressed. Even on her last day, when my sister and I were in tears and Ellie had virtually no energy, she tried to give us her signature face-bump kisses (no licking, just gently pushing her face against ours). She never wanted us to be sad. She liked it when we sang to her. Sometimes I’d break out in song about what I was doing, usually in the kitchen, and Ellie would just hang out. She loved people and activity, and she showed it.
When I went away to college Ellie was about 8 years old. I remember telling my mom I was afraid she would die while I was gone, even though I knew I’d be back in the summertime. I was afraid, particularly after one Thanksgiving, that I would get a phone call that they had to put Ellie down or that she never woke up. I never got that phone call, and I cannot even express how glad I am that I didn’t. I’m also glad I graduated college a semester early because we said goodbye to Ellie in February 2012, what was supposed to be the last semester of my college career.
Ellie had cancer for the last year or so of her life. The disease slowly drained her energy, making her more and more lethargic, more and more depressed. She’d always try to give us face-bump kisses, but in the end even that was hard. She didn’t fully open her eyes on her last day until my mom came home, and then only briefly.
We had a vet come to our home to administer the drugs that put her at peace. That killed her. Ellie was so tired, yet she loved people so much that she rushed to great the vet. I wish she were in heaven having wonderful puppy adventures, but at least I know she is no longer tired and stressed all the time. No longer over-heating, no longer in pain just because we loved her too much to let her go. We did let her go, and I’m glad we did. I’m glad her loved ones were surrounding her during her last moments on her favorite cloud blankets. I still miss her, though. I still cry about her sometimes.
I miss my dog. I made a snowpuppy today, sort of in honor of her, I guess.