Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life lessons from Ellie

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. Josh Billings

Ellie's mat lies at the end of our bed, a perfect circle of comfort for her to inhabit. Sometimes, she does. Often, the bed is her preferred location. Or the couch -- but that's mostly when we're not home.

Marley, the Great Cat's bed, lies on the floor in close proximity to Ellie's. Seldom is it his preferred sleeping place. He likes Ellie's mat most, though sometimes, he'll also take the bed. But mostly, that's to tick Ellie off.

There would be tension in the story - The cat slept on the dog's mat - if the dog cared that the cat slept on her mat, but the dog in question is a Golden Retriever -- of the very laid back kind. "Here, have my mat," she says. I'll sleep on the floor beside you, or better yet, the bed."Okay, so it would be a high tension story if the dog cared that the cat slept on her mat.

Soppy eyed, sometimes pathetic, Ellie is scared of most things. At the age of 11 she has just learned to push open doors. She's always been too afraid. What monster might be lurking behind the door? What terror awaits? And now, suddenly, she's decided she can do it! But please note, she'll only do it if the stakes are high and the rewards even greater -- like food on the other side.

What I find amazing is how, a 10lb cat can take up the same room as a 70lb Golden Retriever.

I could learn a lot from Marley.

About owning where I'm at. Assuming it is my right to be present in all the space I take up. About being so confident in my presence that someone else's fear doesn't radiate and disturb me. About being persistent. We have a string of Tibetan bells hanging from the front door knob. Marley learned early on that the ringing of the bells means the door is opening, or closing. He taught himself to ring the bells to let the household know he wants out. Our goal had been to keep him as an indoor cat only when we first adopted him when he was 2 years old. Marley's goal was to gain access to the outdoor world.

He won.

He was and is incredibly persistent. He will ring the bells. Again and again and again. He will ring the bells for an hour (I timed him) until someone comes and does what he wants. Let him out.

Ellie doesn't ring the bells when she wants out. She just stands and looks at you, does a little dance, races to the back door and back to you until you get the message. And if you don't, get the message, she'll heave a great big sigh as she flops down on the floor, ensuring her body is in your path enroute to... the door.

I can and have learned a lot from Ellie. About not sweating the small stuff. About being tender and gentle and kind and sweet (ok, so that one's a work in progress). About asking for what you want -- she'll come and push your hand whenever she wants to be pet (which is often) and she'll keep pushing your hand when you stop. Ellie has a clock for a stomach. She is uncanny in her ability to tell time -- especially when it's breakfast or dinner time. And woe the soul who ignores her entreaties to be fed -- we're starving here folks! Can't you see my ribs poking through my fur?

And while being food motivated is, alas, something Ellie and I share, mostly she has taught me the true meaning of loyalty.

Ellie was a pup when she first came into our home. A nine week old squirming golden fur ball that loved to be held, and held, and held some more. She's come by her affinity for sleeping on the bed honestly. The first night we had her home, I tucked her into the kennel we'd bought just for her. It was at the end of my bed. Ellie can be persistent and that night, she was. I finally relented and let her sleep with me. She was content after that, never stirring until I awoke and took her outside in the morning. She'd found her place in my bed, and heart, and that's where she's stayed ever since.

She's never gone back into the kennel. Never. It just doesn't fit her worldview. Once, when I wanted to fly her from Vancouver to Calgary, I tried to get her in. She would have none of it. I put her favourite toys, blanket, the bestest treats I could find into that kennel and she would not budge. I tried pushing, shoving, pulling. I even got into the kennel to show her how cosy and comfortable it was. She wouldn't get in.

We drove back to Calgary.

Ellie is my friend, my confidant, my cohort. We've been through a lot and through it all, she has stood by me, never flagging in her devotion.

Which is why, I'm happy to report, when C.C. isn't here, she shares the bed with me, oh, and with Marley too. :)

See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

(P.S. I have chosen to write a light-hearted piece today as my jaw is still aching, and I needed something to write that would make me smile. I'm back to the dentist today, on my third dose of anti-biotics and they still aren't making much of a dent in the problem! But, how can I not smile when as I type, the hound and the feline lay beside me making this big beautiful world an even more wonderous place to be!)


Anonymous said...


getting Gusta into a kennel was never a problem - put her in there the moment she came home, so she always felt comfortable there; and NEVER has she slept with me ...

but everything else you describe, Ellie and Gusta are so much alike - as I am sure every Golden owner can attest

p.s. a bowl of ice-cream can entice any dog to go anywhere - even a kennel

...and good luck with Dr. Painless ...

Maureen said...

So sorry to hear you are still suffering and back at the dentist's.

I had to look twice at your second image, as it looked as those Marley were a design on the bed. His ringing of bells had me laughing.

Ellie's a beautiful girl. . . in every way.

Anonymous said...

The furry kids are most adorable! Loving faithful Ellie, you just want to give her a hundred pets and independent marvelous Marley, just can't help but pick him up and squeeze him.

Sorry to hear your tooth is still bothering you. xxBA

Claudia said...

wow - first - love the pics...and love the lessons you learn earn from a pet if you keep your eyes and mind open...have experienced this myself...and if i ever get a dog again it certainly will be a Golden Retriever...they are my no. 1 dogs...

Jennifer Richardson said...

oh yes, I'm learning to ring those bells:)
but enough about bells,
I'm concerned about your pain
and am sending love and prayers
for healing happening quickly.
and peace...huge peace that isn't pierced by the dark unknowns
that can come around and try to bully your soul
when you're aching and not resting well.
Sweet, sweet sleep to you
and dreams saturated in grace.
with you,

S. Etole said...

This reminds me so much of when I had a dog and cat ... their personalities were reversed however.

I do hope you will soon be able to be rid of the pain.

Anonymous said...

this has certainly lightened my heart.