Echoes of Puppies Past

Jellie Bean and Heart Making Crazy Faces

Jellie Bean and Heart Making Crazy Faces

When Ellie first came home with Sean and I, she made her opinion of us quite clear – “You stink, and I want nothing to do with you”. Our first tentative attempts to coax her out of her crate were met with undisguised contempt and loathing, and we were left wondering if she’d ever warm up to us.

We knew she was growing to love us the day that she decided she wanted to eat dinner with us. Ellie and the dogs ate in the kitchen, two rooms away from the living room. Ellie was always a slow eater, still working her way through her kibble long after the other dogs were through, and usually Ellie would come and join us when she was finally done. One day, during dinner time, we noticed Ellie running back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. We finally figured it out – she was carrying her food out to us, one mouthful at a time, and eating it sitting beside us. Carry one mouthful out, chew, go back for more, repeat.

After that, it was Ellie’s dinner time ritual – she’d bring her food out so she could eat dinner next to us, and Sean and I finally fell head over heels in love with her.

Two days ago, while I was doing some cleaning in the puppy room, all of the pups were sleeping in a big pile in their bed except for Jellie Bean, who was still picking at her food. When I looked over at her, I noticed she was grabbing a mouthful of kibble, and then carrying it over to the edge of the pen, so she could sit and watch me while she was eating. My heart instantly broke into ten million tiny little pieces, and I will admit that I broke down and cried a little bit.

Every puppy that we have carries echoes of the dogs that came before them. Every litter has a moment when I am struck by a resemblance to another puppy, or another dog. Every time I send puppies home with their new families, I send pieces of myself along with them, and the memories of all the wonderful, beautiful, beloved dogs that are their families and their heritage.

In other heart breaking news, Dexter has gone off to Michigan, where he is about to embark on a dual career as lothario and show dog. He’s staying with our friend Sue Case, of Epic French Bulldogs, where he’s about to discover the joys of fatherhood (hopefully). After that, he’ll be hitting the show trail. We’ll post a list of his entries, so that anyone who is in the area can drop in and cheer my little man on. He’s a bit of a momma’s boy, so please be sure to give him an ear scratch and tummy rub from me if you see him!

Some new photos of the crazy kids (who really, really love their green crinkly tunnel!) are below, or over on Flickr.

A Calico Puzzle

Perhaps the infinite universe really does provide infinitely, because just as I finished writing yesterday’s entry about putting Ellie to rest, my phone rang. It was my friend Charlotte, founder of FBV and proponent of all things French Bulldog rescue related, calling to relate another tale of the sorts of horrid things that horrid people do to French Bulldogs on an ever increasing basis. At the end of our call, I heard a pitiful mewling sound from outside, and went out to find the most pathetic, malnourished calico kitten I’ve ever seen.

Oddly enough, since around here most strays are people wary ferals, this little kitten seemed almost desperate for human company. Even Tessa’s half hearted charge didn’t dissuade her from coming and twining around my ankles. She’s so thin her rib cage almost looks concave, and she mewls constantly. She’s not much more than a twelve or so weeks old, and she is infinitely people friendly, following me up the driveway as I headed into the house for a can of tuna (the only cat palatable food I had in the house).

She gulped down the entire can so quickly I was afraid she’d choke, then licked the plate clean. My daughter Nicole and her boyfriend were visiting for the weekend, and since Nicole is a cat crazed version of myself she spent a lot of time outside talking to little Calico and encouraging her to drink some water.

I removed the door from a small vari crate, and lined it with some soft towels, then placed it at the top of the stairs that lead to the room above our garage. Little calico had been mewling at the door there early, which had me worried that perhaps her mom had somehow gotten in there and had her litter of kittens. Luckily (or maybe unluckily), the door was shut and there were no signs of other cats or kittens. Her crate and food are there, along with some water.

This afternoon I’ll take her in and have her checked for diseases, given shots and flea treated. Once I’m sure she can’t pass anything on to the dogs, I’ll be able to start trying to convince Sean that ‘one more pet’ can’t possibly make a difference, even if it is a little stray calico cat.. and especially if it’s one that I think Ellie sent us.

Ellie on the Water

Ellie sits on the bookshelf in my living room, or part of her does, at least. She sits on the shelf where I keep some of my favorite dog books. “Animal Happiness” by Vicki Hearne, “Old Yeller” (a second edition, no less), “Nops Trials”, “Dogs in Poetry”. She is in good company there, and I can see her when I sit and read. I like being able to look up and know she’s there, unobtrusive as always and just occasionally asking you to spare her a bit of time. Ever content with what little bits of time you can spare her, that was my Ellie.

We did indeed spread her ashes at Cherry Beach, setting her free on the waves, licking around the feet of silly wet puppies, brushing against the coats of diligent Goldens, barely disturbing the concentration of a frisbee mad standard Poodle. She is, perhaps, a part of them all now, part of the Lake and the sand and the plants she ran through. Part of her favorite place.

I didn’t write about it before, couldn’t write about it until now. I couldn’t put down in writing “And then we spread her ashes on the water”, because as anyone knows, when it’s written it becomes true. And I wasn’t ready for it to be true yet.

At the last minute, as Sean was spreading her, I told him to stop. I told him I wanted to keep part of her. He was puzzled, because I had been so adamant about letting her go free. I told him I needed part of her, that I couldn’t let all of her go. So we saved part of her, even though I know the best of her has long since floated off – across the lake, or wherever benevolent spirits like hers finally go.

Part of her though, is still here at home with me, along with her memory, which I keep close at hand always.

All of My Beautiful Dogs Are Dying
– Vicki Hearne

. . . Without the beautiful dogs
No one dares to attend to desire;

The sky retreats, will intend nothing,
It is a ceiling to rebuke the gaze,
Mock the poetry of knowledge.

My death is my last acquiescence;
Theirs is the sky’s renunciation,
Proof that the world is a scattered shame

Littering the heavens. The new dogs
Start to arise, but the sky must go
Deeply dark before the stars appear.

A Memorial for Ellie

Ellie at Cherry Beach in 2006If you are in the Toronto area, you are invited to join us this coming Sunday while we say good bye to our sweet baby girl.

Sean and I have decided to scatter her ashes over Lake Ontario from the point at Cherry Beach. This was Ellie’s favorite place in the world, and we can’t think of anywhere she’d rather spend eternity. When we would drive towards the park entrance, her excitement level would grow until she was literally yipping with anticipation, and this in a dog who rarely got excited about much of anything.

We will be there sometime late morning/early afternoon. Anyone interested in joining us is asked to drop me an email for exact time and meeting location.

By the way, we are saving enough of her ashes to make a small memorial necklace for both Sean and I, so she can sit as close to our hearts forever as she did throughout her life.


It's never enough time…

I have a number of things to write about, since a lot has happened in the two weeks I’ve been off line, but nothing more important that this – we have lost Ellie, our special girl, and the light of Sean’s life.

Ellie was a special dog from the very beginning. An illness during the final stage of Sailor’s pregnancy left Ellie somewhat addled at birth. She was small, and had a hard time thriving. Barb hung in there, though, and Ellie made it through well enough for us to go and pick her up. Sean was ambivalent – he’d never had a dog of his own before, and Tessa was the first one he’d ever lived with. He was a cat person, and wasn’t sure what to make of the indifferent little brindle mite who refused to even come over and sniff his hand.

During the seven hour drive home, Ellie huddled in the back of her crate glaring at us, and Sean asked me mildly “Is she ever going to come near us?”. I explained that some dogs need more patience than others, and shortly after we arrived home, he made it his goal to get Ellie to love him.

Unlike other French Bulldogs, Ellie was indifferent towards affection. She loved Tessa, staying close to her and sleeping curled into her side. People were a different story. She barely tolerated Sean and I, and would skitter away from us if we tried to pet her. We felt like negligent pet owners, and laughed it off when she ran wide circles around anyone who approached her at the dog park. “She’s just not that in to people” we’d explain. Ellie had a fine sense of dignity, and never once willingly let a stranger pat her on the head. She insisted on her own personal space, and we learned to let her sit her own limits on interaction.

Eventually, Ellie learned to love us, by which time we, of course, were head over heels about her. She’s sidle up to you and butt your hand with her head, which meant “Scratch my ears”. She’d perch on your lap, tentatively, never settling down enough to really get comfortable. Still, she loved us, in her own way.

We knew she wasn’t going to be with us for forever. We even knew she wasn’t going to be with us for long. What we didn’t realize is that even the knowing of that doesn’t prepare you for the loss you feel when they go. Logic can tell you that time is short, but our hearts don’t rely on logic, and there just wasn’t enough time with Ellie.

There’s never enough time.

Bullmarket Absolut Elliemental
June 21st, 2004 – April 11th, 2008